Nintendo's E3 was very strange. Watching the parade of titles on show for both new and existing hardware, you'd never have guessed this was the same company that for four years had almost undone twenty years of good work.
I mean that in a very selfish way, of course. With unprecedented sales of both the Nintendo DS and Wii, times have never been better for Nintendo as a company. But I don't need to beat around the bush when saying Nintendo's support for "traditional" gamers has fallen away significantly since the launch of Wii. Not if you're the kind of person who reads this site.
Ever since Nintendo first adopted its "Blue Ocean" strategy over five years ago, many long-time fans of the company have felt increasingly like they've been "left behind". As someone who nearly flunked out of university because of my GameCube collection, I am one of them. The more Nintendo focused on games like Wii Fit and Brain Training, the less they seemed to focus on games like F-Zero and Pikmin.
Which was great for Nintendo! They're a business, after all, not a service, and businesses are out to make money. If Nintendogs is where the money was, then so be it. But the longer this went on, the sadder I (and many of you) became. Sure, there was the odd game like Mario Galaxy or Punch Out to perk us up, remind us that there were still those inside Nintendo devoted to making games for the "old guard", but they were an exception, not a rule.
As 2006 rolled on to 2007, and 2007 to 2008, sadness gave way to frustration, and frustration occasionally to anger. Which, when you think about it, was stupid! As I said above, Nintendo was not a service. New games for you, and not your little sister or grandparents, are not a right, something to be demanded.
But it's hard letting go. Seeing a former loved one go in a new direction, one that doesn't include you or your tastes and interests. It's why real-life break-ups can be so hard, as your emotions and common sense often play tug-of-war, the reality of a situation utterly incompatible with the fantasy of what you want from a situation.
By 2010, then, even with the release of the excellent Mario Galaxy 2, many long-time Nintendo fans had simply...lapsed. They'd still buy and enjoy the odd Nintendo game, like MG2, but on the whole, the fervour was gone. The passion that had once led a generation of schoolchildren to bleed Nintendo Red in a war against Sega had been spent. Many people liked Nintendo, and respected them for their past achievements (and present dominance), but they no longer loved them.
What a difference an E3 makes.
Revealing the new 3DS handheld to the world's press last week, Nintendo did not show family games. Simple games. Games to be enjoyed by senior citizens and your mother. They showed a freaking Kid Icarus title. Pilotwings. Resident Evil. Mario Kart. Heck, they even had a tease for a possible Ocarina of Time remake. Throw in a new Zelda game for the Wii and Nintendo's E3 lineup reads like a fansite's wildest wishlist.
This was a shot aimed straight at your heart. "Hey, you know how we made all those games you had no interest in for the last four years? Yeah, sorry. Here's some stuff just for you". And for all but the most bitter cynic, it worked.
We lapped it up. Loved every second of it. There was a wave of joy and excitement washing over video game messageboards that hadn't been seen since the initial unveiling of the Revolution (which later became the Wii) back at the 2005 Tokyo Game Show. Nintendo had, in the eyes of the masses, "won" E3. Somehow, within the space of an hour, Nintendo had undone over four years of alienation.
That, I think, was the most impressive achievement of Nintendo's E3 press conference. Not the hardware, not the games, but in the revelation that this company has managed to instil such powerful emotions in people that it can pull off a stunt like that and get away with it. If any other developer in the world had done what Nintendo has done since the launch of the Wii, their name would be mud. There'd be no coming back.
The fact Nintendo did, and did it so quickly, shows more than any sales numbers or metacritic ratings could ever hope to show that the Japanese developer holds a special place in many gamer's hearts, one that can take all the neglect in the world and not just survive, but be renewed at the flick of a switch. Which may sound crazy, but then, that's the reward (or "get out of jail free card") you get when you give the world Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Donkey Kong, the NES, SNES, Game Boy and N64!