This week’s blog was going to be a very different one, a top-five of the moments that made me smile at this year’s E3. It was mostly written by the time Nintendo’s E3 Direct was about to be broadcast.
And after that had finished, I deleted the whole thing and realised that I had a more pressing issue that I wanted to air my opinion on. It’s not that there weren’t moments and announcements that made me smile this year (because there was a handful), it’s just that something about Nintendo’s offerings (or lack thereof) in particular which irked me somewhat.
Have I mentioned that I’ve had a lot of fun with my Nintendo Switch since the day of release? It’s had a nice range of highly enjoyable Nintendo first-party releases and some wonderful indie experiences that have adapted well to a portable, in the same was the PlayStation Vita did so comfortably. I’ve got a healthy batch of titles downloaded to my MicroSD card, and if I’m being truthful, I have more than enough games to keep me occupied for a while.
E is for Excitement
E3’s an exciting time to be a fan of gaming. Even watching events unfold from the other side of the world, the nature of streaming video meant we can watch and be part of the excitement, as a cavalcade of new announcements, teasers, trailers and gameplay footage beam into our collective eyeballs. It’s a worldwide event that we as a gaming community can be excited about together.
But something about this year’s E3 felt a little more low-key. Maybe it’s because the last couple of years were dominated by new and updated hardware (PS4 Pro, Xbox One X and of course, it was the Nintendo Switch’s first E3 last year after it’s shocking announcement in the closing months of 2016), but I noticed that many of the conferences relied more on trailers and pre-recorded gameplay footage than the sort of live demonstrations we’ve seen in previous years. In fact, there were more musical performances than live demos, and in a way, I prefer that approach. Still, there was a lot to be excited about this year – From games we’ve waited to see for a long time (Kingdom Hearts III, the Resident Evil 2 remake), games we knew were coming but will be excited to see anyway (TLOU2, Forza Horizon 4, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey), and some really nice surprises (Fox McCloud’s cameo in Ubisoft’s Starlink, the reveal of Jade & Pey’j in Beyond Good & Evil 2, Metal Wolf Chaos getting a proper Western release).
And I was really excited about what Nintendo was going to bring to the table. The Switch had an excellent first year, and I was absolutely looking forward to the brilliant first party Nintendo games and third-party exclusives I’d be playing on my Switch for the next 12 months…
E is for Expectations.
I suppose that E3 spoils us in a way. We’re so used to being bombarded with announcements, new games, the occasional celebrity appearance (two, if you’re Ubisoft), that every year we expect bigger and better announcements. More sequels, better-looking titles, the return of beloved heroes and franchises – All without thinking about the feasibility of most of these lofty expectations.
After all, these hardware developers and software manufacturers are in this business to make money, regardless of video games being a creative medium. I’d seriously love to see a reboot of Kid Chameleon with a 90’s aesthetic in the modern age, but what are the chances that the person/people who hold the purse strings to deem that a viable business opportunity in an oversaturated market?
And it’s no different with Nintendo. When it comes to releasing information about new releases, they’ve been playing the game their own way for some time now, even if their fans (myself included), still expect the big news and announcements. In reality, E3 has never been a big deal for them in quite a few years – I saw a tweet from someone (sorry, I can’t remember who so I cannot give credit), stating that Nintendo’s E3 direct concentrates on one big game while revealing a few smaller releases). Yet, we’re so spoilt by the bounty of exciting reveals from every other company, we expect the same of Nintendo when in reality, that’s not how they do things anymore. Truth be told, they’ve always categorically gone out of their way to not follow what everyone else is doing in terms of hardware and software, and now the same is true of their PR cycle. E3 won’t be the only Direct that Nintendo release – Historically, they’ve usually done one about a month after E3 to announce more items (like the SNES Classic Mini last year), so this week isn’t going to be the be all and end all of Nintendo news.
However, when Nintendo spent 20+ minutes listing what amounts patch notes for their latest update of Super Smash Bros., there was always going to be a contingent of fans (again, myself included) that would come out of that feeling disappointed.
E is for Entitlement
“Gamer entitlement” is a term that has come and gone over the last few years, where angry gamers demand the developers change their products to meet their expectations. It’s been a toxic practice in the past, with some certain people in the games industry being subject to some truly awful abuse, and there is absolutely *no* excuse for this sort of behaviour.
But with that said, as gamers, we are essentially consumers, and when the transaction of money takes place in exchange for hardware or software, there’s a level of entitlement that comes with it. As a purchaser of goods, we have an entitlement to a satisfactory product and a reasonable level of support for those goods – In terms of video games, when we buy a console that’s currently supported, we expect there to be games for said system, and for the quality of those games to match our expectations. Otherwise, the manufacturer has taken advantage of our trust in handing over a considerable amount of money for their latest hardware.
So when Nintendo choose the biggest gaming event of the year to release a Direct video with little in the way of announcements, including a large amount of time spent over a game that has an admittedly niche audience, I feel that it’s OK to feel entitled enough to say that I’m disappointed. Yes, Smash has a huge fanbase, but it’s to a rather hardcore, niche audience. When you have EA, Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft, etc. announcing an extensive variety of upcoming releases that basically hit almost every sort of audience with something they want to see, by comparison, Nintendo’s event is not going to encourage non-hardcore Nintendo fans that they want to pick up a Switch. And isn’t attracting the largest audience the exact thing that a business should be striving for?
Nintendo’s shareholders certainly think so – As the Japanese company’s share price dipped by a considerable 6.21%, with analysts now doubting that Nintendo can reach their sales goals for the Switch.
But what about those of us who have Switches and want something to play? Yes, there are plenty of games out there for the system (over 700, in fact), but a large quantity of those are smaller, digital-only releases of varying quality. The truth is, the Switch is missing the multiformat games enjoyed by Xbox One, PS4 and PC, as well as the third-party exclusives that help to drive potential purchases to the system in the first place. The last few Nintendo systems have proved time and time again that a lack of parity and exclusives have the power to kill a system – Just look at how badly the Wii U tanked (let us remember that this was also a current-gen system as well).
And that’s why this week’s Direct utterly disappointed myself and others. I can take Smash Bros. or leave it, but I know that it’ll make others happy and I could never take that away from them. However, looking at the release lists for the rest of the year, I’m not seeing any game that’s making me particularly excited that I haven’t already played a better version of on another system, and I’m not alone. If that’s how owners of the system feel, then what of those who are interested in becoming a Switch owner? That’s going to be a problem for Nintendo.
As a Switch-owner and a fan of Nintendo, I am entitled so games and experiences that I expect from a Nintendo product, and after an excellent first year, I don’t feel that Nintendo are currently in a position to match our excitement, expectation, or entitlement.