Another E3 has come and gone, and once again Nintendo decided to shake up its approach to the show. We had some serious concerns going in about the heavy focus on a single title, but Nintendo inarguably pulled it off. Just for fun, let’s break down Nintendo’s presentation and decide how its presence at this year’s show stacked up.
In lieu of a proper Digital Event or press conference, Nintendo chose to kick off its E3 showing in extremely low-key fashion. A few words from Reggie Fils-Aimé and a three minute trailer debuting the gorgeous open world and proper title of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild served as introduction.
Nintendo would show us, over the course of its two days of exposition that followed, that it did indeed have enough minor announcements and new game footage to fill a proper Digital Event. This made the decision to temper our expectations going in and position this year’s E3 as a Zeldathon seem a bit odd – a disservice to everything else that they brought to the show.
These days, Nintendo Directs are few and far between. A proper E3 Digital Event, even one without any major announcements, would have been a much warmer welcome to this year’s showcase.
It’s all about Zelda! Hearing that repeatedly in the weeks leading up to E3 was equally exciting and worrisome.
Yes, it’s Zelda, and its significance and power over fans cannot be understated. We were all dying to know more about the series’s next installment, and a two day showcase dedicated almost exclusively to doing just that was an exciting prospect. On the other hand, E3 is about showing us what we – the loyal fans – have to look forward to in the relatively near future.
So beyond this one massive title that is still nearly a year away, what should Nintendo fans be looking forward to? The answer is, sadly: not much. E3 brought us some new footage and insight into first party titles Pokémon Sun and Moon, Paper Mario: Color Splash and Mario Party: Star Rush, third party efforts like Pokémon Go, Monster Hunter Generations, Yo-Kai Watch 2 and Ever Oasis, and some localization announcements including Dragon Quest VII, Rhythm Heaven Megamix and BoxBoxBoy!.
With only a couple of exceptions, these were all known quantities. Much of the excitement surrounding E3 is the unknown – the potential debut of something completely unexpected that’s right up your alley. In the case of this year’s E3, with a brand new Nintendo console right around the corner, we know that most of Nintendo’s core talent has moved past the Wii U and is hard at work on what’s next. E3 2016 was simply not the time and place to reveal the full scope of Nintendo’s future plans; hopefully we won’t have to wait too much longer.
Written by Daniel Dell-Cornejo
Nintendo’s focus this year on just one title meant that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the company’s only playable demo, but anyone in attendance could see that it totally stole the show (floor). The line for the game was consistently long, wrapping around walls and winding throughout the northern part of the West Hall at virtually all times. Most impressively, the demo was so popular that its line was closed on numerous occasions during the days the team and I were present.
Our media passes allowed us fast access to the area used for the demo to film, but not permission to actually play. That was enough for many of us, though, as the set-up was truly – in Nintendo’s words – immersive. The amount of effort and creative energy that had gone into preparing the experience was awesome — in both the formal and informal sense. If I hadn’t known better, I’d have believed I’d been warped directly to the Great Plateau itself.
Larger-than-life statues and figures of characters and enemies seen in Breath of the Wild’s trailer dotted the room, set against an ever-changing backdrop that moved through day and night. Atmospheric sounds of birds and other wildlife, coupled by the occasional crack of lightning, were well-complemented by the watercolor blues and purples of a Hyrulian sunset.
Because of the daunting length of the line, the team and I had to return a number of times just to see if the wait was feasible. I’ll never forget, near the end of the first day, when the Nintendo/Amiibo Newscast’s incredible announcer Jared Rutledge rushed into the Media Center, breathless and excited to tell me and fellow team member George that the wait for the demo was under an hour long. Having promised to watch over Jason and Lauren’s equipment and belongings while they were in a meeting, we, with little debate, quickly packed up their things and hurried over to join the line.
Though the first twenty minutes or so of waiting were only occupied by talking amongst ourselves (and complaining about the weight of the stuff we were carrying), we were eventually entertained by the Nintendo Treehouse, which was filming directly in front of the upper quarter of the line. Although I’d have appreciated some form of entertainment from staffers (as was present at last year’s E3), the excitement we were feeling and the high spirits around us were more than accommodating. Near the line’s end, attendees were even given a fantastic view of Nintendo’s upcoming Zelda and Super Mario amiibo.
During my playthrough of the two consecutive demos (a 15 minute one focused on exploration and a 20 minute one centered on story), Nintendo staffers were nothing short of helpful. One guide was present per two players and would observe and advise when we’d find ourselves stuck. The demos were topped off by two rewards for completion: a light blue T-shirt and a gold coin, both decorated with the game’s logo in front.
Would I have liked to see more playable demos on the show floor this year? Absolutely; who wouldn’t? Was I more than satisfied with what was available? Without question. Nintendo and the artists involved in making Hyrule come to life went above and beyond in creating an experience that was undeniably unforgettable.
After more than a year and a half on the market, it’s great to see Nintendo sticking strongly with amiibo and nicely staggering a handful of new additions every few months. To be perfectly honest, the first year, riding mostly on the steam of the Super Smash Bros. line, was kind of a nightmare in terms of cost and rarity. Giving collectors time to save up some cash and regain some sanity between releases has been a fantastic change of pace.
That’s why the light but impressive amiibo announcements at this year’s E3 were more than welcome. Unsurprisingly, Breath of the Wild will be receiving its own line of amiibo, starting with three beautifully detailed figures: Link (Archer), Link (Rider), and Guardian. The Super Mario line is also seeing some expansion, highlighted by the often-requested Waluigi and glow-in-the-dark Boo.
For the past few years, Nintendo has complimented its E3 showing with some amazing fan-powered events. 2014’s Super Smash Bros. Invitational tournament and last year’s Nintendo World Championships reincarnation were some of the highlights of their respective E3 showcases. Though it’s not fair to expect Nintendo to hold a grand event like this every year, this year’s already light and low-stakes offering really could have used it.
Nintendo did hold a relatively small celebration at Nintendo New York alongside E3, allowing 500 fans to play Breath of the Wild on the opposite coast. However, that small, localized addition wasn’t enjoyable on a national scale like past year’s events.
Hopefully this is more of a break than a discontinuation from extra-show events, because they have provided some of the most creative, interactive fun that Nintendo has ever brought with them to E3.
It’s clear that E3 was not really a focal point for Nintendo’s strategy this year. As amazing as it was to finally get a grasp on what Link’s next adventure will look and feel like, it just didn’t feel like a full showcase all on its own. The Breath of the Wild demo’s amazing booth design, the fervor that surrounded it and two full days of live streams were inarguably impressive, but ultimately things were just stretched a bit too thin and lacked any real sense of surprise.
Here’s the silver lining: this fall should bring us another major showcase from Nintendo – one full of nothing but brand new software and hardware surprises. Take this E3 assessment with a grain of salt, knowing that it won’t be long before we see what the future of Nintendo truly looks like. That should equate to a much more interesting E3 next year when we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of the launch window of Nintendo NX.