Nintendo Smashed E3 Without Even Trying

It feels weird to type this, but Metroid Dread instantly became the most pre-ordered game on multiple digital storefronts after E3. A Metroid game! Topping the charts! Incredible. Don’t get me wrong, Dread looks fantastic and I can’t wait to play it – it’s just strange to see such a long-dormant series resonate with so many different demographics. It’s even topping the Wii U charts now, as Metroid hype reaches a fever pitch.

Metroid is just one of several wins for Nintendo, though. GameStop recently revealed stats depicting the top ten pre-ordered games in the immediate aftermath of E3, six of which were unveiled during Nintendo’s E3 2021 Direct. Six! That’s 60% from a single publisher. I know Sony skipped E3 – which it was smart to do – and titans like Ubisoft, Capcom, and Bandai Namco put on fairly underwhelming shows. The Xbox and Bethesda showcase was phenomenal, though – I still can’t get over how incredible Redfall looks. And despite forcing us to listen to the word “chaos” more times than any human should ever reasonably hear in their entire lifetime, Square Enix debuted a few bangers as well.

The thing is, right, aside from giving us a brief, minute-long trailer of what to expect in Breath of the Wild 2, Nintendo pulled a lot of its punches. Sure, we got a look at Mario Golf and Mario Superstars, but that’s hardly comparable to Odyssey or Galaxy. We saw a couple of minutes of Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl, but we’ve seen them several times already and they’re out in less than five months – it’s not exactly what I’d call a new revelation. Legends Arceus didn’t even get a look-in, let alone any of the various other major Pokemon projects that are secretly but definitely in the works. Highest-grossing entertainment franchise of all time – no point showing it at E3, though. Don’t need it.

It’s important to note that almost all of us knew Nintendo’s “one more thing” was going to be Breath of the Wild 2 before the showcase even started. Eiji Aonuma appeared during the Zelda Direct purely to say, “Sorry buds, no Breath of the Wild 2 this time,” which translates to, “Sorry buds, that one’s being kept back to send everyone into an uncontrollable theorycrafting frenzy at the tail end of E3.” I know the Zelda denouement kicked off with Age of Calamity DLC, but it was always going to be at least a doubler – thanks to the Skyward Sword trailer and Zelda Game & Watch, the Breath of the Wild 2 clip made it a quadrupler. Funny, isn’t it, that having a five-minute Zelda section at the end of an E3 showcase had more Zelda in it than the literal Zelda 35th anniversary Direct. Poor Link.

But that’s an important point, too. As mentioned above, we all knew that Breath of the Wild 2 was going to be shown at E3. We’ve already seen loads about Skyward Sword and Age of Calamity DLC was a relatively known quantity too. The only ‘new’ Zelda that came even remotely out of left field was the Game & Watch, which says a lot about how hard Nintendo went – not very hard at all. Despite all the remakes rumored for Switch, some of which will inevitably come to the console eventually, Nintendo opted to play a fairly safe hand – it won E3 with a pair of jacks, as opposed to pulling out a full house or a royal flush.

I’m not saying the showcase was bad, mind – it was brilliant. All I’m saying is that while there were a lot of compelling games on display – hell, we got a new WarioWare! – Nintendo barely had to flex its muscles. If the video game giant’s most recent Direct proved anything at all, it’s that it can play an absolute stormer without even fielding its best players – they’re not even on the bench. I know that lots of people are of the opinion that E3 was disappointing this year – if that’s you, it’s worth remembering that almost every developer on the planet has been hit extremely hard by the pandemic and there are no games out there that are unaffected, leading to trailers that aren’t ready, massive delays, and all of the other fun stuff that happens when a project’s timeline is smacked by external factors. I mean, obviously E3 was going to be different this year.

Nintendo, though, came out with its hands down, boxing gloves confidently – no, cockily – held in front of swaying hips, and danced around the ring with the grace of Floyd Mayweather mixed with a ballerina. It stole the show without even breaking a sweat, to the extent that even post-E3, I reckon Nintendo is going to have an extremely strong year ahead of it. Here’s hoping one of the big three gets shown before 2023 – although it’s not as if any of them need to be.

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