Leading up to this E3 2014, there was an old voice that gave us a warning: “heed our words, Nintendo is already doomed, for they arr not hosting a press conference”. Just about a month before E3, Nintendo released an E3 hype video in which they announced their Nintendo Digital event as well as the Super Smash Bros. Invitational tournament. Still, the old voice groaned: “we must hope Sony and Microsoft will deliver, or E3 is truly lost”.
To me, this sounded like a strange proposition. In my experience, it had been many years since E3 was worth anything. 2009, to be precise, was of note for the announcement of The Last Guardian. Every E3 since has been of note for the abscence of it. Truly, save for a few announcements, E3 had been on a real funk for many years. The spectacle of a press conference, which comes entangled with terrible actors, comedian hosts, out-of-place executives, and a strange focus on the business aspect of the game industry – as opposed to the development and play aspects of it – had turned E3 into a farce, wherein people gathered to discuss the failures more excitedly than the successes. Like a yearly train wreck, we learned to anticipate the tragedy and gathered to see the thing go up in a fireball, sticking around until the last fire died out.
Many refused to acknowledge it, but Nintendo actually changed the rules last year. For E3 2013, Nintendo decided not to host a traditional press conference in favor a lengthy Nintendo Direct video, among a few other things – yet Nintendo’s unique showing, both through their Nintendo Direct event and their showfloor space, was not enough to warrant a warm welcome from many corners of the industry.
This year Two-Thousand-Fourteen of the Common Era, though, Nintendo brought E3 back to form. This time, Nintendo didn’t just have a Nintendo Direct event (this time re-christened “Nintendo Digital Event”), they also had what they called “The Nintendo Treehouse Live”. During this segment, Nintendo didn’t show story teasers or CG trailers, but rather gameplay footage, and lots of it. There was extended gameplay and feature showcases of just-announced games, interviews with game developers of high and small renown, and multiplayer sessions. Then there was Nintendo’s invitational tournament for Super Smash Brothers U, a game that will not be out for about six more months still. There were competitive players from the professional scene, celebrity guest players, a roaring crowd, and a trash-talking Reggie.
That’s what happened during the first day.
The next two days, Nintendo continued their Treehouse events, bringing more gameplay footage of games in development, more guest stars, multiplayer sessions between competitive Smash Bros. players and testers at the Treehouse, extended feature showcases of games that may have fallen off the radar (Fantasy Life being a favorite of mine – see video below), and more interviews with game developers. There was also an announcement for a new strategy Nintendo 3DS title from Intelligent Studios (developers of the Fire Emblem strategic role playing game series), along with an extended gameplay showcase. During this time, there were also many interviews with high-profile figures published in mainstream outlets, perhaps more in those three days alone than in the rest of the year combined.
So, for three days, Nintendo fans were barraged with a variety of game announcements, exciting events, extended gameplay footage, interviews with developers and testers, and a highly controlled entertainment experience.
Let’s compare this to what we got two years ago, during E3 2012.
During conferences, some game announcements, most of which were CG teasers; the announcement of the tepid Wii U release window games; and the birth of the stiff comedy of Ubisoft’s #girlwood. Most importantly, one of the standout moments for this E3 was the reveal “gameplay” footage of Watch Dogs, which we have since discovered was a false and misleading representation of the final game, both graphically and mechanically. This E3 was so bad all around, that everyone expected Nintendo, whose conference was after all the rest, to absolutely kill it. But then Nintendo botched it, and everybody that witnessed this sadness had to take a break from the internet to replay Super Metroid and reinstall Deus Ex.
Even that E3 couldn’t top the tragedy that was E3 in 2008, a.k.a. the time that Nintendo’s then executive vice president of sales and marketing, Cammie Dunaway, stepped on stage to talk about puppies. You may also know this E3 as the one in which Miyamoto played Wii Music with Ravi Drums.
Now, though I did not follow them closely at that time, I’m sure that the E3 was great in the years leading up to 2008. In those previous years, the revolutionary Wii console and controller had been announced, along with the massive graphical leap that were the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 compared to their predecessors. Throughout this time, both graphics and gameplay took great leaps year after year, and we witnessed old franchises reborn in new ways, to the excitement of many gamers. But that was an exciting time for the industry in general, and E3 was simply riding along this excitement. Since 2008, once the dust had settled a bit, E3 has been a terrible, depressing affair, with its increasingly corporate overtones being a source of indignity and offense to gaming enthusiasts. Every show has been so devoid of excitement that the highlights were either games that may never come out, or things that barely have anything to do with games at all.
I mean just try to remember this rubbish:
2009 was the year in which the beautiful Playstation 3 Team ICO game and successor to the critically acclaimed Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian, was announced. It is also the last year we saw any kind of footage or teaser for that game.
2010 was the year in which Nintendo dropped the ball on their announcement of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. The highlight, at least for Nintendo fans, was the announcement of some pretty cool games for the then-upcoming Nintendo 3DS system. This was also the year in which acclaimed developer Retro Studios announced they were working on a Donkey Kong game.
2011 was the year in which nothing happened, if I recall.
2012 was the year in which the “best game of the show” wasn’t a real game, but a false and misguiding representation of what was actually going to be a game, Watch Dogs.
2013 was the year in which Sony trash-talked Microsoft. This one’s for the players? Didn’t look like it to me. This was also the year in which acclaimed developer Retro Studios announced they were working on a Donkey Kong game.
2014, however, is the year in which we once again got three days of exciting, non-stop gameplay footage, developer interviews, multiplayer footage of upcoming games, and game announcements.
Now, with this in mind, I ask you: can you really complain about the direction in which Nintendo is taking their E3 presence?
I anticipate one complaint: it just wasn’t enough. You know what, I agree. I love Nintendo, but I can’t live off Nintendo franchises alone. I’ll get Super Smash Bros U for sure, and Splatoon looks like a blast (assuming the inclusion of voice chat features), but other than Xenoblade Chronicles X and a disappointingly short (but still exciting) look at their new Zelda game, nothing that was part of their show was indispensable to me. But consider this: what if the other guys also did what Nintendo did? What if for three straight days, we were able to see extended gameplay footage for The Witcher 3, Dragon’s Age: Inquisition, the new Assassin’s Creed, No Man’s Land, Halo 5, Destiny, Project Cars, Drive Club, and who knows what else? Imagine we had gotten a 30 minute interview and multiplayer gameplay session with Miyazaki of From Software, developer of Bloodborne for Playstation 4 and the Dark Souls franchise; with Suda51 of No More Heroes fame; with ex-Retro Studios employees now working on Halo 5 with 343 Industries. And what if we had seen an invitational tournament for Battlefield Hardline, the new Call of Duty, or Ultra Street Fighter IV? Or a Grand Prix tournament for Project Cars or Drive Club?
Wouldn’t that be badass?
So I don’t know about you, enthusiasts, but I choose the E3 that lasts three actual days and is full of gameplay footage and informative interviews, over the emotional rollercoaster that is mostly aimed at businesspeople and ends before the E3 show floor space is even open. I don’t think I’m alone when I say this: the old E3 is dead; long live the new E3. Now who’s with me?