With a typical slice of nostalgia it was announced that Nintendo World Championships 2015 will be a major live event prior to E3. Filling the gap left by the Super Smash Bros. Invitational of E3 2014, it seems like a smart move - play on nostalgia and the 25th Anniversary of the iconic 1990 contest, while also continuing a winning formula that'll grab attention. It's had a major impact online, with Nintendo's E3 details reveal video being watched over a million times on YouTube in just two days.
Be in no doubt, nostalgia is a vital weapon here; the following video from the 1990 event, for example, gives this writer flashbacks to Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles pyjamas - the word 'Ninja' wasn't used in the UK at that time. It's all bad hair cuts, ridiculous (read: awesome) music and a reminder of when Nintendo absolutely ruled the video game world.
Nintendo is still a powerful force in the games industry, of course, dominating the admittedly shrinking scope of the dedicated portable gaming market, though currently running third in the home console stakes. The brand and its IP still have power, too, even if Nintendo's a little slow in fully embracing the era of social networks and YouTube.
When it comes to E3, though, we'd argue Nintendo is out ahead of its rivals, truly bringing the show to fans everywhere; aside from missing out on playing the demos on the show floor, you arguably get a fuller picture from home with live streams around the clock. Nintendo World Championships 2015, taking place on Sunday 14th June, will serve as a kickstart for a week of madness and excitement.
It's an event that can be valuable for Nintendo in multiple ways. For one thing it'll be useful marketing, and we're curious to see which games will feature - we suspect Wii U will be the platform of choice, with various games that are suitable for direct competition or score / time-based challenges. Obvious candidates include Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, New Super Mario Bros. U, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and Splatoon, the latter of which lands in stores the day before the planned Best Buy qualifying rounds on 30th May. There are other options we haven't mentioned, which emphasizes the variety of games in the system's library.
Those details are all to come, but we feel the power of the event isn't just in marketing and generating some buzz around the Wii U - unless there's a curveball and this ends up being 3DS focused - but also resides in the sentiment it can evoke. Nintendo has a legacy and history that's still the most powerful in the industry, and the current day company that's so reliant on exclusives - rather than multi-platform third-party games - to fill gaps needs to pitch its identity more than ever. The line has often been "because we're Nintendo", relying on millions associating the name with great games and also treasured memories.
That might explain why so many Nintendo gamers are 30 and older, as there's brand loyalty at play. Yet there are swathes of gamers - as is evident from sales numbers - that have a fondness for Nintendo without keeping up with its modern systems and games. This isn't helped by Nintendo's decreasing presence in popular culture. Social and user generated media simply doesn't pay the attention to the big N that is needed, and we're past the days when commissioning cheesy TV shows is the answer - just ask SEGA.
What that video earlier in the article shows is that Nintendo wasn't just a games company, it was a trend-setter that created events, bombastic silliness that drew people in. Last year's E3 efforts in some ways played to that, doing so successfully, and the company's recent deal to have attractions at Universal Theme Parks is another indication that Nintendo knows it needs to get its IP out there and visible - to appeal to young and old alike, even if each audience responds for different reasons.
While Nintendo followed up the Smash Bros. Invitational with additional pre-release tournaments and sponsorship of eSports events - with mixed success - it can go further with the Nintendo World Championships. In fact, it has the experience to do so.
The ongoing phenomenon to reference is Pokémon, of course, with its tournaments being the work of The Pokémon Company which, let's not forget, is owned by Nintendo. Every year there are regional heats, qualifying events and then the final World Championships, passing off seemingly like clockwork. The competitions have created a dedicated set of competitors, and also do a good job of promoting the most recent 3DS titles and Trading Card sets.
So Nintendo has experienced organisers that it can consult, but let's also consider the possibilities of an online age. Satoru Iwata just recently spoke of the substantial connectivity the company is working towards with DeNA for a future loyalty / customer programme. There's talk of a service to allow members to "feel that they have received certain rewards as a result of not only their purchases but also the history of their gameplay and how each consumer has interacted with others". More Nintendo titles have solid online components, but a potential system that tracks performance too? It seems perfect for a tournament structure.
The Nintendo World Championships at E3 are a smart idea, though the name is naturally silly - it's the "US Championships for Gamers Near a Best Buy"; that's fine for a one-off event, but Nintendo can go so much further. Utilising online tools along with regional competitions along the lines of those seen for Pokémon could open up a future of annual, truly global Nintendo gaming tournaments.
This could achieve multiple things for Nintendo. They could create hype and marketing opportunities with fans, with events through the year to maintain interest. The could show off and promote the best games on offer. Most importantly, perhaps, it would be a spin on eSports but with a Nintendo twist, bringing together fans of all types. It would require investment and the pooling of resources, and as a result can't happen overnight, but the rewards in terms of brand exposure and winning over audiences that are slipping away could be substantial.
This is an idea that should evolve from being a fun Nintendo of America E3 event to be a true Nintendo World Championship. Strip the irony from the title and we could have something special.