Yesterday, Nintendo held its online digital event. The stream, dubbed the “Nintendo Spotlight,” was meant to show off some of the company’s planned releases for its shiny new Switch console. The presentation, just a brisk 25-minute affair, was fast-paced and action packed. Showing off a few third-party titles, already-announced games, and even massive long-dormant franchises, Nintendo showed off a little bit of everything. Nintendo kept its presentation interesting and engaging, leaving fans excited and hungering for more upon its conclusion.
Seemingly forgotten by other major first-parties this year, the goal of E3 press conferences has traditionally been to sell the company’s console through the presentation. Usually, companies lead with exclusive after exclusive, attempting to cement why its console is the place to play. It’s a little bit of a balancing act. On one hand, companies must cater to the base, showing off experiences that their most hardcore player-base is looking for. On the other hand, E3 is the single best opportunity for hardware manufacturers to make the case that those that haven’t yet picked up the console should do so. In that sense, Nintendo accomplished what it set out to do.
E3 presentations have been mixed this year in terms of pacing. Despite the idea that companies should show game after game after game, that’s not always the best strategy. Taking a slight pause now and then to highlight big games can give viewers a bit of rest while allowing them to digest and think about what they just saw. Microsoft, for example, showed off so many games in a row without a break that many were unable to recall some of the major titles they saw without pulling up a list after the conference. By the end of the two-hour event, many titles went forgotten. Sony, by contrast, led its conference in a very peculiar manner. The first half hour was filled with DLC, a remake, and virtual reality titles. Sony’s conference was clearly for those that were already deep into the Playstation universe. Sure, the conference would have probably been perfect for a PSX keynote, but at E3, where virtually all gamers are tuned in, a few new game reveals a different mix of games would have likely been a better strategy.
Nintendo, on the other hand, absolutely nailed the mix of games through its presentation. There was a solid mix of three types of games: smaller announcements, updates on games, and new game announcements. Although Rocket League may be a smaller indie title, the game has a massive following, and cross play inclusion made Nintendo look very good next to Sony in terms of online connectivity. From then on, Nintendo went to give updates on Xenoblade, Fire Emblem Warriors, and Super Mario Odyssey, scattering exciting new game announcements in between. There were strategically-placed pauses which allowed viewers to fully take-in the existence of the exciting new games, like Metroid Prime 4. One the whole, the conference’s pacing was so excellent not only because if its quick pace, but because the mix of announcements was choreographed in a way to keep gamers of all stripes engaged and excited throughout its entirety.
Though the presentation was much shorter than the other conferences, by far, Nintendo still brought a bundle of games to show off. Although most games tailored to a certain group of gamers, at no point did it feel like Nintendo was solely targeting the casual market, or just targeting hardcore gamers. Obviously, announcements like Metroid Prime 4 are meant to excite dormant Nintendo fans who have perhaps not picked up a Nintendo console in a little while. Pokemon, on the other hand, was meant to shore up the tens of millions of handheld gamers, many of which just buy Nintendo platforms as their Pokemon machine. Games like Kirby and Yoshi tailored to Nintendo’s younger audience, but also their dedicated fanbase. Meanwhile, announcements like Rocket League were meant to show off the Switch’s broad appeal, while Xenoblade Chronicles 2 would tickle the fancy of any Japanese game fan. Obviously, both Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild were meant to appeal to the mass market. Nintendo even had callouts to the eSport community, a market fast-growing in the industry.
In a way, Nintendo was able to hit virtually every single target market in the gaming industry, without making it seem like it was pandering at any given moment. Nintendo didn’t just stop for half an hour in the middle to focus on casual games; the company was somehow able to tailor its presentation for everyone at once, but also every individual gamer at once.
Third-Party Games and Indies
My only concern, and this is more in the long-term, is that it appears the Switch’s third-party support may be worse than even the dismal support on the Wii U. There was no third-party reel during its presentation, and third-party announcements, aside from a select few, were virtually nonexistent. It seems like the Switch’s retail catalog will see upwards of 85% of its titles be Nintendo-published. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it should certainly grant no illusions to those trying to present the console as a replacement to the PS4 and XBO. It’s pretty clear that Nintendo is positioning its console to be one you want to buy in addition to a second home console.
I also was surprised at the lack of indie titles, even just a quick trailer. In previous years, Nintendo took pains to ensure that “Nindies” were represented in each conference, boasting its large number of exclusive titles and indie game partners. That appeared to be gone this year, and it is a little concerning in regards to Nintendo’s commitment to marketing and targeting indie games for its platform.
A Model to Follow
Nintendo’s digital presentation accomplished everything Nintendo set out to do. The 25-minute spotlight was able to keep established fans captivated while attracting gamers who may not have purchased a Nintendo platform in a while. The company announced new games, including behemoth franchises, while providing exciting updates on titles we already knew about. Although it would have been nice to have a slightly longer video or a few more third-party titles, Nintendo’s presentation provided a model that its competitors should aspire to reach.
Our usual scoring scale is out of 10 points, but for today I want to “switch” to a letter grade. Nintendo’s presentation deserves a solid A rating, considering the new game announcements, its pacing, brevity, and quality of other conferences.