Boy, E3 sure was a thing this year, wasn’t it? Announcements were made, expectations were blown away, and as many a thinkpiece writer has pointed out, it was like we were transported back into the 90s. I mean, look at how it started – Nintendo revived the Nintendo World Championships after 25 years of dormancy!
The NWC was one hell of a great way to start E3 this year. After seeing the great reception last year’s Smash Bros invitational got at E3, Nintendo decided to do something similar this year – but hold it before E3 rather than during to kick everybody’s week off in a Nintendo state of mind. And it worked!
…Mostly. As fun as the event was, there were several hiccups throughout that made me wince internally throughout the program. There were a lot of good things – and really, the decision to end on some downright evil Super Mario Maker levels was absolutely perfect – but if Nintendo wants to make this a regular thing from now on, the modern NWC has a long ways to go.
As I was thinking about this topic, I caught this episode of The Final Split, Go1den’s speedrunning-centric Twitch show, where NWC15 invitee Bananas talked about the experience. I highly recommend a watch, as there’s a lot of amusing stories in there about the run-up and the event.1 Going from her account, one gets the impression that things really were rather rushed and disorganized on Nintendo’s end.
Taking all of this into consideration, I decided to write an editorial of my own. How can the NWC improve from this point forward? I’ll posit several ideas.
Make these the true Nintendo WORLD Championships
I met with a Canadian pal of mine at E3 and talked a bit about NWC with him. He told me how he had wanted to enter (and had been in the United States during the time Best Buy was running qualifiers) but couldn’t because the official rules state that you have to be a US resident to participate.
Then I remembered one of the special invitees.
I have absolutely nothing against TMR, of course – I haven’t met him, but numerous accounts say he’s a mighty swell guy! However, saying explicitly that NWC is only open to US residents in the official rules and then giving a non-resident a special invite seems like a real slap in the face for other folks who wanted to join but couldn’t because they were a bit too far north or south.
Beyond that, however – it seems silly to call this the Nintendo WORLD Championships if the only people there are from the United States, doesn’t it? Next time, we need more qualifiers abroad to bring in some real international competition. If a third party publisher like Capcom can pull it off with Capcom Pro Tour, a major first party with huge global reach like Nintendo certainly could. Imagine how awesome a Nintendo gaming showdown with competitors from every continent would be on a big stage!
More qualifier locations in the US would be great, too
Looking at the list of cities where qualifiers were held, if I was in the southeast or the southwest US and wanted to play I would have been totally SOL. Hell, if I were still living in Iowa and wanted to join, I would have had to take a minimum 4-hour drive to either the Minneapolis metro area or Schaumburg. The US is a big place that’s not always easy to get around, guys! Let’s give more people the opportunity to play!
Thank goodness they were invited as commentators, because they sure as hell didn’t have any qualifiers near them!
Maybe inform people what the tournament format is beforehand
I have no qualms with Nintendo making use a a decidedly non-standard tournament format. What I do have an issue with is that nobody – even the contestants themselves – knew how this was going to be run until the event started. I can understand keeping a few of the games a mystery, but the format itself? That just seems jerkish.
Speaking of which…
Make some stuff less of a mystery
Yes, I know I wrote an article extolling the virtues of mystery game tournaments, but here’s the thing: Every game in those tournaments is completely unknown. NWC, by contrast, was this bizarro mishmash of 75% mystery games and 25% stuff people knew would be in. There’s also the fact that some of the mystery games (Smash, Mario Kart) were more or less givens, and there was a very clear divide between who had experience with them and who didn’t. That really doesn’t gel with the spirit of mystery tournaments.
So here’s my suggestion: If you’re going to keep this format going forward, relegate the mystery entries to the Underground and the final match. This will make the elimination rounds that much more exciting, and the final matchup a true test of skill and adaptation. (I’d suggest making the mystery games as obscure as possible, too, the reduce the chance of people having prior experience. Balloon Fight was a good pick in this regard.)
For the love of god, make sure players are clearly labeled within the games
Splatoon should have been one of the most exciting things to watch. Instead, it was one of the messiest (pun not intended), thanks to the fact that no players were labelled during their matches. We got to watch groups of four players at a time try to ink up the maps, but we never had a clue who anyone actually was. Why can’t we get simple player names attached to screens on an official company stream? It seems patently ridiculous that this oversight happened.
Also, button checks
Yeah, things like this really shouldn’t be happening. Tell everyone they can config their controls, let them do it, and let them test it. There’s a damn good reason why button checks are standard in the fighting game scene.
Actually, why not just use Classic Controllers for retro stuff? That should make life easier.
Carefully consider anything new you might debut
I’m half-convinced that the backlash over Metroid Prime Federation Force wouldn’t have been half as bad if the Blast Ball portion of the game wasn’t made to look extremely dull on the NWC stage. According to Bananas in the Final Split show I linked above, the audience really didn’t care to see this, even going so far as to boo the game. Even if that’s an exaggeration, the home audience wasn’t enthused by the game either, going by the flood of reactions in my Twitter feed when it was onstage.
Personally, I had an open mind going in… which wasn’t so open after about 15 minutes of what appeared to be a really dull soccer knock-off.
The “surprise, it’s a Metroid game!” bit the day after felt really awkward, too – almost as if there was a hunch that people would react poorly if they saw this at NWC and were told it was Metroid-related, so hey, let’s just bring that fact up on Tuesday. I can’t say for sure if that’s the truth, but the initial presentation and then full reveal later seemed like a serious lack of confidence in the title. Either that or the fear of fan backlash – which, it turned out, was totally justified. (Honestly, though? I think withholding the info initially actually made that worse.)
And a few other things
Whether you are pro- or anti-Miniwheat, it’s an undeniable fact that he became the focal point of discussion amongst viewers when he was onstage, superceding the game he was commentating on. When you’re trying to keep focus on the games and the people competing in them, it’s not a good outcome to have the majority of discussion be whether or not they should keep that kid onstage.
Also, the Reggie vs Hungrybox Smash rematch? Fun in concept, but really painful to watch in practice. I feel like that time could have been better spent on something else.
Finally… a gold-plated Mario trophy is rad, but you know what would make people go absolutely bonkers? More gold NES World Championship cartridges. Hell, the new carts could just display a flashing “CONGRATULATIONS, YOU ARE SITTING ON MONEY” image when you put them in an NES, but hardcore collectors would still lose their goddamn minds! The fallout would be truly amazing to behold.
All of this might sound really negative – and I try not to deal too hard on negativity on this adorable site built on gaming love. But the truth is, I love this whole concept and I especially love seeing the excitement and enthusiasm it generates, both among the Nintendo crew and the fans/players. It’s really nice to see companies sponsoring and promoting competitions outside of typical “eSports” genres, as they help get a more broad audience interested in the fun and excitement of gaming tournaments in general. I really do want to see NWC grow into a regular event we can all get super hype about seeing every so often!
Oh yeah, and more unreleased games on VC would be rad, too. Can we get Starfox 2 next year?
- The Final Split is a really fun show to listen to in general, as well, and I wish Go1den and company would put it up in a more traditional podcast format. ↩