What to Expect from Nintendo at This Year’s E3


By: Eric Ashley (@flapjackashley)

The Nintendo Switch has been out for over two months now, and it is facing a pretty critical time in its short lifespan. One of the biggest shows for nerds and gamers alike – E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo – is less than a month away and Nintendo has to make some waves in order to keep up the very positive sales momentum it is currently enjoying. Here are a few key areas I think Nintendo needs to bring to E3 in order to make a lasting impression and cement the fact that they are, indeed, back in the game.

A Link to the Past

Nintendo struck gold with the Wii in 2006, but failed with the follow-up, the Wii U. The latter was so disappointing in sales that third parties quickly abandoned the console and even Nintendo’s own efforts dried up significantly just three short years after launch. The Wii sold nearly 102 million units worldwide; the Wii U has yet to hit 14 million. To compare, the industry leader PlayStation 4 just cracked 60 million shipped with a year’s less time on the market.

The Nintendo Switch, an innovative tablet-like console that can be played at home on the big screen or taken on the go as a portable, has reversed the trend so far. It has outperformed Nintendo’s modest sales figures, selling over 2.7 million in its first month, which is eye-popping for a console that didn’t launch during the Christmas shopping season. In Japan, the Switch continues to outsell its entire competition (PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, Vita) combined, week after week.

So Nintendo has a hit on its hands. People are excited about the Switch. Many people who skipped the Wii U are coming back to Nintendo.

E3 + Nintendo

E3 is a huge event, despite the fact that a handful of companies – Electronic Arts included – have decided to hold their own events during E3 Week, but away from the event itself. Nintendo has not had a live press conference at an E3 since 2012, and this year will be no different. The Big N relies on a pre-recorded stream for game announcements and hype. This worked out very well in 2014, but not so much in 2015. Last year, with the Wii U floundering, they didn’t even have a stream at all. This year, however, the Stream (codenamed “E3 Showcase”) is back. Nintendo’s in-house promotional team, the Treehouse, will also be present to provide realtime game footage, developer interviews and previews after the Showcase.

It’s All About the Games

If we are being completely honest, there isn’t much to play on the Nintendo Switch. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was the perfect launch game, and the recently-released Wii U port Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is the fastest selling game in the Mario Kart franchise with its 48 characters, 43 tracks and brand new characters, and Battle Modes and maps. Beyond that, there are a smattering of digital offerings on the eShop like Snipperclips and Wonder Boy to go along with The Binding of Isaac, Bomberman R, and Puyo Puyo Tetris that have all achieved mild success. Launching last week was Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition, which is a port of the Wii U version with the Mario skins and resources and other DLC included.

But there is no question that Nintendo has to bring the goods at E3. They have the customer’s attention; what they do with that is vital to their success.

While hosting events for new IP ARMS and anticipated sequel Splatoon 2, Nintendo says it will focus a lot on the upcoming Super Mario Odyssey – the other game besides Zelda from the reveal event in January that whipped fans up into a frenzy. There is no doubt that Mario looks great, and it being the first fully open 3D Mario game since Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario 64 has made this a must buy.

But what about beyond that? Nintendo says that they are focusing on games that are to be released in 2017, which is good since their release first-party schedule looks pretty slim between Splatoon and Mario. But keeping in mind the last Nintendo Direct we had where Nintendo said we were getting information on two specific games and we ended up getting a lot more than that, I think Nintendo is setting us up for some big surprises.

Keeping my hopes in check is tough when it comes to Nintendo because they have not come through on many expectations for quite some time now, and seeing as how the Switch is a runaway hit, I am more confident than ever that they are going to deliver the Big Guns… but how soon?

Hopes and Consequences

I hope Nintendo gives us some details about the long-rumored GameCube Virtual Console. We don’t have any Virtual Console news at all so far, and that is very discouraging considering the Switch would be a prime console for such a thing. We know one is coming because their upcoming paid online service will give subscribers one free NES or SNES Virtual Console game to play for a month, and those will have newly-added online multiplayer. And what’s more, I wouldn’t be surprised if they did a surprise launch of the Virtual Console during E3.

Speaking of online subscription service, it’s time for Nintendo to tell us more about that. We have rumors on how much it will cost (roughly $25-$30 a year), but what does it offer besides online play and the VC game per month? I hope it includes access to a Cloud Storage system for game saves. They need to let us know how this Smartphone Chat App will launch and how it will work. If they fail on these very basic expectations, they are going to be in for a bad time when it comes to feedback.

I also would be very surprised if Nintendo didn’t announce a new, true Metroid game. It’s been seven years since the last one, and everyone and their mother knows that Retro Studios is working on a “secret” project, and reports have surfaced that a game music composer who loves the Metroid series has been brought in to work at Retro… it all adds up, and it will go a long ways in washing that sour taste out of our mouths that the 3DS flop Federation Force left.

A couple years ago, Nintendo surprised fans when it said that Pikmin 4 was not only in development, but was “near completion.” With the Wii U gone, this will be a Switch game as I highly doubt the 3DS side scrolling game Hey Pikmin is what this was. A full Pikmin 4 would be another way to delight fans.

I think we’ll get some information on some previously announced third party games. Stardew Valley (with its console timed-exclusive multiplayer mode), Sonic Mania, NBA 2K18, the Switch-exclusive Runner3, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, and Payday 2 should be on the docket. I’m hoping that EA will surprise us with a major announcement to go along with the forthcoming FIFA 18 – perhaps a new Star Wars game? The Switch has been successful that third parties can’t ignore it, so I’m looking for some nice announcements at the Spotlight.

Fields of Dreams

I think it’s time for Nintendo to finally give Earthbound fans Mother 3. It could even be released as part of a launch of Game Boy Advance Virtual Console games. Fans have been begging for it for years, and Nintendo has a lot to make up to us given the slop and lazy games they gave us during the Wii U era, and this would be a perfect gift. It would send the Internet into full meltdown mode.

Pokemon Stars is another long-rumored game, but it is unclear if it will come out for the 3DS or the Switch. If Nintendo were smart, it would come out for the latter as Switch sales would go through the roof at Christmas. At the very least, have a dual release like Breath of the Wild was, although I’m not sure how much attention they want to take away from Mario in December. But having a wealth of quality games to choose from is never a bad thing, and it’s about time Nintendo gave us that problem to have. With the 3DS in the twilight of its life – despite the 2DS XL coming out – a Switch-only Pokemon game is destined to come out, making it the first Pokemon game in the main story to be released for a home console. Why not have it happen when the iron is hot and people are itching for beloved Nintendo franchises to play on the Switch?

A Wii U port of Super Smash Bros is a given also, but will it come this year or next? It supposedly will come with new characters, and hopefully include all the DLC fighters and stages that were previously released – a la how they handled Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Could it come in the fall? Is that the reason they are pushing out the final amiibo from that series this summer?

I would love to see a remake or sequel to Eternal Darkness. They keep renewing the copyright on the game, and there is a demand for it. I’d even take it to be one of the first releases for the GameCube VC, which in my realistic mind is what I anticipate it to be.

I would love to see third party games such as a Battlefield, Red Dead Redemption 2, or Resident Evil 7 come to the Switch. It’s not out of the realm of possibility: Nintendo upped the RAM in the Switch based on Capcom’s suggestion to meet the standards to be able to run a game with the Resident Evil engine.

Finally, I would love for them to drop a hint at a new Animal Crossing for the Switch. Two spin-offs aside, the mainline series has been dormant since 2013 in North America, save for an update that added amiibo support to the 3DS’s New Leaf last fall. Animal Crossing would be the PERFECT game for the Switch and taking it on the go with you – building my town and paying my bells to Tom Nook in HD quality portably would be the stuff my dreams are made of.

The Nintendo Magic

There is just something about Nintendo games that draw people in. The pick up and play addictive nature of a Mario Kart, or now the expansive open world adventure that Zelda brings, Nintendo just has a magic about them makes you love gaming. Part of that magic is the element of surprise, and it is an aspect that has been missing from Nintendo for the past few years. If you look up on YouTube the wild crowd reaction to the surprise unveiling of Twilight Princess (then for GameCube only) at E3 2004, that is the magic and joy that Nintendo can bring its fans.

Nintendo has a golden opportunity next month to turn the heads of people who think the Switch success so far is a fluke and to further delight the people who already own one. Any number of the games I mentioned above would sell units from now through Christmas and beyond. Could you imagine all of Nintendo’s big franchises – Zelda, Mario Kart, Pokemon, Smash Bros, Super Mario, Metroid, and Animal Crossing – all released within a year of the console being on the market? It would be unprecedented in Nintendo’s history. But as the Switch is the fastest selling console in the company’s history, maybe it’s time to hope for the unprecedented to become the new normal.

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