Last week, our own Tsunderin gave a nice recap of E3. I don’t need to retread the points she made, but I do want to talk about some of the things Nintendo did right during the week, and why it matters. Also because Splatoon has been one of the first games to bring me a real sense of excitement and I need an excuse to talk about it! Nintendo celebrated colorfulness and fun during their week at E3 and, from what I’ve noticed, the internet hype has risen to a much higher level because of this.
For many people, Nintendo’s current generation console, the WiiU, hasn’t seemed like a great idea for a purchase. To some, there just were not a ton of interesting games to justify the purchase. This is a shame because people can remember a time when Nintendo was a shining example of what the video game industry could be: fun, imaginative, inclusive. Bringing all of this together, their digital events during E3 were a welcome return to their roots. To explain a bit, Nintendo did not have a typical press conference like Microsoft, Sony, or Ubisoft did. Instead, they livestreamed an instance of Nintendo Direct: something more along the lines of a documentary/commercial. In this event, they opened up with a humorous sketch from the Robot Chicken producers to set the tone.
After this, the scene changed to one of Reggie Fils-Aime and Satoru Iwata (Chief Operating Officer and President, respectively) fighting in live action and playing the new Super Smash Brothers. This then transitioned into the developer of the game discussing various ambitions, mechanics, and information about the game. A template of this type more or less repeated for each of the games they showed for about forty-five minutes. The next few days included livestreams from the E3 show floor, including actual gameplay and developer commentary and a live Super Smash Brothers invitational tournament. This tournament was company-sponsored as well, with Reggie interacting with some of contestants and audience. It felt more personal than the way the other companies handled their games, especially since Smash Bros is still in development.
If this type of humor and openness with the fans sounds a bit odd for a company, good. The Nintendo Direct felt very surreal, but sincere. As I mentioned, there were some Robot Chicken skits which enforced that this event was supposed to be fun, as did the live action comedy. The developer commentary really showed some insight into why they were making the games they showed, and how they got to certain steps in the development process. If nothing else, it felt honest, as opposed to the manufactured corporate showings from the other companies. Nintendo’s E3 presence wasn’t the product of a company simply trying to sell goods to consumers. Well, technically it was; it must have been. But it wasn’t just some white guys in suits telling us what games we should be excited about. This leads to another thing Nintendo did well. By virtue of being a Japanese company, they had many people of color as speakers and developers. In fact, Reggie Fils-Aime, arguably the face of Nintendo of America right now, is of Haitian descent. Nintendo was sure to include women on their team as well. During the Treehouse events (their show floor screenings), women from the development teams were both discussing the games and live playing them. Additionally, some of their announcers for the Smash Tournament were Black. So all in all, Nintendo’s E3 presence showed much more of a sense of inclusivity than their opponents.
I can only begin to say how important this is in the industry right now. With an industry largely full of white men, it is both refreshing and informative to see a diverse team. Nintendo proves that is completely possible to run a studio with all sorts of people. There is an idea that diverse teams will make more diverse games, and that certainly seems to be the case at Nintendo. Their games reinforced diversity not just in gender, but in character type and game type in general. This leads me back to Splatoon as a huge example. (If you haven’t checked out the trailer, I highly recommend it.) In an industry so overrun by shooting games, Nintendo, using their playful outlook on gaming, brings something that is uniquely them to the genre. It isn’t explicitly violent and isn’t all about racking up kills. Additionally, it is very colorful and stars a seemingly mostly female cast. If nothing else, the lead promotional character seems to be a girl. This hasn’t stopped anyone from being excited about it, contrary to what some studios would believe about female leads. Splatoon’s abundance of women goes against what many gaming trends have shown us. Of course, I must refer to Ubisoft’s problematic “women would cost too much to animate” controversy. Nintendo sets itself apart from that mindset. Splatoon has both girl and boy characters. Someone could say that they operate much the same way and wouldn’t be an issue to animate, but if that’s the case, I would like to point to Hyrule Warriors, which prominently features playable female characters who all operate very differently. Read: they aren’t simply model swaps for the male protagonists. Moreso, see games like Bayonetta 2 that have a female lead, or Codename: STEAM whose characters include several men and women of varying racial identities. If planned correctly, diversity isn’t a problem. It shouldn’t be an additional feature, but a theme throughout. (Unless there is an explicit, legitimate reason not to have it, which I’d totally accept if one were actually given.)
In summary, I just want to congratulate and highlight Nintendo for being a company that stands out from the rest. While other companies are treading the same ground and becoming a homogenized mass comprised of the same few archetypes, Nintendo decides they can hold onto their old franchises while branching out and becoming more inclusive. This is both important and refreshing to see. If more companies would do this, it would be better for everyone. More inclusion and inventive ideas lead to more satisfaction among customers and a bigger audience and revenue for the company. It’s a win-win. I hope Nintendo, and other companies, can continue to bring what the people want.