Nintendo has a pattern of hosting a Direct or 'info drop' in the month of April, with the slot far enough away from the all-encompassing E3 to be a useful launching point for some interesting announcements. It'll also be the first Direct since the 3rd March hardware launch of Nintendo Switch, and as a result will give the company a chance to expand upon upcoming release details.
It could be an intriguing presentation. Nintendo has simply said that ARMS and Splatoon 2 will be addressed, but there's also a broader remit of upcoming Switch and 3DS games. Beyond the welcome details on two major retail titles for Switch, then, there's scope for the big N to answer some key questions and revisit some games that are due an update.
When is the Nintendo Direct?
North America: 3pm PDT / 4pm MDT / 5pm CDT / 6pm EDT - UK/Ire: 11pm BST - Europe: 12am CEST / 1am EEST - Asia/Oceania: 7am JST / 6am AWST / 8am AEST
As always, then, we're going to pick out five announcements and details we 'expect' to see, though in a couple of cases 'hope' may be a better term. Let's get to it.
Making the Case for ARMS as a Retail Title
Not much has been seen of ARMS. Sure, there were flashy videos introducing half a dozen characters and their moves, and Nintendo has been keen to promote the title as a motion-based eSports hit in the making, but the real detail has been held back so far. Within our own team opinions have been split, too, based upon brief demo time in January - this writer and one or two others are unconvinced, while a few others are believers at this early stage.
Ultimately, Nintendo needs to step up with its promotion of ARMS not just in terms of the concept, but with solid details. Supposedly due in 'Spring', which is this window, a firm release date seems like a given in today's broadcast. Beyond that we hope to see a clearer breakdown of any single-player offerings in the game, online modes and more besides. If Nintendo wants us to believe in waggle again, albeit relatively accurate waggle, it needs to give us the faith. ARMS is sure to get the big sell in this Direct.
A Pitch for What's New in Splatoon 2
Whether you agree with the sentiment or not, some have argued that Splatoon 2 'doesn't feel like a sequel'; Nintendo needs to counteract that perception. Visually the game is a relatively subtle evolution, but there's plenty of room for the sequel to freshen things up.
Online modes, for example, and how they work. One or two new match types would certainly be welcome to shake things up, and ideally Nintendo will also open up our choices when online - being able to pick between more stages and match types for each round would be a step in the right direction. Nintendo, to be fair, is doing interesting things for local matches - well suited to eSports events - and it may also take the opportunity to talk about the Nintendo Online Service and the lobby / voice chat app that'll likely be key to Splatoon 2's online functionality. We think the app is more likely to be a focus than the broader online service, however.
In addition it'd be nice to get a flavour of Splatoon 2's single player offering. The campaign in the original was pretty decent, and certainly fun, so ideally we'll get a look at the follow-up's equivalent.
A Showcase and Release Information on Key 3DS Titles
In Autumn / Fall last year Nintendo hosted a Direct focused on the 3DS, making the case for its relevance and appeal into 2017. There are still games to be covered - those definitely on the way include the Pikmin title and Ever Oasis, so new trailers and release dates for them wouldn't be surprising.
Beyond that there's room for more 3DS releases if there's a desire to push through on localisation of games that have performed relatively well in Japan. Examples like Monster Hunter Stories and Double Cross spring to mind, and there are undoubtedly more. Beyond that we'll likely see an extended segment on Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, the big release out in May.
Perhaps there's also room for news of new 3DS hardware bundles or models - we're interested to see whether there'll be a price drop coming soon to push the portable through another year, but perhaps that's a longshot for this Direct.
The Nintendo Switch Update 'Roadmap' and New Features
This is an area ideally suited to dedicated fans and unlikely to wait for E3 - Switch updates. We don't mean those focused on stability, of course, but rather fun touches that'll give the system more personality.
HOME Themes are an obvious area that Nintendo could explore promptly, with backgrounds and related ambient music for the system's biggest games to date. They've been popular on the 3DS and seem like an easy win on Switch.
Other small but welcome additions could be outlined for the near future - more customisation options for the layout on the front-facing UI, for example. Perhaps Nintendo could even outline improved data management for save and app storage; it may sound boring, but a two minute video addressing some of the complaints around the launch system's operating system could go down well. A big feature that would also be well received would be the addition of video sharing to the capture functionality, or at least an outline of the intention to deliver such a feature later in 2017.
Not all of these are likely to feature (HOME Themes are the most realistic), but it'd be nice to see areas like this tackled. If Nintendo's made any progress with third-party streaming apps (such as Netflix or YouTube) they'd also be well received.
A Welcome Surprise for Switch, Like the Virtual Console...
Let's remember one key point - the biggest announcements in Nintendo's locker are likely being saved for E3. That said there's room for a nice surprise, with options such as a remaster or re-release of a popular game or perhaps a first-party but high-profile eShop release. Any 'tier 2' game project announcements could be thrown in to give the Direct a big sign-off.
Alternatively the company could do a lot to excite its biggest fans by addressing the Virtual Console. A lot of veteran and committed fans are curious about the form it'll take on Nintendo Switch, and whether the GameCube will be included. We're not convinced it's an area that would make a big impact at E3, either, so a Direct reveal would arguably target the right audience.
Naturally any 'available to download after this presentation' announcements would cause a brief meltdown online...
Those are some of our thoughts on what we think could happen in the upcoming Nintendo Direct; let us know what you hope to see in the comments, and be sure to join us for the live broadcast, blog and chat at 3pm Pacific / 6pm Eastern / 11pm UK / midnight CET.