One of the biggest draws of E3 is the drama that unfolds between Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo. These companies grapple for consumer’s wallets every June, and only one can emerge victorious. This year, Nintendo unequivocally routed the competition. They offered compelling reasons to buy into the Switch now, set the system up for a brilliant 2018, and took advantage of relatively weak shows from their competition.
Before I go any further, I think it’s important to define what it means to “win E3”. While Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo indeed clash head-to-head, their goals are dramatically different. The key to winning E3 is doing the best job of achieving the goals you set out to do.
With that being the criteria, you have to consider every company’s current objective. Microsoft set out to sell the Xbox One X, while the current leader Sony wants to show that the PlayStation brand remains superior. Nintendo sought to flesh out both the short term and long term vision for Switch and convince people that their console deserves the attention this holiday season.
Nintendo hit that goal easily by making the Switch’s software lineup the best on the market. Only the staunchest Nintendo hater could fail to see the console’s appeal. It’s 2017 release schedule may be the best yearly lineup I’ve ever seen. This holiday, players will be able to experience Super Mario Odyssey, ARMS, Splatoon 2, Pokken Tournament DX, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Fire Emblem Warriors, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2. That’s not even mentioning one of the greatest games ever made, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, complete with two impressive DLC packs, and the classic Mario Kart 8 Deluxe. Every single one of those games oozes quality, and Nintendo did a great job of showing them off.
Super Mario Odyssey stole the show, much like Breath of the Wild did last year. It’s another outside the box game from Nintendo that shakes up the Mario formula in a very Breath of the Wild-like way. Look no further than the delightful trailer for proof.
Seeing Mario jump out of a T-Rex?! Who could have seen that coming? Just about everyone who has gotten their hands on Odyssey at the show floor has come away with nothing but great things to say. The concept of Mario possessing enemies, giving players control of some iconic Bowser minions like Bullet Bill and even wild creatures like the T-Rex and a frog, opens up so many gameplay possibilities. The love that Nintendo pours into their first-party exclusives couldn’t be more apparent. From the return of classic characters like Pauline to the goofy new wedding planner bunny bosses… Mario Odyssey stood out in a sea of gritty shooters and CG trailers.
Having that ace-in-the-hole that neither Sony or Microsoft had pushed Nintendo over the top, but the rest of their 2017 roster was masterfully showcased at their Treehouse Live event. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 opened their digital spotlight, and it looks like another masterpiece from Monolith Soft. Fire Emblem Warriors won’t set the world on fire, but it has incredible appeal to modern Fire Emblem fans. Hyrule Warriors performed well on the Wii U, and it seems like Fire Emblem Warriors will offer slightly more strategy and varied gameplay.
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle deserves the title “Best E3 Surprise”. We knew it was coming, but seeing it’s XCOM styled gameplay still shocked me. That game looks incredibly fun, reeks of charm, and clearly comes from a place of passion. Ubisoft looks like they’ve done the gaming icon justice, and that may be my second most anticipated 2017 Switch game. A fun little tournament featuring eSports and prominent YouTube personalities did a great job of selling the competitive world of Pokken Tournament DX, as did the Splatoon 2 and ARMS Invitationals. Third-party offerings like Fifa 2018, Skyrim, Rocket League, Sonic Mania, and Sonic Forces fill out the calendar with unique experiences as well.
This year couldn’t be better for Switch owners, and yet somehow it seems that 2018 may manage to top it! Metroid Prime 4’s release date wasn’t confirmed for 2018, and neither was the upcoming core Pokemon entry on Switch, but if both those games hit next year the entire gaming universe very well could explode from the hype. A new Yoshi game, with all the adorable charm you’d expect, also will arrive in 2018. Nintendo’s most underrated mascot, Kirby, will join in the fun as well in a co-op adventure that allows players to control some classic Kirby enemies like Knuckle Joe! That’s four major Nintendo franchises seeing new releases next year, five counting the confirmed Fire Emblem title currently in development. Nintendo has the best upcoming games lineup out there, and unlike so many other companies you know those games will have high quality.
With all of those games coming to a home console you can play on the go, the Switch is easily the most intriguing console for gamers that Nintendo has launched since the Super Nintendo. It’s not built on a gimmick like the Wii, has games that appeal to everyone’s tastes, and has a well-defined future. At $299.99, Nintendo made their console a must own this E3. The competition just couldn’t compete with that.
Meanwhile, Microsoft, despite a solid overall show, failed to achieve their goal of justifying the Xbox One X. They marketed it as the strongest console on the market, which is absolutely true, with no new features aside from improved visuals. The One X has no exclusive game you can’t play on any other console, doesn’t change the way you experience games, and is on sale for $499.99. That’s almost double the price of a PS4 slim, and all you’re getting is improved graphics. Tech junkies may love it, but the average gamer or parent isn’t going to spend twice as much for a console that only offers improved visuals. At the end of the day, the One X seems like a cool product released at the wrong time. Microsoft walked away the clear loser this year.
Sony was playing defense this year. With over 60.6 million PS4 consoles sold, they’re well ahead of the competition. Showing off cool exclusives, reminding players that all models of the PS4 are cheaper than the Xbox One X, and pushing their VR headset would further secure their stranglehold on the hardcore market. They did that, although their show lacked any real firepower. The first 50 minutes of the press conference were almost painful. No Final Fantasy VII trailer, no sign of The Last of Us 2, and no big surprises. God of War and Spider-Man both looked incredible, however, and that really salvaged the show for them. PS4 owners still have some nice games to look forward to, but PSVR didn’t gain any momentum nor did the PlayStation brand as a whole. They didn’t fail, but objectively they played it safe this year and definitely didn’t come close to blowing anyone away. Nintendo blew people away.
Of course, there’s no way Nintendo could be the winner in everyone’s hearts. Different gamers desire different things, and if you were bored by Nintendo but loved Microsoft more power to you. Everyone has different tastes, but objectively Nintendo did the best job of achieving their goals at E3. They stole the spotlight with Mario Odyssey, hit it out of the park with scream-inducing reveals with Metroid and Pokemon, and spelled out clearly why everyone should own a Nintendo Switch come Christmas. After two years of laying low, Nintendo came out and dominated E3 this year.