Nintendo formally announced its E3 plans today. Most of it, like a digital presentation, ongoing Treehouse show, and a partnership with Best Buy, were relatively unsurprising given past successes. The big news of the day was the return of the Nintendo World Championships, a somewhat obscure Nintendo-themed video game tournament that took place in 1990. It's a unique and important part of video game history, but younger players couldn't be blamed for scratching their heads at the prospect.
This year's NWC will take place the Sunday before the E3 festivities kick off, giving the company a chance to grab attention while gamers' eyes are already firmly directed at Los Angeles. Nintendo could capitalize on this and pay homage to its history at the same time. Here's what we'd like to see out of the event.
The Full Scope of Nintendo History
In the original Nintendo World Championships, competition was limited to a single system. A specially made NES cartridge tracked points across three NES games: Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer, and Tetris. Though Gameboy had been released by this point, the NES made more sense for broadcast purposes. Basing the entire competition around a single system was just a matter of course.
That's not the case anymore. Nintendo has now released six home consoles, five handheld systems, and one Virtual Boy that straddles the line between them. The promotional video released this morning, while undeniably goofy, makes a point to showcase different pieces of Nintendo's long history in the video game world. That's a trait not found in many companies, so Nintendo should capitalize on it.
The competition should span the NES, Super NES, N64, GameCube, Wii, Wii U, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, DS, 3DS, and Virtual Boy. Throw in Game & Watch or some Hanafuda cards while you're at it. Make this event a crucible that tests a wide range of game skills across generations for a real look at Nintendo's legacy.
Return of the Wizard
While you're at it, why not have some self-effacing fun? The Nintendo World Championships bore a striking resesmblance to the 1989 film The Wizard, a Fred Savage vehicle that had a video game prodigy winning the "Video Armageddon" tournament in Los Angeles. It's lived on in memes, and was criticized as a blatant feature-length commercial for Nintendo products, but it's still undeniably part of the history of the NCW. At the very least the film acted as de facto promotion for the competition, and it may have even inspired the Championships themselves. Nintendo should pay some tongue-in-cheek respect to it.
But how best to do it? We'd like to see the star of the film, Fred Savage, acting as master of ceremonies. He is based out of Los Angeles for an upcoming TV show with Rob Lowe, and it would be a witty callback to their film. At the very least, someone needs to be wearing a Power Glove. It's so bad.
And speaking of returning stars...
Reggie Fils-Aime may be the bombastic frontman for Nintendo of America, but company president Satoru Iwata has developed his own cult of personality as a lovable spokesperson for their products. He still regularly appears in Nintendo Direct presentations, to bring the news "directly." He was forced to sit out last year's E3 due to health concerns, but we've heard no such reports of an absence this year.
E3 is a busy time for companies, and Nintendo is no exception. While press and audiences will be busy eating up all the news from the show, executives like Iwata will likely be busy with their own business. Sunday should be clear for an appearance, though, and Iwata should take the opportunity to show up on-stage. He at least needs to be the one to crown the champion.
A Rare Collector's Item
Whatever prize Iwata gives may pale in comparison to the value of a special item made just for competitors. Ninety special cartridges were struck to facilitate the 1990 competition, and they went home with finalists. Each of these has a special number assigned to it for easy authentication. Later, Nintendo Power gave out 26 more with gold-colored plating as part of a contest.
Today, the gray and gold variants of this cartridge are highly valued among video game collectors. It's regarded as one of the rarest games ever made, and auctions have hit six digits as recently as last year. As homage, the recent NES Remix 2 would unlock a World Championships Remix mode if the player had purchased the first NES Remix. It featured a different slate of games (Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, and Dr. Mario), but the score challenge and timer were similar.
It will be a disappointment to fans of Nintendo's history if this year's competition doesn't similarly include a special disc made just for the competitors. If in 25 years "World Championship 2015" discs or ultra-rare Amiibo aren't prized as rare collector's items, Nintendo did something wrong.
A New Game
Though the original World Championships were notably similar to Video Armageddon from The Wizard, the film did have one striking plot twist missing from the real thing: a brand new game. At the film's climax, the video game prodigy and his companions are surprised that the final round will be Super Mario Bros. 3, which had not yet been released in North America. It wasn't quite a reveal, but it did catch the characters off-guard and force the protagonist to put his video game skills to the test.
With an event so close to E3, why couldn't Nintendo make this part of the fiction a reality? We know it will be revealing new games at the industry's biggest event, and showcasing one of them as part of its new World Championships would be a great way to create buzz days before it formally kicks off.
Steve Watts posted a new article, 5 Things We Want to See at the Nintendo World Championships
Mega Man 3 was the big hit at the World Championships in 1990. This might make a great opportunity for Mighty No. 9 to be on display.
Warios cock at #2 seems strange
That would be awesome if Fred Savage made an appearance.
I agree, have a The Wizard reunion and screening and stuff but rather than Fred Savage, get the same over the top announcer from the movie. That guy was the delicious piece of ham in that cheesefest of a movie. If The Wizard was shown on MST3K, the announcer guy would have shown up in Deep 13 by the end of the episode.
...and yet none of that will happen at the championships. Good list though.