I hate to say it, but my excitement for this year’s E3 in June just went from 60 to 0 in ten seconds flat. The unexpected and revealing details from Nintendo’s year-end investor’s meeting have painted a picture for what could be its saddest E3 showing in many, many years.
Nintendo hasn’t been the least bit shy about shaking up the established E3 formula in recent years. Its past three, in particular, have been some of the most creative, atypical showcases the convention has ever seen. But take a look at Nintendo’s official statement about its tentative plans for E3 2016:
Nintendo changes its approach to the show every year. This June, Nintendo will focus its attentions on the upcoming game in The Legend of Zelda franchise. The Wii U version of the game will be playable for the first time on the E3 show floor, and it will be the only playable game Nintendo presents at the show, in order to provide attendees a complete immersion. Additional information about Nintendo’s E3 plans will be announced in the future.
Somehow, this explanation makes the showcase of a brand new Zelda game that will be playable for the first time ever seem dull – by showing us only what we can now assume will be an inferior version of the game. Using Nintendo’s excellent E3 showings from the past three years as a point of comparison, let’s take a look at this year’s plans and see if we can make any sense of this seemingly barebones approach to the show.
First, I’ll ask the obvious question: How can Nintendo possibly fill out its booth with only a single game being shown on the convention floor? Granted, that game is Zelda, but Nintendo has always commanded one of the largest booths at E3, generally filled with at least a handful of recently released and upcoming games. Games like Splatoon and Super Mario Maker have dominated large portions of Nintendo’s E3 booth, but even those massive, elaborate displays accounted for only a moderate portion of the overall space.
This leaves us with either a huge booth awkwardly dedicated to a single title, or another in a series of steps away from E3 as Nintendo’s primary yearly showcase. With other huge companies – like EA and Activision Blizzard – stepping away from E3 this year in favor of their own press events, it certainly does seem to be a trend right now. Perhaps Nintendo will simply opt for a much smaller presence on E3’s show floor this year, and instead choose to double down, as it has been for awhile now, on finding more direct ways to deliver its news and showcase its games to fans.
An unfortunate side effect of this approach would be the casualty of Nintendo Treehouse Live. This three day showcase of Nintendo’s new games, delivered live by the directors and teams behind them, has become a staple of Nintendo’s E3 presence for the past few years. At any point during the show, viewers could tune in to a live stream and expect to see an in depth demo, interesting interview, or a chat with some of Nintendo’s greatest minds, like Shigeru Miyamoto. With only a single game being shown, though, it’s impossible to imagine how Nintendo could fill so many hours with compelling content from the Treehouse team. If Treehouse Live does take a break this year, I, for one, will miss it dearly.
So what does this minimal show floor presence and lack of games to demo mean for this year’s digital event? Unfortunately, I think it means that Nintendo’s E3 kickoff presentation this year won’t have any of the wows that we were expecting, or at the very least hoping for. Nintendo has stated that the NX will not be shown at E3 this year, and that it will see a dedicated reveal event at some point closer to its launch, next March. With only a few games left on the horizon for Wii U, like Paper Mario Color Splash and Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, and Metroid Prime Federation Force and Pokemon Sun & Moon closing out the year for 3DS; there is a clear and present lack of games in Nintendo’s near future. Some remasters, Virtual Console gems, and smaller projects could potentially hold us over for the next (excruciating) year, but I can’t imagine Nintendo announcing any new, high profile titles for Wii U or 3DS that it doesn’t see fit to show off at its booth.
One final thing worth considering about Nintendo’s E3 plans this year is its yearly tournament. After events like the Super Smash Bros. Invitational and the Nintendo World Championships have proven to be a beloved part of Nintendo’s E3 presence over the past few years, its at least moderately safe to say we might see another tournament this year to keep fans enthusiastic for Nintendo in general. Even if it doesn’t pertain to any new games or hardware, these events have brilliantly drawn on nostalgia and decades-old Nintendo fandom to give us something to rally around and get excited about. In the absence of new game announcements and information about NX, a morale-boosting event like this could go a long way to reassuring fans of the reasons we love Nintendo.
I can’t say, in good conscience, that I’m optimistic for Nintendo’s E3 plans. We couldn’t be more excited here at Nintendo Inquirer for the next entry in the Legend of Zelda franchise, so please don’t associate any of this negativity with that title. For me, though, the most exciting part of E3 is always the unknown; and frankly, with NX out of the equation, I just don’t think Nintendo will have any other big surprises for us at this year’s show. Still, somewhere deep down, I’m desperately hoping that they’ll prove me wrong.