E3 Week 2017 – NintenRave II – Nintendo and the eSports Scene

Welcome back to #NSE3Week, and how about another NintenRave? For those that aren’t aware, my Raves are articles in which I discuss something that Nintendo has done that pleases me or I’m impressed by. So, on this occasion (with around five days until Nintendo’s showing at E3) I want to shine a spotlight on something that I have had little but good things to say about for a while, but have only recently thought of a direction to tackle it from; Nintendo’s approach to eSports.

Nintendo haven’t always approached new ideas in the gaming industry in the best of ways (see my NintenRant in a few days for an in depth analysis of this comment), with often the final endeavour differing from the consensus for either better or worse. One thing that I would argue that Nintendo have got right though, is the way that they have entered the rapidly rising global eSports scene, and what games they have used to do so.

This isn’t to say that Nintendo games are intrinsically new to the scene, I mean Super Smash Bros Melee has been played at the worldwide fighting game championships EVO for the last thirty thousand years (slightly hyperbolic, but the point remains), but only in the last few years has Nintendo begun actively courting the eSports crowds. This has led, invariably to both great successes and tremendous failures, with the Pokkén Tournament showing at EVO 2016 being definitely of the latter in my opinion as it’s arguably lacklustre and unvaried gameplay from the perspective of the audience made it a somewhat dull note in the event overall.

However, the other side of that coin is the phenomenal Splatoon. In an instance of Nintendo striking gold, Splatoon takes the long-established team shooter model and morphs it into something truly unique. Not only was the game a unique player experience in itself, it took off in the online and eSports world in a massive way too. Splatoon, in opposition to Pokkén is an exciting and unpredictable experience for audiences, and the various streamed tournaments have made great watching and have been immensely popular. With the upcoming release of Splatoon 2, Nintendo is set to continue this especially with an invitational tournament happening at E3 2017.

Now, one thing I love about Nintendo and their behaviour with games like this is the way in which they propagate their demos for them. The Splatoon 2 Global Testfire, returning again alike before the release of the first game, is an incredible “beta-like” introduction to new mechanics and weapons and gives the players that participate in the eSports side of the game a chance to get a feel for what the game will be like upon release. These little “tests” aren’t a new thing, nor unique to Nintendo, but the sheer scope of making these small events available to all players and not just a select few places them in a slightly more inviting state than a standard beta test.

Speaking of Nintendo’s rather genius and inclusive use of “beta-like” tests, this year, unlike the last few years we have the entrance to the ring of another Nintendo IP; ARMS. This game had a recent Global Testpunch, which (a few connection errors aside) came far closer to selling me on the game than anything I had seen on it before. Playing the game briefly at an event is not enough to get a feel for the game, but I have come away from the Testpunch feeling a great love for a lot of what ARMS is both trying to do and succeeding in achieving. Add to this that Nintendo is placing ARMS with Splatoon 2 as having an invitational tournament at E3 2017 too, and I couldn’t be more excited to watch (and obviously steal strategies).

If Nintendo continue this way with their leanings towards eSports, making games that anyone can play and enjoy but with enough depth to have the capability of having “top level” play as a feature, I have little doubt that they will be able to fully crack the scene this year and in years to come. In short, it’s a great time to be a Nintendo fan if you like competitive play.

So, what do you think? How do you feel Nintendo is dealing with its eSports franchises? Also, are you looking forward to Splatoon 2 and ARMS? Let me know in the comments or drop me a tweet @reuthegamer.

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