Nintendo's last two years at E3 are perhaps best described as being 'mixed'. Though there was an appreciation for the Star Fox puppets in 2015 - which sadly represented the last E3 appearance of Satoru Iwata, who provided voice acting - the actual announcements generated some controversy and dissent online. High profile examples included Metroid Prime: Federation Force and Animal Crossing: amiibo Festival, which were targeted for dislikes on YouTube and generated heated debate. Last year Nintendo scaled right back, resisting fan-demand to see 'NX' - now Switch - and initially only confirming The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (at that point unnamed) as being shown. Nintendo later added an extra day of Treehouse demonstrations that introduced a number of additional games, which helped boost the 2016 showing.
E3 2016 was, we'd suggest, relatively successful for Nintendo considering the restrictions it placed upon itself. In keeping its new hardware away and dedicating its booth entirely to Breath of the Wild it had limited scope, but the impact of that Great Plateau demo was significant in generating a number of positive headlines. The Treehouse team also seemed to be working with a smaller group and less resources than in previous years, yet nevertheless showed off a handful of all-new games and showcased Breath of the Wild to good effect. It wasn't a knock-out E3 by any stretch, but with a declining Wii U and limited E3 line-up to work with it was perhaps as good as could have been expected.
This year, of course, there's no excuse for Nintendo not to have a significant showing. The value of E3 is perhaps weaker than ever, but it's still a major event (arguably still the world's most significant expo) that draws sizeable online audiences and attracts a lot of specialist and mainstream media coverage. Nintendo is right to highlight that it continually shares news and updates throughout the year through other events and its own Directs, but by the same token is also right to step up its game, once again, for the LA extravaganza.
Nintendo's E3 Line-Up so Far
The Nintendo Spotlight: E3 2017 presentation will start on 13th June at 9am Pacific / noon Eastern / 5pm UK / 6pm CEST / 2am (14th June) AEDT. That's the first event, with the following then coming over the three main days of E3.
- Nintendo Spotlight: E3 2017 presentation at 9am Pacific / noon Eastern / 5pm UK / 6pm CEST / 2am (14th June) AEDT
- Nintendo Treehouse: Live at E3 to follow afterwards
- Splatoon 2 World Inkling Invitational
- Nintendo Treehouse: Live at E3
- ARMS Open Invitational
- Nintendo Treehouse: Live at E3
The initial confirmation of plans provides a broad summary of Nintendo's LA offering, which is a return to the old formula that has worked rather well on multiple occasions. Kicking off with a live streamed broadcast, once again it's given different branding to separate it from Directs - in this case it's 'Nintendo Spotlight', which specifies a focus on Switch content including Super Mario Odyssey, prioritising 2017 releases. Though Nintendo is no doubt bringing multiple games to the show, Odyssey is the star this time around and a first sustained look at the 'sandbox' Mario for which Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine are cited as spiritual predecessors.
There could certainly be a lot for Nintendo to showcase with Odyssey, with the sandbox approach obviously of interest along with some of the settings and concepts shown in the original trailer, such as 'real world' stages and multiple uses for Mario's hat.
Taking the 2017 remit we should see some other interesting games. Fire Emblem Warriors will surely feature, and Nintendo may take the chance to team up with select third-parties to show off multi-platform releases such as Sonic Forces, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition, NBA 2K18 and more. They could be cited as a demonstration of Switch as offering more than just Nintendo games.
Of course, there's room for multiple surprises, perhaps games due in Autumn / Fall and Winter. Anyone that's followed NX / Switch rumours over the last 12 months will know of some games that may or may not be on the way, and they present potential knockout moments for Nintendo. Some rumours of interest revolve around the apparent Mario & Rabbids RPG, while there are still plenty of believers in the Pokémon Stars speculation. Then, of course, there's Retro Studios and whatever it's working on right now. There's been more long-running speculation besides - such as a Super Smash Bros. 4 deluxe edition - so Nintendo could, if these projects are indeed in the works, cause a stir unveiling some of these in the Nintendo Spotlight stream before opening them up on the show floor and showing them off in the Treehouse demos.
The showcase and then three days of live streamed demonstrations will serve important roles, but it is also pleasing to see Nintendo gear up to once again promote what it's calling "social competitive gaming". Across the first two days we'll see the finals of the Splatoon 2 World Inkling Invitational, which has been ticking along in online qualifiers from the first game for a few weeks, and the 2017 ARMS Open Invitational. Both are titles Nintendo would like to see make inroads in eSports - as the finale of the October 'preview trailer' for Switch made clear in the case of Splatoon 2 - and so showcasing that at E3 would make sense.
What's not clear is how these events will be run, details for which will come nearer the time from Nintendo. Will they be slotted into a modest area of Nintendo's booth space, or will they happen in a larger venue like the equivalent Smash Bros. and 'Nintendo World Championships' events of recent years? The more of an 'event' Nintendo makes of these tournaments will reflect better on the games, but it all comes down to a mix of logistics and budgets. It'll be intriguing to see whether these are framed as large extravaganzas or as fun diversions. Whatever the case, having two tournaments like this alongside the Spotlight stream and three days of Treehouse demonstrations gives fans plenty to sink their teeth into.
When we polled the Nintendo Life community on these plans there was certainly optimism around the announcements. Plenty seemed excited to see a lot of Super Mario Odyssey, and the Nintendo Spotlight presentation was the standout in terms of what's exciting prospective viewers the most. Certainly in the past, whether branded as a Direct or 'Digital Event', that pre-recorded presentation before the E3 doors open has been the main event. Reveals are made, new game details announced, and then the Treehouse and follow-up streams get into the minutiae as the week unfolds.
Though more specific details are coming, one thing is clear - Nintendo is planning to make a show of E3. Its events, sizeable booth space and three days of live streams should give fans plenty to take in. It's also evident that the Switch will be front and centre - 3DS games will pop up in the Treehouse demonstrations, that's confirmed, but the 'Spotlight' and tournaments are all focused on Switch. Quite rightly Nintendo's veteran portable will have a role to play, but it's no surprise that the latest hardware will get the biggest push.
All told, we're excited to see how Nintendo's E3 unfolds.