E3 is coming, looming over the horizon and promising to bring with it mayhem, cringe-worthy moments and online hysteria. Every year plenty talk about how the event is becoming less powerful (which is true) yet a lot of gamers then get very excited regardless. There's good reason for the buzz, too - few expos produce as much online content in terms of live streams, presentations and reveals.
Thanks to the importance Nintendo often places on the event it's often a must-follow for fans of the company. The big N is returning to its now-standard routine this year: a video presentation, three days of Treehouse demonstrations and some competitive gaming events around key games. In some respects it's boosting its efforts - multiple 'Invitational' events and a full three days of Treehouse - but in others is scaling back a little compared to 2014 / 2015, with the Spotlight broadcast set to be 25-30 minutes (rather than the usual 45-50) and the eSports-lite events taking place in a smaller scale on the show floor. It's all a step up on 2016's limited showing, of course, which was all about Breath of the Wild in the booth with a couple of days of Treehouse as a supplement, so we're at least moving back in the right direction.
I do think, though, that we should call a spade a spade and say that Nintendo had little excuse for anything but a solid line-up this year. The Nintendo Switch is only a little over three months old so should have a lot in the pipeline, and the New 2DS XL is coming soon (and let's not forget the recently announced Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon) so there should be a lot to talk about with the older portable. Though Treehouse will no doubt show some love for 3DS, the company needs to utilise a positive Switch launch to continue to build momentum for the hardware. One thing that's benefitted Switch is positive word of mouth - and accompanying press coverage - which E3 can build upon if Nintendo gets it right.
We have various topics to talk about ahead of the Spotlight, but initially I wanted to outline some personal thoughts on some 'quick wins' that could fit into Nintendo's E3 plans, please fans and in the process also be relatively cheap projects for the company and third-parties to turn around. For starters, I'm becoming less convinced that we're going to see a massive blow-out from Nintendo, due to the limited runtime of the Spotlight and PR wording of a 2017 focus. That doesn't mean there won't be surprises, but I think we should be realistic about how far reveals will go, especially if Nintendo steers clear of talking too much about projects for 2018.
Super Mario Odyssey will be the star, of course, which is fine by me - the reveal trailer showed what could be the most ambitious 3D Mario game since Galaxy, and that's something to be excited about. Plus the confirmed 2017 slate has a number of games I'm interested in - Fire Emblem Warriors, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, maybe that Ubisoft crossover assuming it's not the biggest fake leak of all time. Nintendo may also loop in notable third-party games to show off a little if it can negotiate terms, the likes of Sonic Forces, Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition, Skyrim and so on.
But I think there are a few obvious quick wins that could fit into the 2017 window, be rapid reveals in the Spotlight and cause buzz online. First, I'll just say it, Virtual Console. Nintendo's online service, which will include 'compilations' of NES games, is now coming in 2018, but I'm not yet ready to give up on the VC appearing in a more conventional form this year. The ACA Neo Geo games from HAMSTER have proven popular, and I think plenty would like to have first-party retro classics on their Switch. The obvious candidate, from old rumours, is the GameCube. If it is on the agenda its appearance this year depends on whether Nintendo has mastered the emulation (some 'in theory' perspective on that is below, albeit from the 'NX' days) and whether the company is ready to kickstart the VC on the system. If the games can run then I don't think there's anything to lose, as it can be the showcase 'premium' VC platform for the Switch era. If a GameCube library started with downloads at $15-20 a pop it'd be interesting to see the online reaction.
Next up, a few more ports. Now, some will scoff at that, but there have been some amusingly short memories online when it comes to how much other console manufacturers relied on remasters at the start of their current console generations. The thing is, what's wrong with that? Especially considering the Wii U's unfortunate struggles, there's a good chance for some forgotten games to have another chance, plus the simple appeal of having some top-notch games on the go is hard to resist. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is a delight on Switch, and now we know of Pokkén Tournament DX. I think the long-rumoured Smash Bros. 4 'definitive edition' would be a smart addition, though I now have some doubts it'll happen because of the extensive focus being given to Pokkén.
There are any number of Wii U games that would benefit from a second spin on the Switch, and I think one or two more could make an appearance. If I was master of the universe I'd choose to have a 'Bayonetta Collection' with 1 & 2 on one cartridge; I'd love to play them on the go, and PlatinumGames has been on the remaster / re-release charge recently along with SEGA on PC. Again, that's just on my wishlist, but the main point is that 2-3 ports could buff out the 2017 line-up with only a reasonable amount of effort to do the necessary dev work.
Nintendo could also give some updates and make some progress on improving the user experience and diversity of the Switch, areas I covered recently. There's scope to provide reassurance on upcoming streaming apps, while it'd be nice to have a web browser. Improvements can also be made to data management (which is a head scratching flaw on the Switch right now), while HOME Themes could also be a small announcement that earns Nintendo some money. All of these are likely to happen at some point, the question is whether E3 will be the time or place for them to emerge.
Finally, in the past few years we've seen some 'available now' announcements for downloadable content, in the main presentations and through the Treehouse streams in the course of the week. Perhaps a good candidate for this year - beyond GameCube on VC - could be the first expansion pass add-on for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild; maybe it's too soon, but it is 'Summer' and plenty of us are surely ready for the new 'Hard' mode and extra challenges. Beyond that we do normally get some 'out now' downloads, albeit not always high profile examples.
All of the above represent relatively quick and easy wins. Of course they all require notable development effort with emulation (the Virtual Console), porting and UI features such as video streaming. Yet overall they're the sorts of projects that can fill spaces and be less demanding than the years spent on major triple-A titles. It'll be interesting to see if any of these ideas surface at E3 (maybe they won't!); I think they'd be popular announcements, but the question is whether Nintendo has been targeting these sorts of projects to fill out this launch year.
It's not long until we find out.