Nintendo barely bothered to show up at E3 this year

Nintendo barely bothered to show up at E3 this year

Nintendo, for better or worse, didn’t really show up at E3 this year. The company had promised a low-key press event at their booth instead of the standard press conference with announcements, executive statements, and the expected Sturm und Drang. What happened… well, sometimes covering this show is more frustrating than enjoyable.

Nintendo made a number of announcements during a scheduled Nintendo Direct presentation, and that’s a good way to handle big announcements during E3. If we don’t get to play the games at press events, and if there is no time for questions from the press, why not just present the information directly to gamers in a video? The press conference is mostly about spectacle, and Nintendo was well aware that there is no spectacle to be had in the company’s announcements or games.

So instead we dutifully filed into Nintendo’s booth, put up with a Mario controlled from some remote location saying our names and painfully ad-libbing jokes, and then some of Nintendo’s creative team gave a few choice words about the upcoming Mario Kart 8, Super Mario World 3D, Bayonetta 2, and the rest of the games. At some point there were men onstage wearing cat ears and making meowing noises at us.

This is a real thing that happened.

Nintendo had urged us not to treat this like a standard press conference, and we were cautioned not to plan any live blogs around the event, but we were invited to write up the news of the day, if we hadn’t already learned everything there is to know from the Nintendo Direct. Some of the big news given to the press: the new Mario game will have transparent pipes. The new Mario Kart allows you to drive upside down. Shigeru Miyamoto helpfully explained that the number “3” in the title Pikmin 3 was there to tell us it was the third game in the series. The press, boxed into Nintendo's booth, waited patiently for something, anything, to happen.

The big surprise announcement at the end of the event was that the Wii Fit trainer would be a character in the upcoming new Super Smash Bros. title. We learned that Bayonetta 2 would have a two-player mode. The remake of Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker would allow you to sail faster. Nintendo couldn’t have played it safer if they had put on a styrofoam helmet before playing in the front yard.

It’s had to cover these games in a real way. I played the upcoming Super Mario 3D World and I saw the ability to play as one of four characters, all with the powers from Super Mario Bros. 2. I zoomed through the transparent pipes. I dutifully paid attention to the better graphics of the Wind Waker remake. “You’ve played this game before!” one of the Nintendo reps said as I nailed a tricky jump.

Yes. Yes, I have.

These games are good, and I can’t wait to play more of them with my kids, but it was clear that Nintendo was sitting this year out. They didn’t have any major surprises, no new franchises, no big announcements. Just a struggling console and a successful portable. The event was designed in such a way that discouraged comparisons between Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, as Nintendo would not coming out looking good in that argument.

Nintendo at E3 is doing what Nintendo always does: The company is bringing out new games in classic franchises, but there is nothing here to motivate new consumers. No new bundles or price drops. Nothing to mobilize gamers to take notice of the Wii U, even amidst the warring factions of Microsoft and Sony. You can play these games offline, you can trade them in, the system is backwards compatible, and Nintendo didn't seem to think any of this was really worth bringing up.

We’ll be talking about the battle between Sony and Microsoft at E3 2013 for years, but Nintendo’s limp attempt to divert attention from itself hardly warrants a mention. When it comes to E3 this year, Nintendo barely showed up.