It might seem kind of silly to talk about “winning E3.” It is just a trade show, after all. But the Electronic Entertainment Expo is also very much a battle for the hearts and minds of gamers. And if this E3 was a battle, than Nintendo was Alexander the Great. It dominated.
The E3 Nintendo Direct was fast-paced. Many of the other week’s briefings from the likes of Microsoft, Square Enix, Bethesda, and Ubisoft were around 90 minutes long. Nintendo’s show was just 40 minutes.
We got good looks (including plenty of gameplay) for anticipated titles we already knew about. Important games like Luigi’s Mansion 3, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons had enough time in the spotlight to make appealing pitches to fans without overstaying their welcome.
More hype in less time
We also had plenty of surprises, both big and small. On the more niche side, Panzer Dragoon is getting a remake for Switch. The same goes for Trials of Mana (the sequel to Secret of Mana), a Square Enix that has never come to the U.S. before. These announcements may not appeal to everyone, but they’re a big deal for specific audiences.
The big announcements felt huge. Seeing Dragon Quest characters coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is cool, but the Banjo-Kazooie reveal was a euphoric moment for many long-time Nintendo fans. And then we had the show-ending knockout of the announcement of a sequel for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Few people saw that one coming.
Even the specific order of the announcements and segments during the Direct felt masterful. They opened with the Dragon Quest characters coming to Smash Bros., which was a surprise and significant reveal for one of the Switch’s most popular games. Then Nintendo seemingly ended the show with the Banjo-Kazooie reveal, only to deliver a classic “one more thing” moment with the Zelda announcement.
That’s how you build excitement. Show something good to enough to be the final reveal, and then top it. Compare that with what Microsoft did. It ended its show with Halo: Infinite. Now, Halo is a big deal, but the in-game cinematic presentation we got wasn’t all the exciting. Microsoft already revealed that game last year. We didn’t learn much about it during its E3 segment. Even though it’s freaking Halo, it fell a bit flat.
And even the shows that did have good openings and closings, like Square Enix with Final Fantasy VII Remake and The Avengers, suffered from boring middle sections that felt like padding. Nintendo didn’t have any filler.
Nintendo’s in charge
Now, Nintendo does have an advantage. Many of the other companies are working on games for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, consoles that are nearing the end of their lives. The Switch is only just over two years old. It should have a busier lineup of games while Sony and Microsoft focus on making their next systems.
But Nintendo’s show was impressive even when judged against some of the best E3 shows ever. It was snappy, paced perfectly, and had a lot of huge, exciting moments.
Everyone else needs to study what Nintendo did hear. Maybe the rest of the industry should follow its lead. Ditch those onstage and bloated presentations for something like this hype-filled and snappy Nintendo Direct.
Correction, 5:30 p.m.: We originally called Halo: Infinite’s presentation at Microsoft’s briefing a CG trailer, but it was an in-game cinematic. We have corrected the error and apologize.