Your favorite gaming executives
While its possible hardcore film and TV fans know the names of the executives behind billion dollar blockbusters, I doubt they have the same familiarity gaming fans have with publishers. In the never-ending console battles, gamers get know the executives at companies like Sony and Microsoft over countless trade shows and conventions. And thanks to Nintendo Directs, bosses like Satoru Iwata and Reggie Fils-Aime are nearly as internet famous as Mario and Luigi.
Technically, Nintendo Directs are a means for the publisher to showcase upcoming 3DS and Wii U titles, but the streaming videos have grown far beyond that. Directs are playgrounds for company executives to share clever jokes and knowing winks with Nintendos biggest fans. Its an approach that makes every new video a must watch for the meme-worthy moments alone. Check out some of the best, most memorable moments in Nintendo Direct history to see how these execs are really earning their pay...
Iwata goes bananas (E3 2012)
Ostensibly, Nintendo held a traditional press conference at E3 2012 to give the world its first look at the retail version of the Wii U. In actuality, it had all been leading to Satoru Iwata introducing his own form of absurdist comedy with the internet. As the post-show Nintendo Direct began, Iwata picked up several bananas, looked at them, then put them down. Did he realize he was making meme history?
Looking back on the moment, it seems like Iwata is merely dropping hints that a new Donkey Kong game is coming soon, but the scene is so much funnier than that. Iwatas dispassionate look as he holds the fruit, his odd stare into the camera, nonchalantly putting the fruit back down - its surreal comedy cut from the same cloth as Monty Python or Andy Kaufman. Its a quiet moment that had a bigger impact than a dozen explosive trailers, and makes you wish every Nintendo Direct featured Iwata holding a different piece of produce.
Nonspecific Action Figure (Pre-E3 2012)
Before the Wii Us formal debut on the E3 stage, Nintendo broadcast a Direct the Sunday prior. The goal was to talk about the systems many non-game features, perhaps because theyd be too overshadowed by a new Mario or Pikmin. Instead, novel concepts like Miiverse and video chatting were overshadowed by the starpower of Nonspecific Action Figure, the oddly named toy that stole the show in a tutorial video.
The name feels like an in-joke between the videos producers - the legal folks demand they only feature a Nonspecific Action Figure, so the bland toy is named just that. Thanks in part to the repetition of the phrase, fans glommed onto it during E3, to the point that Nintendo themselves decided to join in on the fun with its own goofy send ups. For a company not always known for understanding the internet, its a surprisingly savvy turn of events, and shows an early interest in using Nintendo Direct to create running jokes.
Iwata unboxing a Wii U (November 2012 Wii U Direct)
This Direct may be one of the more low key events, but its so strange and thorough that it deserves special recognition. Im used to seeing goofball game journalists like myself unbox systems - side note: is unbox even a real word? - but this took it to an executive level. Just as Nintendo fans would do when the system launched, Satoru Iwata got his hands on a boxed Wii U console and carefully and slowly unpacked it for over five minutes.
Despite the companys skilled video editors, the lengthy unboxing has no obvious edits for time or pacing. You see Iwatas occasional fumbles and offhand small talk as he deliberately removes all of Wii Us packaging and sets up the system. You even see him put on pristine white gloves, a detail thats exceedingly unnecessary. That lack of polish makes it more entertaining than a slickly produced unboxing stream hosted by a handsome actor. From now on, I dont want to believe a Nintendo product can be successfully removed from its box until Mr. Iwata shows me how.
The Wrath of Reggie (December 2012)
You dont often become a highly paid vice president by being a nice guy, and every once in a while Reggie Fils-Aime shows a hint of his (fake) darker side. Who was the target of his joking malevolence? Bill Trinen, a localizer for Nintendo of America who frequently appears on Directs and often acts as Shigeru Miyamotos public translator. In an earlier stream, Bill had some goodnatured mockery of Reggies poor use of the Japanese language. As this clip shows, it was Reggie that got the last laugh by years end.
Seeing Reggies little wink as he describes sending Trinen away for a long time, is a great payoff, and its even more fun to see Nintendo keep track of little moments that some fans dont remember. I know Trinen had a good laugh about it months later when I got a chance to interview him - and he did confirm he really had spent some time working in Japan that year. Good thing Trinen eventually returned, or we wouldnt have one of the best entries later on in this list.
Reggie vs. Iwata (E3 2014)
Each of the reveals of the Smash Bros. Wii U/3DS roster featured epic trailers that were like short films for each mascot. Smash lovers went wild for additions like Mega Man and Little Mac, but many on social media demanded that real life Nintendo mascots like Reggie and Iwata get added to the game. While their appearance as customizable Miis only partially answers those requests, the reveal trailer made those dreams a reality.
To the delight of everyone watching at home, Iwata and Reggie faced off in an epic kung fu battle right out of The Matrix, only one that, as weird as it was, made much more sense than the sequels. The two pulled out the types of uppercuts and throws the Fighter Mii uses, but with little bits of flare, like Iwatas expressionless face, and him righting himself with his standard directly to you hand motions. It looked stupidly expensive, but that excess was part of the fun.
The entire Tomodachi Life Direct (April 2014)
Tomodachi Lifes odd name and living dollhouse gameplay is a hard sell outside of Japan, but Nintendo decided to lean in big time on its unique qualities from the start. The game was first shown to westerners in this special broadcast. Really, what better way to explain the games idiosyncrasies than with a video thats just as weird as the game it showcases.
You get to see Bill Trinen fall in and out of reality, reporting the news in both Mii and human form, explaining all the odd ways Tomodachi has you interact with Miis. Choice moments include Reggie stealing Trinens girlfriend and invading his dreams, all leading to the It was all a dream - or was it!? finale of real-life Mii Reggies cackling. Credit Reggies acting skills for making a giant foam head so terrifying.
Luigi gets a little too close (April 2013)
Speaking of giant mascots, Iwata used them to great effect in a 2013 Direct. As Nintendo mentioned about 10,000 times back then, 2013 was the year of Luigi, and the green twin was everywhere, including multiple Nintendo Directs. This one had both Luigi and Mario hanging with Iwata, and I couldve watched the two huge plumbers have wordless exchanges with their boss all day. And the best moments involve Luigi being as strange as can be.
You get to see the two mascots fight over dice and pantomime golfing, but those silly scenes are easily outclassed once Luigi whispers something in Iwatas ear. After sidling up close like a creeper, Luigi soon asexually reproduces and surrounds Iwata with Luigis. Despite the magic, Iwata is nonplussed and keeps his usual deadpan face. His comic timing has been perfected by this point, and not even an avalanche of Luigis can distract him.
Robot Chicken helps comment on Mother 3 (E3 2014)
Companies are supposed to be friendly when replying to fans - its basically the reason they employ PR people. But at some point, you have to be sick of hearing the same question over and over again -Mother 3, anyone? Released years ago in Japan, hardcore western fans have been begging endlessly for the classic RPG to be localized. At E3 2014, with the help of Adult Swims Robot Chicken, Reggie shows how hed prefer to answer that question: with fire.
Its a quick moment, but a funny one for Nintendos most ardent fans. When a stereotypical nerd demands Reggie release Mother 3, Fils-Aime has the friendly counter offer of setting that nerd ablaze. Even as a joke, that had to be a little cathartic for Nintendo of America employees. But, now that I mention it, seriously, guys, when are we going to get Mother 3?
A little too direct
Those are my favorite moments of Nintendo Direct oddities, but I'm sure you have some in mind as well. So why don't you cut right to the point and share it in the comments?!?
Do you hunger for more insider info on Nintendo? Then you should read our dense list of Nintendo trivia, and 40 obscure facts and random trivia about Super Mario.