If You Expect Jaw-Dropping Things from Nintendo Direct, You’re Missing the Point

Nintendo's latest video state-of-the-union is another relatively sedate update, and that's a good thing.

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I caught my first Nintendo Direct last year, just before E3. It was somewhat…unexpected. Instead of crazy editing, hipster quips and frenetic sizzle reels, Nintendo president and CEO Satoru Iwata stood beneath a picture with the Japanese characters for a phrase that he explained meant “creating something unique,” addressing viewers in English and speaking slowly with long pauses at the end of sentences. You might even have called the tone struck as he introduced and elaborated on the Wii U something approaching “dignified.” This was Nintendo working to define itself as definitively unlike its rowdier rivals.

The latest of these briefs aired this morning, a full 30 minutes packed with information about several upcoming games, some of it stuff we already knew, some of it stuff we didn’t, but none of it significant in the “Look, a new Super Mario Galaxy game!” sense. We heard a little about some new Sega games (a lovely-looking Mario and Sonic Winter Olympics game that made me think Diddy Kong Racing meets SSX; plus a new Sonic-series action/adventure/platformer dubbed Sonic: Lost World), were walked through snippets of upcoming or recently released games including Mario & Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move and Animal Crossing: New Leaf, finally got a release date for The Wonderful 101 (Sep. 15), learned about a Luigi-based rethink of New Super Mario Bros. U that existing owners of the latter can download on June 20 for $20 (or, if you don’t own New Super Mario Bros. U, buy standalone on Aug. 25 for $30) and had a fairly detailed look at Pikmin 3, Shigeru Miyamoto’s forthcoming real-time strategy opus.

And yet I wonder how many people watching today’s show walked away disappointed, like the dopamine-starved blogosphere after some press-concocted Apple fantasy part fails to materialize during a WWDC keynote. Judged as such, you’d probably find most of these Nintendo Direct videos boring. You’ve tuned in hoping to spy something jaw-dropping instead of merely explanatory (or, you know, insightful), something like footage from a new Zelda game, Shigeru Miyamoto decapitating a Master Chief mannequin with his mock Link-sword or some wildly unexpected add-on upgrade that renders the Wii U The Most Powerful Console in the Universe.

That’s not what Nintendo’s about, and I hope it never changes. These Direct videos aren’t perfect, mind you: at times they feel overly scripted, and I’m not sure gamers need as much time devoted to re-explaining retro titles set to resurface in Nintendo’s Virtual Console, say the Zelda: Oracle of Ages/Seasons games. But with all the shallow, splashy game trailers pouring through our pupils that tell us next to nothing about how a game actually plays, I think Nintendo deserves a hand (slow clap) for turning down the volume and approaching us more like even-tempered adults than excitable little children.