It’s strange to think about Nintendo these days, considering how mixed of a reception they get by the gaming community. Critics to fanboys alike are always hotly charged when it comes to the big “N," but it seems to always go critical mass when we reach E3 time. The big question on everyone’s mind is often the same as well. When the dust settles and the chaos is quelled, who wins E3?
Of course, the whole point of an article like this is to predict how Nintendo wins E3 this year. It is, after all, the most important prize in the industry, winning the respect and admiration of the fanbase out there. Nintendo, however, is in a unique position this time around, one that is pushing forward with the newly released Nintendo Switch and an already well-known plan of action for major game releases and the like for the rest of the year. Nintendo doesn’t have many surprises, and some of the few surprises they do have were already leaked, such as Ubisoft’s Mario + Rabbids Battle Kingdom.
So, I guess the biggest surprise of all here would be this: Nintendo doesn’t have to win E3, it already won the year.
A bold statement, sure, but it does make sense if you consider how hot Nintendo is going into E3. The Switch has exceeded expectations after a rather timid response, and the system is finding a very strong player base. The weak reception to the games lineup has begun to evaporate, as more and more indie and downloadable games grace the system as big ticket titles such as ARMS and Splatoon 2 get ready for a release. The demand for the system is outpacing supply, to the point where the system is outselling the Wii at this pace, and any announcements made at E3 will only strengthen Nintendo’s grip on the console market, despite some nagging questions about the console itself compared to its big cousins the PS4 Pro and Project Scorpio.
Nintendo hasn’t really "competed" at E3 for nearly five years now, opting to do their Treehouse special livestreams and online Nintendo directs to attract attention. It has been a strategy that has worked well for the company, so much so more big-name publishers, such as Bethesda and Electronic Arts, are following suit and offering conferences and all-day play promotions before E3 officially begins.
Nintendo also has nothing to really prove, as the sales of the Switch are evidence enough of the current upswing for the company, which suffered a heavy loss with the Wii U. The response to the Switch compared to the Wii U is night and day—no confusion over the consoles, no lackluster support for the system. The Switch is lacking in one area, courting third party developers to consider making games for the system. True, Ubisoft was always likely going to be a major supporter, and Bethesda putting their hat into the Nintendo realm is also a strong start, but even the CEO’s of other companies are openly expressing interest now for the console.
If that is not enough to hand Nintendo the title for E3 this year, then what they do show might be a major turning point for the doubters out there. Super Mario Odyssey will likely be a major showcase, as will Mario + Rabbids Battle Kingdom, despite the leaks that have occurred. Nintendo also has other major titles waiting in the wings for a major showing, such as Splatoon 2, which is set to be the next major release for the system and will no doubt be a major part of their E3 presence this year.
There are, of course, some lingering questions that may get answered as well. We learned about the online plans from Nintendo earlier this week, but can Nintendo showcase its features in action? What about the eventual release of the Virtual Console? All of these questions have been nagging concerns for the system, but Nintendo has not slowed down with their absence of an online presence either. With Splatoon 2 around the corner, online play is going to be a cornerstone for the success of the title, so using E3 to showcase the online capabilities of the Switch might be the way Nintendo goes for an announcement.
Third party, however, might be the major contributor to the cause. The already confirmed Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and Shin Megami Tensi, which are good candidates to start with, and the recent announcement of the Japanese release of Monster Hunter Double Cross is also another strong lineup addition. Monster Hunter also brings up another wrinkle; the cross-play between the 3DS and the Switch, something that has been a possibility for the system for a while now. That alone does imply more cross-play between the 3DS and the Switch is possible, the question is which games would be major contenders for it? Many of these games are already major titles to anticipate and hopefully Nintendo showcases more of them at E3.
As for Nintendo franchises, two major requests have been a new, proper Metroid title, and a Pokémon game on the Switch. Both of these titles are not only possible but very likely candidates as a surprise announcement at E3 this year. Pokémon in particular would be well-suited for cross play, and using the 3DS and the Switch combined for one major Pokémon game would be a massive coup. Whether they show up in the end is really anyone’s guess, but it would be the cherry on the cake for Nintendo at this point.
In the past, such an announcement would be the sucker punch Nintendo needs to stay competitive, now, it’s just an anticipation of “when” and not “if," and that is a major reason why Nintendo is the big winner here regardless of what comes at E3. Nintendo can put in minimal effort, considering how their major announcements have become scheduled throughout the year instead.
The final trailer of The Legend of Zelda: The Breath of the Wild at the Nintendo Switch showcase was a major turning point for Nintendo, one that proves that the big stage at E3 is no longer needed to generate the same reaction from fans and press alike. The big stage-feel, however, is alive and well, and Nintendo has tapped into that with their direct videos.It not only generated excitement and buzz for the system, but it was the perfect showcase of not only the game of Breath of the Wild, but also Nintendo’s vision for the future of their franchises; taking risks and changing up formulas, and basking in the glow of fans long before E3 becomes part of the equation.
Make no mistake, Breath of the Wild is a major success story regardless of how one feels about the title, with over 3 million units sold since launching in March. Simply through that, Nintendo already has your attention going into E3, and it will continue to hold it after the expo regardless of the reception they receive. In that way, Nintendo has already won E3, as the whole gaming world is looking at them with bated breath, excited to see what comes next.