This weekend Nintendo held the qualifying rounds for their Nintendo World Championship in cities across the United States. The qualifiers tested any participants willing to line up to compete, requiring them to play three games from the Ultimate NES Remix. The players were competing for a chance to fly to Los Angeles and participate in the Nintendo World Championship finals, with only one player from each of the eight locations allowed to qualify. At one of the qualifiers in San Francisco, potential competitors lined up in the early hours of the morning to get their chance to compete in the finals at this years E3. By 7:30AM, a modest line had already formed outside the Best Buy. By the time the doors opened, it stretched around the block.
Representatives from Nintendo began the official registration process about 9:30AM, checking in with everyone inline, making sure people were prepared, and handing out registration sheets. Every participant was given a sticker to put on their personal devices, for security reasons and to avoid getting them mixed up for regular stock. Then, they were given official wristbands to compete. Long time fans of Nintendo chatted, exchanged friend codes, and talked away the hours about their favorite games and strategies, all while enduring the morning bay fog.
At the front of the line, Phil Lout had been waiting since 1:00AM for his chance to participate. While not expecting to qualify, he was thrilled for the chance to compete regardless. He recalled growing up watching the original Nintendo World Championship and said to go to E3 and compete would be "a dream come true." Another participant pointed to Dr. Mario as the breaker round, "Dr. Mario is a bit of a challenge ... everything in Dr. Mario is randomized." Still he seemed confident as ever in his chances — "I've got as good a chance as anyone."
Behind him, a group of YouTubers called the Nintenbros awaited their turn. The Nintenbros are a YouTube channel who scavenge flea markets for old games and then try them out. They recorded the qualifiers themselves, as well as signed up to compete. One of the Nintenbros said he was glad to see Nintendo holding the championships again and was prepared and ready to show his skill, "I don't wanna brag, but yeah I think I got a good chance." The founder of the Nintenbros was also competing and said he was there to enjoy the atmosphere above all else, "I don't think I'm going to be winning, but I'm here to have fun."
Towards the front of the line, Louie, donning a Luigi cap, answered questions while focused on continuing his practice. He pointed to his impressive high score on Ultimate NES Remix and expressed absolute confidence that he could easily qualify. Given the chance to go to E3, he said he'd be "hella excited" just to make it there. And then of course the line was littered with veterans such as Rick Brus, owner of NESMaps.com, who has been competing in Nintendo competitions for years, including making it far in the 1994 Nintendo PowerFest.
As the doors opened, players were welcomed in groups and lined up towards the center of the store, where the play area was set up. Every player was given a DS and started all at once. After the time ran out, Nintendo representative recorded the scores and updated the high score board. True to the Nintendo name, the first high score to appear on the board was a man named "Mario." Overseeing the event were several Nintendo executives, including the newly appointed Vice President of Finance Doug Bowser, who made headlines for his far too appropriate surname. Nintendo streamed the event live on Periscope.
After players finished, and their scores were recorded, every participant was awarded with a grab bag of items, including an Ultimate NES Remix poster. The more dedicated players stuck around and got back in line to compete again, hoping to improve their scores and get a better shot at qualifying. Bowser estimated a few hundred had arrived to play at the San Francisco location and reported high numbers from the New York location as well. The official numbers and the list of winners who will be moving on to the finals from all locations has yet to be released but likely will be unveiled sometime this week, along with the eight other participants who will be specially chosen by Nintendo.
The Nintendo World Championships are back again, and next is the final showdown at E3 on June 14th.
Disclosure: This author had family competing in these qualifiers.
Are you excited for the return of the Nintendo World Championship? Did you get to compete in the qualifiers? Do you think Nintendo should hold more events like these?