A Look at Past E3 Nintendo Directs

Nintendo has opted out of live press conferences during E3 for the last five years, and while there is a certain energy that can only come with live events, they have by-and-large seen success by switching to major Nintendo Directs for E3. Nintendo has been doing Nintendo Directs since 2011, but it wasn’t until 2013 that they decided to shift the majority of their E3 presentation to this format. The following year, they added the Nintendo Treehouse: Live @ E3 live streams to further show off upcoming games in a live setting and sometimes to even make major announcements outside of the Nintendo Direct. That same year they also introduced a live tournament for Super Smash Bros. that took place in LA, and this same concept was later applied to games like Splatoon 2 and Arms. Though the question remains: will Nintendo ever go back to a fully live format?

2012 was the last year Nintendo decided to do a traditional on-stage E3 press conference. Looking back at the show, it’s easy to understand why they ditched the format: it infamously bungled the unveiling of the Wii U to the public by making many fans think it was just the gamepad instead of a wholly new console, it dragged on for over an hour while taking the focus off of games far too often and it ended with a fake fireworks display from Nintendo Land when most were hoping for one last major reveal instead. As a possible allusion to the future, Nintendo actually released a Pre E3 Nintendo Direct that year two days before their conference. Though it did off-set quite a bit of info dumping for the Wii U that would have distracted from the conference, they still failed to properly explain what exactly the Wii U was to gamers. Following this off-year, it’s clear why Nintendo decided to focus on the far more controlled Nintendo Direct format.

Nintendo Direct@E3 2013

Nintendo’s first Nintendo Direct at E3 had a lot of heavy lifting to do. The Wii U had just been released in late 2012, but it wasn’t setting the world on fire and the 3DS was finally starting to pick up its pace, so momentum for its success needed to be maintained. Pokémon X and Y were shown off first, and the Direct focused on the French-themed Kalos region, the newly 3D-rendered Pocket Monsters and the fresh Fairy type. They then properly announced the much-needed Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U by highlighting its multiplayer capabilities. Nintendo followed this up by unveiling the anticipated Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U, the game nobody asked for Wii Party U and announced the delay of the totally inconsequential Wii Fit U.

Following a montage of 3rd party games that almost entirely consisted of ports, Nintendo showed off more of The Wind Waker HD for Wii U, some footage of The Wonderful 101, announced Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and showed off a trailer for Bayonetta 2. Nintendo then showed off a trailer for the futuristic Xenoblade Chronicles X and wrapped up the show with a trailer for Super Smash Bros. 3DS and Wii U, which revealed new characters like Villager from Animal Crossing and the Blue Bomber himself, Mega Man. Nintendo kept to tradition by revealing an additional announcement following their main show by announcing the inclusion of the Wii Fit Trainer in Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U.

Though this presentation differed from past live presentations, Nintendo made it clear that they were still attending E3, with a booth featuring demos of Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, A Link Between Worlds and more. The direct itself was over forty minutes long, making it shorter than the live presentation the year before, but it packed in just as much, if not more, content than ever before. The pacing as much improved, and it was almost entirely focused on games for the Wii U and 3DS and didn’t include sales numbers filler or partnership announcements with outside companies for non-gaming related projects. The late, great Satoru Iwata hosted the entire Direct like he has many Directs before and after, though the format would grow to include more Nintendo faces over the coming years.

Play Nintendo – Nintendo E3 Digital Event 2014

By E3 2014, Nintendo had already released Pikmin 3, Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, The Wind Waker HD and Mario Kart 8. Fans knew Super Smash Bros., Bayonetta 2 and Xenoblade Chronicles X were coming, but many were getting concerned about the future of the Wii U because of slow first-year sales and a relatively small number of announced upcoming titles. The 3DS was thriving, however, and Nintendo had to keep that ball rolling as well. Needless to say, Nintendo had a lot to prove at E3 in 2014.

Their Play Nintendo digital event kicked off with a Claymation sequence made by Robot Chicken featuring Reggie Fils-Amie taking heat for Nintendo not releasing Mother 3 outside of Japan. They moved on to a well-done bit of Reggie and Satoru Iwata fighting to transition into Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U’s new customizable Mii Fighter characters followed by an announcement and demonstration of Amiibo and how they’d interact with the game. The rest of the video shined a light on developers and their games, first by allowing Masahiro Sakurai go into depth on Super Smash Bros., then by spending time letting Takashi Tezuka talk about his upcoming game Yoshi’s Wolly World while surrounded by colorful yarn. The focus shifted to the announcement of Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, a full game based off of the Adventures of Captain Toad puzzle segments from Super Mario 3D World.

Following another Robot Chicken sketch about Bowser and Princess Peach arguing over a doughnut, Producer Eiji Aonuma discussed the as-of-then unnamed Zelda game for the Wii U (which, of course, would end up being Breath of the Wild). He talked about how the early Zelda titles have influenced this new game, and how subsequent 3D games lost their since of exploration. This discussion naturally segued into the game’s first trailer, where a guardian chased down Link on horseback until he jumped off the horse and unloaded an ancient arrow onto this enemy – they announced a 2015 release for the game, though it would later be delayed until the launch of the Switch in 2017. A trailer for Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire for the 3DS was shown, followed by another for Bayonetta 2, Hyrule Warriors and a clay-infused Kirby game we’d eventually know as Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. Xenoblade Chronicles X was given another quick look and it was followed by the announcement of Super Mario Maker. A completely new IP, Splatoon, was then announced, scratching the ink-based third-person shooter itch we didn’t know we had. The Digital Event wrapped up with Reggie introducing the Nintendo Minute Live and Nintendo Treehouse Live following the video, and he left the audience with a new Super Smash Bros. trailer that revealed Palutena and Dark Pit as playable characters. A final surprise came in the form of Shigeru Miyamoto playing the Wii U with a blurred out screen in the background that pretty much everyone guessed was a new Star Fox game – it would turn out to be the largely disappointing Star Fox Zero.

Nintendo Digital Event @ E3 2015

President Satoru Iwata’s final E3 attempted to follow the previous year’s successful and light-hearted presentation, this time swapping Claymation sequences for Muppet bits. The show kicked off with a look at Star Fox Zero for the Wii U, following the footage with another “Developer Story,” this time with Shigeru Miyamoto speaking about his time developing the new Star Fox game. They pivoted to talking about Amiibo integration with Skylanders. This segued into the announcement of The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes – a 3DS multiplayer game that nobody asked for. This was fittingly followed by Metroid Prime: Federation Force – another 3DS multiplayer game that nobody asked for. Both games would go on to be relative critical and commercial failures for Nintendo.

They then focused on Fire Emblem Fates, a trio of successors to the excellent Fire Emblem Awakening for the 3DS. This was naturally followed by the announcement of the game that would become Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, a collaboration between Atlus and Intelligent Systems that brought together the Fire Emblem series and Shin Megami Tensei franchise. A quick trailer for Xenoblade Chronicles X was shown alongside a release date, then Nintendo showed off Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer for the 3DS. Another Developer Story on Yoshi’s Wooly World came next, digging into the family-friendly platformer made of yarn. Trailers for Yo-Kai Watch, Mario & Luigi Paper Jam and Mario Tennis Ultra Smash came one after another, and the video ended with a deep dive into Super Mario Maker.

2015 would go down as an off-year for Nintendo. Fans were hoping for announcements for more major Wii U titles and instead they got new 3DS games and a few odd console titles here and there. In retrospect, Nintendo was already beginning development on the Switch at this point, invariably causing many games planned for the Wii U to be taken over to the Switch instead. They occupied the time as best they could with filler titles, but most gamers saw through this and many felt this would be the beginning of the end for Nintendo. Of course, it wasn’t. They also held the Nintendo World Championships 2015 which saw sixteen players competing throughout various Nintendo games for the championship title. The presentation dragged even though it clocked in at under 50 minutes – something Nintendo would look to change in coming years.

Nintendo Treehouse Live @ E3 2016

E3 2016 was one of Nintendo’s least traditional years, as it not only forewent a live conference, but didn’t include the new standard Nintendo Direct as well. Instead, Nintendo focused almost entirely on the upcoming The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild during its three day Nintendo Treehouse Live broadcasts. This proved to be effective for a myriad of reasons: Breath of the Wild had a lot of ground to cover even though gameplay was restricted to the Great Plateau, they didn’t want to show off anything pertaining to the Switch so they worked around it by showing off a Wii U/Switch game and they frankly didn’t have much else to show off yet anyway. They also took the time to briefly dig into Pokémon Sun and Moon for the 3DS, but they wisely chose to focus mostly on their soon-to-be Zelda masterpiece instead. Nintendo also decided to drop a live tournament format this year, but it would be back with a vengeance soon enough. In line with this stripped back mentality, no Nintendo tournaments took place during E3 2016.

Nintendo Spotlight: E3 2017

With the Switch properly unveiled by January 2017 and riding high off its successful launch in March, Nintendo was free to show off however much of their upcoming line-up that they wished by June. Though this Spotlight ran for less than 25 minutes, they managed to squeeze quite a bit of information and gameplay footage into this short timeframe. Following a classic montage, Nintendo of America’s Reggie Fils-Aime showed up to introduce Xenoblade Chronicles 2 for the Switch, which came out at the end of 2017 as promised. Then they announced the recently-revealed Kirby Star Allies, though they hadn’t given it its full title by then. Nintendo took a few moments to announce that a proper Pokémon RPG and Metroid Prime 4 were in development for the Switch but offered no look at either game – though The Pokémon Company’s Tsunekazu Ishihara did introduce Pokkén Tournament DX along with some gameplay.

Nintendo then showed off gameplay for an untitled Yoshi game that employs a cutesy papercraft aesthetic. A CG trailer for Fire Emblem Warriors was shown off, followed by Eiji Aonuma introducing footage of The Master Trials DLC for the then-recently released Breath of the Wild, and teased its second round of DLC, The Champions’ Ballad and its associated Amiibo figures. Nintendo went on to properly announce the heavily-leaked and Ubisoft created Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle for the Switch. A port of Rocket League for the Switch was briefly announced and the video presentation was capped off by an extended trailer for Super Mario Odyssey. Though this presentation was shorter than past E3 Nintendo Directs, it was content filled and satisfied most Nintendo fans.

This Nintendo Spotlight was directly followed by the first of three days’ worth of Nintendo Treehouse Live presentations. These included gameplay presentations for Fire Emblem Warriors, The Master Trails DLC, ARMS, Splatoon 2, Mario + Rabbids and a whole lot of Super Mario Odyssey. It also included one of Nintendo’s signature post-conference surprises with the announcement of Metroid: Samus returns for the 3DS, a well-received remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus for the original GameBoy. Over the rest of E3, Nintendo staged three video game tournaments: the 2017 Splatoon 2 World Inkling Invitational, the Pokkén Tournament DX Invitational, and the Arms Open Invitational.

Nintendo Switch Video Presentation E3 2018

That brings us to the present, with Nintendo having announced their video presentation for June 12 at 9:00 am PT. They likely won’t have artificially padded presentations like they have before, instead opting for a slimmer package like they did last E3. It could stand to be a bit longer, however, especially if Nintendo does have a lot of content to show off (which we think they do). They’ve confirmed that Super Smash Bros. for the Switch will be there and that the Super Smash Bros. Invitational 2018 and Splatoon 2 World Championship Finals will both take place during the event. They have already announced their other plans for the event as well, which will include the expected three days’ worth of Nintendo Treehouse Live presentations following the video presentation on June 12.

Keep an eye on Hardcore Gamer for everything E3, gaming and more.