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Nintendo’s Silent Victory at E3 2013

by Ron Duwell | June 14, 2013June 14, 2013 8:00 am PDT

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Nintendo took the unconventional route for a console developer at this E3 by totally skipping the major press conferences and releasing a single Nintendo Direct conference. Many had wondered if it was a good idea to miss on all the exposure E3 brings and seemingly back down in defeat while the two big boys in the room duke it out on stage.

Well, with E3 having come and gone, the move seems to have proven to be a big success. By avoiding direct comparisons of its hardware specs and its dated social integration, Nintendo’s simple little Direct allowed them to show off the one thing Nintendo still does best: create great exclusive content.

It also convinced me that the Wii U is finally the first platform I’m going to have to buy this holiday season.

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E3 was a simultaneously exciting and uncomfortable show this year. The new generation had finally arrived, and we were seeing where the leaps in technology were taking video games. Of course, rumors and “potential scenarios” left a lot of gamers worried about what the role social integration would be playing in used games, connectivity and privacy.

When the smoke cleared, all that was left was the PlayStation 4 basking in the glory of everything that is great about the future of gaming, and the Xbox One has been stuck with the guise of being what gamers don’t want.

Where does that leave Nintendo in all this mess? It doesn’t. By skimming the outskirts of E3 and avoiding all the attention these controversies brought on, Nintendo was able to address the one issue most have with the console: its apparent lack of quality software.

Nintendo was the only console developer who had E3 be truly “about the games,” and in that regard, it passed with flying colors.

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During its 41 minute Direct, Nintendo showed off a staggering eight exclusives that won’t ever be found on another console. No timed exclusives. No questions about the future or backdoor promises that a game will slip through to another console someday. These are games you will not find anywhere else unless you purchase a Wii U, and it is an exciting list of new surprises and previously anticipated games alike.

Nintendo’s traditional first party series took their normal limelight. A new Mario game, Super Mario 3D World, is always a welcome choice, and Nintendo not trying to raise the bar from Super Mario Galaxy is a good decision. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is an exciting follow up to the well received Donkey Kong Country Returns. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD looks gorgeous, and Mario Kart 8 will definitely continue the series’ success.

The huge splash came from the reveal of Super Smash Bros, a guaranteed smash hit that is bound to sell a ton. Nintendo’s nostalgic journey through its own library has always been huge with fans, and what better way to stir up the pot than by bringing Mega Man along for the ride?

Monolith’s newest Xeno game looks gorgeous and unlike anything you’d ever expect to find on a Nintendo console. Consoles need RPGs to survive these days. and Nintendo has had strong support from Monolith since the Gamecube.

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Third party support has been a thorn in the side of Nintendo as well, but it managed to snag a few quality titles. Nintendo’s exclusivity deal with Platinum Games has landed them two guaranteed fan favorites, Bayonetta 2, shown off for the first time, and The Wonderful 101.

That’s a lot of high quality games. Nintendo even held back by not showing off Pikmin 3, Yarn Yoshi, the build for Rayman Legends, or any of Ubisoft’s support for that matter.

In fact, the line-up was so good that Miyamoto even stated that a new Legend of Zelda for the Wii U had been held back, most likely because enough had already been said to stir up the Nintendo child found inside of all of us.

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Nintendo did not outperform Sony, and it might not have outperformed Microsoft. It didn’t have to. It re-established itself as something Nintendo has always been: a video game company on the fringe who does not allow trends and especially its competitors dictate its decisions.

You won’t be seeing Pokemon on an iPhone as a free to play game, and you won’t see Mario making timed exclusive DLC deals.

Nintendo doesn’t need any of that. When mainstream support is in a lull, all it needs to be a success is to sell hardware and software, and to do that, it needs to energize its fanbase with the allure of Mario, Link, Samus, Pikachu, Donkey Kong and Kirby. It nailed everything it needed to do at E3 by addressing a software shortage, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the console turn around this holiday season and into next year.

Everything played out just right for Nintendo to show off a wonderful conference. It timed the show perfectly to let the euphoria of Sony’s announcement wear off, and it remind people of the excellent games that will be coming out. Plus, I could listen to Satoru Iwata speak English all day.

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Shigeru Miyamoto said in an interview with Eurogamer that he feels like Nintendo is like “a toy company.”

“As a consumer you want to be able to keep those things for a long time and have those things from your youth that you can go back to and experience again. I really want to retain that product nature of the games that we create so that people can do that and have that experience. To me that’s something that’s very important about entertainment itself.”

Indeed. No matter how far gaming loses itself through social interactions, micro-transactions, astronomical budgets, and corporate suits running the show, Nintendo and the Wii U are a staunch and solid reminder that video games are going to be okay.

To a cranky and sentimental old gamer like myself, the simple nature of the Wii U, the classic exclusive line-up, and the promise of Shigeru Miyamoto are all the convincing I need to buy one this year. I’m bound to pick up a PlayStation 4 at some point, but after all the next-gen AAA talk and connectivity spattering, I’m exhausted, and I just want to relax and enjoy some fun games.

Plus, I have a PlayStation 3 backlog two miles long.

Nintendo’s message was softly spoken but clear enough to remind us all of its core principles. Games are fun. Games are forever. Games are for everyone. Most importantly, games are first.

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Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...

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