SBox Soapbox: Nintendo at E3 2016 | Was it a Good Idea?


As many of you probably already know, Nintendo took a different route to E3 this year. Not only have they opted out of a traditional live press conference, but they even opted out of their newest tradition of a Nintendo Direct presentation. Instead, they stuck to their other recent, albeit less popular, E3 tradition of a two day live Treehouse event. The first day of the event was about 25% Pokemon and 75% Zelda. The second day was a little mix of everything, mostly things we already knew about, though. The presentation clocked in at about 10 hours for both days. They also had a booth on the showfloor, where the attendees were able to play all one of Nintendo’s upcoming games.

This decision was rather polarizing when it was announced last month. Some called it cool, more people called it stupid, but most people would prefer the word “odd”. Honestly, it’s something only Nintendo would do, but why do it? What were they thinking? Was this whole approach even a good idea? This year, instead of doing a recap post like I did for Microsoft and Sony this year, I’d like to spend some time discussing Nintendo’s E3 2016 performance, analyzing the show’s concept and execution rather than the actual contents of the show. Hopefully then we can gain an understanding of Nintendo’s thought process this year.

Let’s first put the quality of the event to the side and focus on the idea itself. Put yourself in the shoes of Nintendo months before the show. E3 is coming up, the Wii U and 3DS are almost gone and we don’t want to show NX yet. We just had a Nintendo Direct back in March and we intend on showing NX some time in the Fall. Someone suggests that you forego the Direct altogether and stick to doing the live Treehouse as planned. What reasons would prompt you to approve that decision? What benefits come to mind? What do you think would be achieved in a Treehouse that wouldn’t be achieved in a Nintendo Direct? How would this engage the audience, press and shareholders?

To answer that, you first have to consider what differentiates a Direct from a Treehouse event. There are several key differences between the two that immediately come to mind: time, format, and level of engagement.

I mentioned previously that both “Days” of the Treehouse round out to about 10 hours long; meanwhile a Nintendo Direct could clock in between one and two hours long. That time gap can make a huge difference when showcasing games at a crowded event like E3. Compared to a Direct, the long and unfettered Treehouse structure allows for more flexibility on Nintendo’s part. There’s enough time to say, show and do everything you want, as well as give proper emphasis to each game and announcement easily.

Think about a typical gameplay demonstration at a traditional conference like Microsoft’s. With only an hour and a half to get all of your points across so as to not conflict with the other exhibitors, you typically grant no more than ten minutes to a single game. That number can further fluctuate when you combine the gameplay with trailers, commentary from a representative or a mix of the two. Multiply that by perhaps 20 announcements and you have a difficult situation.

Why do you think people year after year complain about multi-game trailers (usually done for indie games) or CG trailers with no gameplay? Sure sometimes it’s for bullshit reasons, like when the game is being announced to early. However, sometimes that’s also an effective way to cut corners and save time for the next game.

To people sick of getting excited for games they haven’t seen in action yet, the Treehouse approach begins to sound more appealing. Look up some of the Treehouse videos, and you’ll find that each game got around 40 minutes of gameplay unless your name is Zelda or Pokemon. Like it or not, every game Nintendo brought to E3 was given a fair shake. Everyone excited for any upcoming Nintendo game got ample information for said game. That’s something the Treehouses are good for.

It’s not just a matter of gameplay footage, either. The format of a Nintendo Direct also allows for more comprehensive developer interviews to accompany the gameplay. To some that may sound incredibly boring, but those who do appreciate and seek out interviews after a traditional conference might find Nintendo’s show much more convenient. It’s all in one place so you don’t have to wait for IGN to cover a specific game before you get more information. Plus, interviews usually contain a lot of useful information and insight as to what a game could be like. That format is built around convenience and ease of information, which is a good thing.

I also feel the idea could be convenient in another sense. Before E3, the wording on the E3 section of Nintendo’s website emphasized “all-day access”. I feel that this speaks to the Treehouse’s main intention of being a casual viewing experience rather than a comprehensive one. No I don’t mean “casual” as in “not hardcore”. I mean that the event was probably meant to not be seen in one sitting. I feel that Nintendo was going for an event where you checked into it every so often. I at least hope that’s their intention, because no sane human being is going to sit in front of a computer screen for eight hours straight on a Wednesday (not even for Nintendo).

That could be a useful tactic not so much for the press, but for the people at home. I can see that being a useful style for those who aren’t into every single game at Nintendo’s event. Say you were only excited for Rhythm Heaven, but they’re still talking about Paper Mario. If you know Nintendo’s schedule and time it correctly, you can catch only the games you want to see and have plenty of time to spare before they move onto your game. It’s actually no different from skipping, for example, Ubisoft’s conference and waiting for Sony’s.

If I were Nintendo, I could see these benefits to an idea like this, and understand why they would see this as a worth while alternative. At the end of the day, a Treehouse is more boundless, informative and casual than a streamline Nintendo Direct. This is most likely why Nintendo thought this was a good idea, but the real question is whether this actually was a good idea. Was this merely good in theory, or was it a success?

Despite every potential benefit I just listed, I unfortunately have to agree with most of the world. This was a bad idea, but only in execution. What could’ve been an innovative take on E3 showcasing was handled in the wrong way, disregarding two of the three points I just discussed. The only thing they stuck to as if by accident is the informative part.

If Nintendo was aiming for a casual viewing experience, they should’ve actually made a clear schedule for when each game will be covered. To what I understand, they didn’t. So, that leads me to believe that Nintendo intended for everyone to dedicate the entire day to them and their event. Sorry, but I guarantee 95% of people were never going to do that. Over eight hours on a Wednesday? No. Whether you’re a kid on summer break or an adult who took off from work that day, the average person would not sit through eight hours of anything unless it involves money, vacation or sex.

Though, if it succeeds at being informative and fails at being casual than does it achieve boundlessness? Yes and no. Technically, the show did take its time, and they used every available second on the games in question. Where it fails is in the presentation of interesting information. This boundless rule is limited to how meaningful the time you spend actually is, and you can ask anybody who saw even part of the event how boring the show actually was. Everyone I know either skipped the event or turned it off after a while. The only interesting thing I hear about the Treehouse is Zelda. Pokemon fans were bored. Mario fans were bored (and pissed). Basically everyone else was bored.

But what about the announcements? I know Nintendo had to have announce something, right? It’s E3 after all. Yes, they did. In the two days of Nintendo’s live event, they announced the following: two games, ten new amiibo, release dates to games we already heard about months ago, the price of Pokemon Go! Plus (which is at least $5 overpriced), and the official name of the new Zelda (which is at least 3 months overdue). In case you’re wondering, those two newly announced games are Mario Party Star Rush and Ever Oasis, and the name of the new Zelda is Breath of the Wild.

That’s it. It took them two days and around 10 hours to say everything I took 20 seconds for me to say out loud. The rest was shown in the Nintendo Direct in March or will be discussed with the NX in Fall. And even then, the announcements shown amount to almost nothing. I like Mario Party and Ever Oasis looks good, but they’re by no means big enough announcements to make the event worth while.

You know, despite the name of my blog being The Ranting SBox, I hate talking about something so negatively. I really don’t want to bash Nintendo or their E3 Treehouse. I like Nintendo, and the Treehouse itself (even this year) is a harmless enough gesture. The reason I’m making this is for two reasons: 1) I didn’t want to go this year’s E3 without discussing Nintendo, and 2) I wanted to express at least a little bit of disappointment. I understand that Nintendo didn’t want to discuss NX until it’s ready, and I respect that. It’s hard to be angry at them, because you basically know they dodged the Nintendo Direct due to all their big announcements being on NX. However, someone has to express these views so that when they do have big announcements next year (and they will), they don’t insist on making the same mistake. It doesn’t work.

So, here’s my hope for Nintendo in the future. Whatever the reason is that they delayed the NX announcement, I hope it’s worth the wait. So what if you lost E3 this year. As long as this loss isn’t done in vain, this will be looked over. Focus now on making that NX reveal the best Nintendo Direct this world has ever seen. Hey, better late than never!

Did you see Nintendo’s E3 Treehouse? What did you think of it? Was it better or worse than a typical conference/Direct? What was your favorite game shown? For lack of a better answer, my favorite just might be Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Let me know in the comments what you thought so we can compare?

I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!

3 thoughts on “SBox Soapbox: Nintendo at E3 2016 | Was it a Good Idea?”

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