In a lot of people’s estimation, Nintendo “won” this year’s E3, which is impressive considering the company entered the show with all the forward momentum of a drunken buzzy beetle. Despite trailing in the console race, Nintendo dominated social media, and you’d be hard pressed to find anybody who doesn’t think better of Nintendo of and its products after E3 than they did before. That’s a win any way you cut it.
A lot of Nintendo’s success this year stems from them breaking from E3 tradition, or at least what’s become E3 tradition over the past few years. I very strongly suspect we’re going to see Sony and Microsoft lifting a page from Nintendo next year — I mean, if Nintendo can steal the show with the wounded Wii U, imagine what Sony could do with the same tactics. Here’s 5 ways Nintendo may have changed E3 for the better this year…
The Death Of The E3 Press Conference
E3 press conferences suck. In the long history of E3, how many good ones have there been? Uh, the one where Reggie debuted? The Konami one from 2010 (for purely unintentional reasons)? I spend a decent chunk of almost every day obsessively keeping up with video game news — 90-minutes of new game trailers and hardware announcements should make my skull literally explode with endorphins, but instead I’m usually checking my watch.
Fans questioned Nintendo’s decision to do a pre-recorded video in lieu of a press conference last year, but this year they significantly upped the polish and production values and delivered something that wasn’t just a dry vehicle for new trailers and game announcements, but actually entertaining in its own right. The traditional E3 press conference needs to be taken out behind the barn, and I would be truly surprised if either Microsoft or Sony (or both) don’t jump on the pre-recorded bandwagon next year.
If you only watched Nintendo’s Digital Event, you missed some interesting stuff.
They Held Something Back for the Show Itself
The press conferences aren’t, technically speaking, even part of E3. They’re just pre-show wank sessions. The part where journalists go around and actually play the games, that’s the actual E3. For some time though, you’d be right if you called the actual E3 tradeshow the boring part of E3 week. The press conferences are home to all the big announcements and coolest footage — nothing actually happens at E3 itself.
Nintendo changed that this year. They held off announcement of games like Devil’s Third and Code Name: STEAM for E3 itself, and their demos imparted some genuine information and gave a better idea of how their games played. For the first time in a while, something other than the press conferences actually mattered.
No More Corporate Babble
At least 50% of what you hear out of most game companies is pure corporate speak padding — this year wasn’t as bad as the toxic swamp of corporate babble that was E3 2013, but there was still plenty of smarmy talk of “growth experiences”, “entertainment innovations” and how fans are going to drive the future of fun. Barf.
Nintendo’s been as guilty of this crap any anybody in the past, but this year they largely refrained and instead mostly focused on describing why their upcoming games will be fun. How innovative.
This guys seems to be having fun.
Real People Actually Playing Games
It’s become an emblematic E3 image — the attractive person holding a controller and pretending to play a “demo” that’s clearly entirely scripted. These demos are supposed to give an idea of what the player’s basic experience will be like, but they’re usually so idealized they’re essentially pointless.
Nintendo on the other hand, streamed days worth of footage of actual people playing actual games. Sure, sometimes they screwed up, or didn’t demonstrate something perfectly, but they also demoed their games with passion and seemed to be having a lot of fun in most cases. Even when Sony and Microsoft showed actual gameplay of one of their games, the presenters seemed to be focusing so hard on playing the demo “right” they came off like they were being forced to do homework.
They Didn’t Take Themselves So Damned Seriously
Sony and Microsoft love to throw around words like “fun” and “entertainment”, but they’re all business at E3. They’re serious about making you a part of their entertainment empire dammit. By comparison this year Nintendo just kind of showed up to goof around and play some games. They poked fun at themselves with skits from Mega64 and Robot Chicken, the interviews with Nintendo developers were causal and relaxed and the folks demoing their games were actually having fun. It was hugely refreshing.
Will Nintendo’s performance at E3 2014 change the Wii U’s fortunes? Honestly, the chances are slim, but Nintendo very well have changed E3 itself.