E3 2010: Winning E3 - Exactly how Nintendo did it

Nintendo has won E3. Fact. And the real Nintendo is back. But the big N's glorious E3 victory wasn't just a case of unveiling a powerful new handheld and some brilliant-looking core franchise games. There was a lot more at play than that.

So now that I've stopped reeeling from all of last night's conference excitement (okay, so I still am, but I can at least write in sentences now), I've decided to pull things apart, bit by bit, to look at exactly how Nintendo pulled it off. Trust me, the more I think about this, the more it seems to be the crescendo of a whole series of fiendish long and short-term plots. Starting with...

The old bait-and-switch

Nintendo are clever bastards. Fiendish, Machiavellian, very clever bastards. They’d segued into the casual market. They’d learned how hard it is to keep your hardcore fanbase happy when doing that. They’d seen that their biggest two rivals were about to do the same thing with very similar consequences. The best move Ninty could make? Turn back into their old selves with a slew of ‘proper’ Nintendo games and provide a refuge for all the hardcore gamers MS and Sony were about to disenfranchise.

It’s the sharp, one-step-ahead thinking that’s typified Nintendo since Iwata took over. Nintendo saw the potential of the casual market before everyone else, and now that (I suspect) they're seeing its limitations, the big N are getting out before their two rivals over-saturate it to death. The fact is, whatever Reggie says on the face of it, the casual market is fad-driven and has no brand loyalty. Whether by a fear of its distraction by MS and Sony’s shiny new toys, the knowledge that the market can’t sustain three motion controllers with the essentially the same game line-up, both, or even more, Nintendo have spotted that the time is right to get out, and are doing it in the cleverest way possible and a good deal richer.


Nintendo are famously the most watertight company in the industry when it comes to E3 announcements. But in the run up to this year’s show, we got three major leaks. The 3DS’ capabilities were revealed. Retro Studios’ Donkey Kong Country was outed. We found out about Goldeneye Wii. Three big deals, three keystones in Nintendo’s make-up letter to the hardcore. And Ninty just let them slip by accident? It’s possible, I suppose… 


Above: And yes, looking at the polygons on Chris' elbow, we reckon this is in-engine. Do not pinch yourself. This is really happening

If you want a memorable E3, you need to bring the surprises. Whatever the rest of your line-up, unexpected additions are what really matters at an event this big. Have a great conference with a completely expected line-up, and you’ll be forgotten by the time everyone hits the bar (1.38 minutes on average). Throw in a few curveballs, and that bar will be toasting you all night.

Above: And so is this

DKC, Kirby, Goldeneye, Resident Evil, Super Street Fighter IV, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Metal Gear Sold 3, Driver, Shin Megami Tensei, Starfox, Mario Kart, Ridge Racer, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Super Monkeyball, Sonic, Assassin’s Creed, Saints Row, Kingdom Hearts, PES, Pilotwings… Between the Wii and 3DS, Nintendo churned out surprise games to rival the total numbers of everything mentioned at their competitors’ conferences. And while we’re on the subject… 

And it gets even cleverer on the next page...


  • secretsearcher - June 21, 2010 2:50 a.m.

    Yay for no more casual games!!! The 3DS and Kid Icarus are must buys for me.
  • GangsterJew92 - June 19, 2010 3:41 a.m.

    Congratulations to Nintendo for finally figuring out what franchises got them to where they are today.
  • Phantom Cipher - June 18, 2010 11:12 p.m.

    Guess I have to take back all that BS that I say about Nintendo turning its back on us last year. These guys really aren't screwing around this time. Now I am worried that Sony and Microsoft are going that same route that Nintendo have been before E3 2010. Casual people aren't going to fall for the same sceme twice.
  • pin316 - June 18, 2010 11:11 a.m.

    I'm actually kind of torn on the whole Nintendo conference initial reaction was almost identical to what you wrote, but then i thought a bit more about it and am not so sure anymore.... I think that maybe the only reason it looks that good, is that MS and Sony both dropped the ball severely and so they shone by comparison. When you think about it - the majority of the games that anyone is excited about are for the will be a lot to pay for a handheld i'm guessing, and with the exception of the kid icarus, pilotwings and mario kart games that have been announced, what you're actually providing is basically just an N64 emulator - most of the games are just updates. Not saying that this is a bad thing, as a portable N64 emulator is majorly kick-ass, but it's still not like Shigsy has come up with the new Mario/Zelda etc. And whlst the 3DS does look awesome, it also did another job very well - make everybody forget abpout the fact that the Wii really doesn't have much more than it did a year ago...For home consoles both MS and Sony still outdid Nintendo by a mile. not putting nintendo down - i'm an old nintendo fan and would love to see them return to their former glory, but i didn't see this year as a win. Rather it gave me hope that Nintendo are back on track and that, even if the next two years don't improve too much for the wii...the next console could kick some serious behind...
  • snothammer - June 18, 2010 7:23 a.m.

    Considering I've been had a craving to play Star Fox 64 all week, the announcement of a kick-ass revamp of the game on a new, awesome-sounding handheld ALONE had me excited. Everything else is like icing, or whip cream. I'm covered in icing now. I hope that makes sense. What a delicious E3 Nintendo has given us.
  • jmcgrotty - June 18, 2010 6:54 a.m.

    All they did is toss out familiar names for the journalists to hear and recall from their youth. Doesn't speak at all to the quality of the games themself. I'm not saying the games will fail, I'm not saying they will suceed (I won't know because I have no interest in the Revolution), but the presser didn't do much.
  • BishopofHippo93 - June 18, 2010 4:57 a.m.

    I was blown away by Nintendo this year, and as far as I'm concerned, they deserve a medal or something. But, anyone else think the new kirby doesn't look all that good? It takes away the base gameplay principle: absorbing your enemies powers!
  • GoodGuyWithACrappyJob - June 18, 2010 4:25 a.m.

    An actor entering through a door, you've got nothing. But if he enters through the window, you've got a situation. Well said, Mr. Wilder. Exactly what it felt like watching E3. Nintendo went through the door the first time, and the others followed. Now they're going the window way, to more opportunities. Although I do not believe they were quite that malicious, Nintendo showed perfectly what it could do. Next, after these remakes, if they can keep up the slew of new and inventive ideas for games and systems, they have a chance. A chance to return for good. And Mr. Pit, it's alright. Glad to see you again.
  • Sabtos - June 18, 2010 12:25 a.m.

    Well, I'll just quote you because it sums it all up: "Nintendo saw the potential of the casual market before everyone else, and now that (I suspect) they're seeing its limitations, the big N are getting out before their two rivals over-saturate it to death"
  • rabathehutch - June 17, 2010 8:19 p.m.

    I nearly lost it with Nintendo I was going to buy a PS3, but now I going to by a 3ds and some wii games. None of these "Retro" games mean any thing to me as I was born after the all amazing N64 ect. These games are brand new to me a look great. I grew up with a PS2 till I was about ten then got a wii for Christmas; at times I miss the real controller, one with out complex motion sensors and buttons all over the shop. I never gave up on Nintendo, and will stick by them. Although this is the first E3 I have even known about I believe that Nintendo can shake the gaming market again ... I just hope they can keep this up. LONG LIVE A COMPANY THAT DARES TO THINK OUT THE BOX!
  • NESman - June 17, 2010 1:01 p.m.

    Really impressed with the big N.
  • philipshaw - June 17, 2010 11:34 a.m.

    Sony had a great show but nintendo killed it
  • HeroOfLegend - June 17, 2010 7:47 a.m.

    This is the best E3 I've ever seen from Nintendo. They completely stomped the competition. So many awesome games were announced, and the 3DS looks absolutely amazing. I'd like to say that they showed a lot of Day One purchases, but I might not have enough money. Well played.
  • Zeb364 - June 17, 2010 6:50 a.m.

    I'm not terribly excited for any of Nintendo's stuff cause most of it's just not my cup of tea but they are finally pleasing their hardcore fans while MS and Sony are scaring the shit out of theirs so yea, I guess Nintendo won.
  • milesgregory - June 17, 2010 4:52 a.m.

    @Cyberninja: You are in company I never lost faith in nintendo...I grew up on nintendo the SNES and N64 I own all nintendo systems (except virtual boy) and to all of those who say sony and microsoft are doing better. They are games people. What is with the rivalry. Wii isn't the best console but they are working on it, the reason I am excited is because of the zelda and donkey kong mostly. Xbox has the online gaming market. And PS3 has the best graphics. And you cant deny it. Heavy rain is a beauty. I like all of these companies none of them are better than the other. If only they released a psp2 though.
  • RonaldRayGun - June 17, 2010 3:54 a.m.

    The sheer number of games announced and just the way that conference was run in general just made happy to be a Nintendo fan. I had a smile stuck on my face the whole day.
  • Zeipher - June 17, 2010 3:10 a.m.

    I have to add that I saw the trailer for Goldeneye, and it still looks like its on the N64.
  • Spybreak8 - June 17, 2010 2:01 a.m.

    Yeah it was like Microsoft and Sony, who had the core audience, were going for the casual audience and Nintendo, who had the casual audience, were going for the core audience. This is a good write up, a few things I learned there like the Smash Bros Brawl/Kid Icarus relationship. I'm still not sold on the Wii but glad they're supporting the DS so much.
  • markshell - June 17, 2010 1:57 a.m.

    The 3DS is an instant must-buy even 6 months before it's proposed launch date. I can't even imagine how many units it will sell on the go. Scary shit.
  • GameManiac - June 17, 2010 1:44 a.m.

    qwsedrghhgfdssdfb Do you see this people? This is what my jaw did to the keyboard when it dropped from the sheer awesomeness of Nintendo's conference. 3DS FTW!

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