Every year, in the days succeeding E3, the video games media zeitgeist attempts to discern a “winner.” They presume that the convention is a contest to see who can provide the most goods, rather than a shared opportunity for the biggest companies in the business to show what they’re working on. It’s somewhat understandable why — consumers have only so much cash they can spend on games, after all — but the evaluation of what companies are expected to provide and what they actually do inevitably leaves a host of losers, and one determined to be the victor.
This gladiatorial frame of mind doesn’t tend to favor Nintendo very much, for two reasons: first, that the Big N tends to play to a different crowd than Microsoft and Sony, and second, the company has such a large library of IPs and potential projects that it’ll inevitably leave some of their fans disappointed. There will always be several franchises neglected every year — just to different degrees of fan clamoring. Thus, not everybody will be satisfied, and Nintendo’s performance will be marked down as a result.
Instead of using this antagonistic, battle royale mindset, let’s look at Nintendo’s E3 from this standpoint: What did it do to sell the Switch? How did the company reassure owners that it’s a console worth owning? And what does it have planned for the future?
It wasn’t perfect, by any stretch. But it did leave three strong messages to fans and onlookers:
The 3DS is going into its twilight (but not its deathbed)
To characterize the 3DS as being on life support at this point is a foolish move. While not the strongest year it’s ever had, the system has enjoyed a healthy 2017 so far, with a couple standout titles like Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia to help carry it along. Upcoming games like Ever Oasis, Miitopia, Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga + Bowser’s Minions, and Metroid: Samus Returns (one of the biggest moves of the whole show), alongside third party fare like Atlus’ upcoming RPGs (Etrian Odyssey V, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux, and Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology) and the ol’ reliable Pokémon, show that the little handheld that could still has life left in it.
But at the same time, the signs of an imminent end are starting to appear. All of the Nintendo Spotlight was focused on Switch titles — the only 3DS game shown was Fire Emblem Warriors, which will undoubtedly be pushed more on the Switch. All the 3DS games revealed at the show — Metroid, Mario & Luigi, and a weird little title called Sushi Strikers — were shown off during Treehouse only. The console was left out of the Spotlight… literally.
Obviously the 3DS won’t be croaking over immediately — in fact, it seems quite possible that this last year or two may have some of its best titles. Metroid was obviously the most impactful announcement on the system, but between the solid new titles and worthy remakes/remasters, the system seems ready to go out on a high note.Let’s not forget that the last month of the original DS gave us Pokémon Black & White, Okamiden, and… Radiant Historia. Coincidence?
Looking more towards the future (without sacrificing the present)
Generally speaking, ever since adopting the Direct format of delivering news Nintendo has always focused on titles that would be released within a year or so. Rather than trying to sell people on hazy glimpses of what might come, the company prefers to show what goods it’s got to sell you now. This usually pays off, though when it comes to dry spots (such as during the Wii U’s lifespan) they feel more pronounced as a result.
This E3 marked a notable departure from that, as both a core Pokémon RPG and Metroid Prime 4 were announced with almost no details and unspecified releases. That means we likely won’t hear about them until next year at the earliest, which puts a slight damper on the megaton announcements. And since those two facets were undoubtedly some of the bigger ammo Nintendo had, it’s likely the presentation wouldn’t have been as impactful had it left those reveals on the cutting room floor.
Obviously, two announcements isn’t enough to color Nintendo’s entire presentation — Mario, FE Warriors, Zelda DLC and more are all slated for this year. Even Xenoblade Chronicles 2, often speculated to be delayed, is still supposed to be released this holiday season. Yoshi and Kirby round the whole list out with some solid 2018 titles to look forward to, leaving a relatively balanced look at what’s in the immediate future and what lies later down the road.
Arguably, the first big prematurely announced game in the Direct years for Nintendo was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild — a game where the more time went by, the greater the anticipation for it built. And considering it ended up nicely for Ninty in the end, it’s hardly a wonder that the same strategy is being used again. We can only hope it pays off again.
“We hear you”
Gamers can be difficult to appease, to say the least. As I noted earlier, Nintendo has so many franchises under its belt that it’s inevitable that at least a couple diehards will walk away from presentations unhappy. And in the case of certain reveals — like with Metroid Prime Federation Force a few years back — certain fans may end up livid with rage.
It’s not as if every last whim and want was answered at Nintendo’s E3. F-Zero remains buried, Animal Crossing was a no-show, and we’re still left without Mother 3 in the West. But it’s hard to claim that Nintendo outright doesn’t care about what fans want, with what’s been given.
After the disappointment with last week’s Pokémon Direct, Nintendo reaffirmed that a core RPG in the franchise is coming to the Switch sometime in the future. Understanding the interest in competitive gaming, it held three separate tournaments for upcoming games (ARMS, Pokkén and Splatoon 2) that both pleased the crowd and showed the depth inherent in each title. Lovers of amiibo were more than placated, with over a dozen new figures announced, including fan favorites like the Champions from Zelda. Listening to the disgruntlement of Metroid fans, we got not one, but two, new titles — the first 2D Metroid in almost 15 years, and a Prime followup after almost a decade of waiting. It’s clear that Nintendo’s not just ignoring feedback from fans, but responding to it.
We may not be seeing Smash Bros. on Switch or anything like that soon, but that doesn’t mean Nintendo doesn’t care. We’re still only in the first year of the Switch, after all — give it time, and all the heavy hitters will come. The lineup going right now isn’t the greatest of all time, but as a start it’s a darn fine one, and shows that Nintendo — on some level — knows what the people want.
Where we stand now
So did Nintendo “win” E3? Did it impress and dazzle and amaze, convincing everybody who laid eyes upon the presentation to drop everything and buy a Switch? Or did Nintendo flounder about, lacking in one of the multitude of franchises it could be making instead?
Well… it’s somewhere in between. What it showed was good, and the 1-2 punch of a core Pokémon RPG and Metroid Prime 4 certainly excited many, but the lack of any real concrete info on them dampened the potential impact just a bit. Not to mention the brevity of the presentation hurt it slightly. It could have been beefed up with a bit more gameplay for certain titles, rather than consigning all of it to Treehouse later. Not to mention a couple immediately upcoming titles (as well as every 3DS game) being absent. Treehouse improved that, but not everybody is willing to tune in after the big event.
In terms of showing the Switch is off to a strong start, however, Nintendo did a fine job. It looks as if just about every month from now until the end of the year will have at least one high profile release on the platform. And the 3DS is doing just fine as well. While Super Mario Odyssey was the only game whose trailer really knocked my socks off, everything elicited a positive reaction overall.
Nintendo as a company is doing just fine. But I have a feeling that it’s going to get a lot better soon.Leave a Comment