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Why Nintendo Won E3 in the Eyes of a PC Gamer
Over the past few console generations, Nintendo has acted like it’s been operating in a universe thoroughly distinct from our own. While Sony and Microsoft were pushing for higher resolutions, more graphical power and online multiplayer, with shooters being the biggest games, Nintendo struck a different course.
The Wii and Wii U were more focused on family friendly experiences meant for one person or with couch co-op. Nintendo’s games have tended toward colorful old-school experiences like the Zelda and Mario series that draw heavily on past iterations. And if their E3 presentation is anything to go by Nintendo doesn’t seem to be backing down from this path. They showed off new Yoshi, Smash Bros., Zelda, and Kirby games. They announced toy figures that store Smash Bros. character information straight from the Wii U GamePad à la Skylanders and Disney Infinity. Even when they seem to be moving more towards the industry trends they do it in their own unique way, announcing their own online multiplayer shooter that stars squid people who try to cover the map in boldly colored ink. In an E3 that seemed particularly violent and dark, Nintendo kept doing their own thing and, for a PC gamer, that makes them the standout of the show.
Don’t get me wrong, Sony and Microsoft had pretty strong showings this year, each with exclusives that I’d be interested to get my hands on. The problem is that neither has games that I feel I can’t experience in some manner on my PC. Looking at their exclusives they feel (for the most part) like the sorts of games that both the AAA and indie scenes have been putting out in bulk over the last few years.
You have shooters like Halo 5: Guardians, The Order: 1886, and Uncharted 4: A Thief‘s End. You’ve got racing games with Forza Horizon 2 and Driveclub. Sunset Overdrive has style and character but it’s still just looks like more shooty-action. Crackdown was beaten at its own game last year when Saint’s Row IV came out. Even the games that appeal more to my tastes, like Inside and Abzu, look like different flavors of Limbo and Journey.
That’s not to say any of these games aren’t going to be great or unique or completely different from my expectations but they do feel familiar. They all seem to be in the vein of what the video game industry has been putting out recently. These styles of games come to PC all the time. I get my fair share of shooting, stabbing, racing, and wandering through a big, dark world in 2D on the PC. Why would I want to drop $400 on a console to get more of that?
Nintendo on the other hand looks to be offering experiences I can’t get on the other consoles. Nintendo constantly faces criticism for not moving on from what they’ve done, for not trying to change with the industry or vastly change their core series from one entry to the next, but that’s exactly why they’re the only console that I have my eye on after E3.
While Sony and Microsoft are trying to appeal to me through experiences I have and will continue to have access to on my PC, Nintendo is appealing to me through old-school, retro experiences that only they are making. I could get an indie game on PC that apes the 8-bit and 16-bit 2D classics but often times those games use retro looks to subvert the expectations that we have of those classics. Nintendo instead indulges in them without a hint of irony, as if they were still the most popular games around. On top of that, the core entries in Zelda and Mario act as throwbacks to the early days of 3D gaming and almost no one else in the industry is currently working in that space.
Nintendo isn’t breaking the mold, they’re just inhabiting one that the other companies (and PC developers) aren’t. As Xbox and PlayStation attempt to integrate traditionally PC features (online multiplayer, live streaming, early access, DRM, independent games) into their consoles, Nintendo is going in the opposite direction. They’re making unique console-only features (like Amiibo and the GamePad, for better or worse) and games that nobody else in the industry is embracing.
As a PC gamer, I see a lot of crossover with Xbox and PlayStation, both in actual games and in styles of games. In their E3 presentation Nintendo showed that they weren’t interested in playing catch-up with the industry or their competitors. Instead they’re carving their own route, and, even though I have a $1500 gaming powerhouse sitting next to me, I can’t help but want to follow.