With around 24 hours passed since its announcement, we can't help but be slightly amused by the understated nature of Nintendo of America's announcement of a Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS demo. Two of the Nintendo Treehouse staff stood outside their venerated department and, with a mixture of professionalism and a slightly nervy charm, confirmed that it'd arrive in the eShop on 19th September and — for 'select' Club Nintendo members — codes would be sent out by email within hours. Nintendo of Europe confirmed matching details — including the fact that lucky Club Nintendo members would receive four codes each — and fans exploded in anticipation.
The Treehouse presenters that opened their broadcast for the reveal rather cutely said "don't start mashing F5 right now, don't freak out" with regards to checking for emails, but that's naturally what a lot of people did. We've rarely seen such a dramatic reaction here at Nintendo Life — and all around social networks such as Twitter — with most so busy freaking out that they missed the polite suggestion not to from the Treehouse gang. It was a perfect storm of timing, content and concept that caused online mayhem.
With the dust settling it's interesting to look at how many of us — as dedicated Nintendo fans — reacted and whether it'll dictate Nintendo's future policies with demos and announcements. The main focus of the intense reaction was less around the demo and more around access, as those that didn't receive an email right away and saw others that had felt left out; we saw a remarkable trading scene kick off as those with spare codes seemed more than happy to dish them out to fellow community members and gamers. It was a continual theme in our live blog chat and the comments thread in the article confirming details of the promotion; thankfully only a cynical minority took to eBay with their codes. There was plenty of begging, yes, but the positive slant is that there was a lot of giving, with the community exchanging thousands of messages about codes and, of course, the demo itself. It all distracted a little from the Treehouse broadcast itself, though the timing of the announcement did mean that both the European and North American regions could take in the news; a tricky trade-off from Nintendo's perspective.
There are various factors that caused the surge of interest and heightened buzz as the demo details were revealed. On a basic level plenty are simply excited about a new generation Super Smash Bros. finally arriving, with the added benefit that this'll be the first entry on a portable. This week's release in Japan has accentuated the whole affair, however, as details of the final roster and other features have started to emerge online; this was always inevitable, and it's down to individuals to determine how much they want to know, though the final roster has been an area almost impossible to avoid. Nintendo's extensive five hour session on the game in the Treehouse session helped to highlight modes in more detail, with the team explaining the intricacies of move-sets and more. Oddly, and clearly having been briefed from on high, the broadcast didn't explore the whole roster, with NoA and Nintendo of Europe as a result likely to officially reveal those details in the coming days and weeks.
It's been a week of tough teases for those of us desperate to play Smash Bros. on 3DS, however, with the timing of the Treehouse broadcast shortly after the Japanese launch helping to ease any frustration at the lack of a global release date. The power of the demo, so far, though, can also be greatly attributed to the manner of its distribution. As highlighted above Club Nintendo members that were selected have received four codes, and these are also sought after due to their unlimited play count — the eShop version will have a 30 play limit. As a promotion it's particularly clever — target your most enthusiastic consumers and give them the means to share their excitement.
We've seen promotions like these before, with elements of it employed for Tomodachi Life earlier this year. Whether sharing through online communities or with friends for local multiplayer, it encourages engagement between players; while Nintendo's arguably behind the curve in online co-op and multiplayer across many games, it's still a leader in enabling gamers to share experiences in person, through Miiverse or otherwise. In this case Club Nintendo really was a club in the classic sense, with privileges for members and incentives to invite others to join.
The most important impact of this demo in terms of reaching those that may be persuaded to buy, perhaps contrary to our instincts, is likely to come from the main eShop release on 19th September. By definition those selected in Club Nintendo are likely to be huge fans already, so it's preaching to the converted. At the very least, however, Nintendo's been clever in building awareness with its four code distributions; word of mouth can be hugely powerful, and that's certainly been achieved.
We often read comments from readers here on Nintendo Life bemoaning the lack of demos from Nintendo, which is a fair point. First party demos, in particular, are relatively rare, and even on those occasions where they have been released they haven't always hit the mark — such as when Nintendo worked with Capcom distributing Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. How do you provide a small snippet of Monster Hunter that isn't so early in the game to be dull or far enough in that it's inaccessible and daunting for newcomers? The Wii U demo arguably proved that it's a balance yet to be found. Nintendo has simply been resistant to wheeling out demos, and there are certainly arguments to state that a poorly implemented demo, or one that gives too much away, can damage sales. The flipside is that if a demo at an expo can excite us and push us to consider pre-orders, surely an eShop equivalent can have a greater impact?
With no definitive winner in the debate over the value of demos — and Nintendo being miles away from exploring concepts like early access in beta stages — we're unsurprisingly left with the big N generally opting for caution. Perhaps a fairer assessment is that the company is picky, targeting releases that fulfil a need beyond our compulsive desire — as fans — to play everything as early as possible. The Tomodachi Life demo helped to clear up confusion about how the game actually works, with save transfers tempting upgrades to the read deal. As for Smash Bros., the 'snack' offering — as one of the Treehouse presenters called it — allows the dedicated to master five characters and simply mess around with the mechanics, while for others its short two-minute fights can provide a visceral, chaotic thrill. It leaves this writer desperate for more, yet it's fun enough in a short bursts to keep going back. If that's the impact on many others, it's mission accomplished.
It's interesting to consider whether demos of other big games would work on these levels. While Nintendo representatives can shuffle you along at an expo, limiting the experience and ensuring you don't get over-familiar with the snippet of content, use limits are often so generous that the same effect isn't achieved at home. Would a single track in Mario Kart 8 be particularly more-ish? Would giving away a cup be too much in the game — minus DLC — with eight cups? Super Mario 3D World, an experience that establishes itself as a modern classic over exploring its many diverse and creative levels, is arguably served poorly by a small cross-sample; it was a game where opinions — including those of this writer — evolved into greater admiration as the full product was tackled, after event impressions had been positive yet less glowing. Some games need to grow on us, and demos can be counter-productive.
With all of these examples opinions will be in high numbers on both sides of the fence. With this Super Smash Bros. demo, Nintendo struck gold, with the release in Japan, the game type and natural hype combining to a staggering degree. The four code distribution is clever, and whether the company simply tried an idea and lucked out or it was all part of internal projections and a master plan, the buzz around the 3DS release is now stepping up to another level. Such is the unpredictable nature of Nintendo that it's impossible to tell whether this release will tempt it into a wider range of demos in future, or simply reinforce its belief that less is more and targeting the right minority of games is the solution.
The Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS demo, even with its bashful announcement at the start of a live broadcast, has certainly reminded us of one key fact, beyond all this talk. Nintendo can still cause meltdowns and thrill its fans; long may that continue.
Let us know what you think in the comments and polls below. Should Nintendo release more demos, or stick with occasional releases?
Do you think Nintendo should release more demos for big games? (781 votes)
I'd like that, but can live without them
I don't know
I'm not sure, probably not
No, it's right to only release a small number of demos
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Are you happy with the Smash Bros. 3DS demo? (769 votes)
Absolutely! It's all kinds of awesomeness
I like it, but would love a bit more content
I'm a bit disappointed, to be honest
No, I don't like it
I don't have a code, stop tormenting me!
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