Nintendo’s opener for E3 2017 is a peek into their latest philosophy.
Following a sizzle reel showcasing exciting new Switch titles, Nintendo kicked off their E3 2017 Spotlight with a short foreword by Nintendo of America president, Reggie Fils-Aimé. He proclaims that games are the same as battles: they’re trials that one must overcome for fun.
“But the game is also something else,” he muses. “It’s a journey; a passport to new worlds. Maybe even an odyssey—a look, a feel, an exploration. Close your focus, and open your mind. Yes, the journey requires the right ticket, and that ticket is Nintendo Switch.”
Reggie seems to be hinting that, for the time being, the company is less about “winning the market” and “pushing console limits,” and more about providing an entertaining journey for players. It can be said that Nintendo has always carried such a mantra—fun-factor over graphics, mechanics over story. Yet time after time, the Big N has fallen into some sort of ego trap, believing their games to be true art, and utterly ignoring their own fans and competition. “Nintendo can do no wrong,” they think, as they bewilder their fanbase by experimenting with consoles and beloved franchises.
The difference now is that the Japanese company seems to be putting their best foot forward, dead-set on proving themselves to naysayers and believers alike. Nintendo is filled with a unique fervor and confidence that’s been dormant for an entire console cycle. They’re talking big, and backing it up with impressive titles that fans actually want. They’re setting aside their quirky console features and delivering unique experiences. Nintendo is changing the public outlook of the company.
Take The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, for example. It doesn’t run in 4K—it doesn’t even run at a consistent 30 frames-per-second. It’s not some hyper-real, gritty experience with a focus-tested story. But it is one of the best reviewed games of all time, and has been since its launch. Simply put, the game is fun. It’s all about discovery, wonder, and accomplishment. It’s about the player and their ingenuity. Zelda‘s an experience—to see it, you need to “close your focus” on graphical fidelity, and “open your mind” to the idea that a game can be fun without pushing technological limits.
Since March, Nintendo’s made good on their confidence. They’ve delivered a slew of exciting indie titles, including beloved games like Shovel Knight, The Binding of Isaac, Thumper, and soon, Cave Story. The Switch launch was very quickly followed by Mario Kart 8 Deluxe: the newest entry to the kart series that everyone loves, now in portable form. And just last week, they released a quirky new competitive fighter, Arms. These titles purely revolve around the idea of having fun, whether they’re played alone or with a friend. They don’t care about having the greatest looks or the most relatable protagonist. They grab a nice art style and fun mechanic, then run with it.
At E3, Nintendo’s downpour of titles showed no signs of stopping. In October, fans will get their hands on Super Mario Odyssey, which had one of the most-watched trailers of E3 2017. They also showed off multiple first party titles slated for release this year. In 2018, Nintendo plans to release new Kirby and Yoshi titles. The company even revealed that Metroid Prime 4 and a mainline Pokémon game are both officially in development for the Nintendo Switch.
Switch owners have been…antsy, to say the least. Three weeks ago, it seemed that Super Mario Odyssey was the biggest title on the horizon for the Big N. Nothing past 2017 had been shown or announced. Reasonably, people became worried. But within a span of 25 minutes, Nintendo managed to assuage the fears of their fans, and deliver some of the biggest surprises of E3.
Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon were just announced for the 3DS a few weeks ago, and had players scared that the franchise would never hit the Switch. What if—just what if—Nintendo bypassed the Switch, and created a dedicated, handheld 3DS successor? Surely, it would have spelled certain doom for their current hybrid console. And yet, here we are: those fears have dissipated entirely, with a simple 10 second statement.
By and large, it’s that easy to hype Nintendo fans up. They just want as many entertaining games as they can get their hands on. Metroid Prime 4, specifically, has been something of a pipedream for many Nintendo lovers. The teaser was a message that was heard loud and clear: Nintendo is listening. They know what you want. They’ve got your back. There are no awkward spin-offs or wonky GamePads here: only fun.
How are we so sure that Nintendo isn’t just going to pull their normal Miyamoto-filled antics, though? What if the Switch begins to starve for content like the Wii U? What if they announce a sequel to Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival? Frankly, we aren’t 100% positive they’ve changed, but they are dropping a few big hints.
Sure, they’ve already had a few missteps with their vague online service details, and their botched attempt at voice chat. Yeah, the Switch UI feels a little empty and currently lacks a web browser or video service like Netflix or Hulu.
However, we’re seeing a whole new face of Nintendo. Miyamoto hasn’t been around much lately, has he? Where are all the faces we came to know during the Wii U-era Nintendo Directs?
They’ve been replaced—figuratively more so than literally. During January’s Nintendo Switch Reveal Presentation, Shigeru Miyamoto, Eiji Aonuma, and Reggie Fils-Aimé (arguably the three most well-known faces of the company in the Western market) were seen only in a clip near the end of the show. Until then, the spotlight was hogged by Yoshiaki Koizumi, a protegé of sorts to Miyamoto. Alongside him, other less-known developers and designers from the company proudly presented their software, like gladiators in a coliseum.
These are the new faces of Nintendo. They fought for our recognition that night, and since then, Nintendo’s digital video presentations have been dominated by Koizumi and these smaller devs. The company is showing less and less of their big name producers, while giving us more and more of their apprentices. Nintendo is passing the torch to its new generation.
These new ideas and designs, these clever games and mechanics—those aren’t Miyamoto anymore. Mario, Miyamoto’s brainchild and beloved series, was shown off at E3 by none other than Yoshiaki Koizumi. The past few entries in the series have been a baton pass from master to student, and we’re now seeing the finale to that process. Furthermore, this is happening all throughout the company. Kosuke Yabuki’s first time as a producer was in 2014 with Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, and now he’s birthed Arms. Breath of the Wild sees a departure from the usual credit list as well, and even uses a composer other than the beloved Koji Kondo.
Hence, Breath of the Wild (and by extension, the Nintendo Switch) signals the beginning of a new chapter in the long-running Nintendo novel. It’s a refocus of company policy, and a reaffirmation of design philosophy. Their games are an actual journey for players to learn from and enjoy; their ticket is the Nintendo Switch. Apparent in all presentations of 2017, including E3, Nintendo is changing. It’s shifting, expanding, and shedding its old perceptions from the public eye. Stop focusing on the old Nintendo, and open your mind to the new one.
But most of all, the company has one single detail locked firmly in its sights: fun. Nintendo is a business, but first and foremost, it’s a group of artists and creators, aiming to invoke enjoyment and happiness. Take a quick scroll through the Nintendo Switch subreddit. The players there are genuinely happy. The designers, producers, and developers at Nintendo are doing their job: they’re making something fun. Reggie Fils-Aimé said it best this year at E3: “If it’s not fun, why bother?”