Today marks nine years since the first Nintendo Direct took place, so let’s look back at how the event changed the way video games are promoted.
Nintendo Directs are short video presentations hosted on Nintendo’s official website and video channels. They tend to be filled with announcements for new games, details for revealed games, and showcases for titles made by indie or third-party developers. They have given us some of the most exciting moments in video game history and helped to keep Nintendo relevant during some of the darkest days of the company’s history.
Related: Yesterday’s Mario 35th Anniversary Direct Could Be Good News For Zelda Fans
The First Direct
When the first Nintendo Direct (seen here on YouTube) happened on this day in 2011, no one could have suspected that it would change the nature of video game promotion forever. It involved a sweaty-chinned Reggie Fils-Aimé discussing the merits of the Nintendo 3DS, which started with its potential as a portable entertainment system. The first Nintendo Direct opened with a promo for Hulu Plus on the 3DS. The games discussed during this Direct were Freakyforms: Your Creations Alive!, Pushmo, Dillon’s Rolling Western, the Swapnote app, Pokemon Rumble Blast, Super Mario 3D Land, and Mario Kart 7. The Direct ended with a release date for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on the Nintendo Wii.
Mario Kart 7 and Super Mario 3D Land were the two games that revived interest in the 3DS following its disastrous launch, with the former becoming the best-selling game on the system. The first Direct was clearly being done by the seat of its pants, but the elements of what it would become were all there.
Keeping The Fire Alive During The Wii U Era
The Nintendo Wii U was one of the biggest disappointments in the history of Nintendo, but you wouldn’t know that from the Directs. The Nintendo Directs made the 3DS and Wii U feel bigger than they were. The presentation and production of the Directs were always bursting with excitement, with Bill Trinen, Satoru Iwata, Shigeru Miyamoto, and Reggie always keeping things entertaining. The Directs would eventually become Nintendo’s E3 showcase. Sony attempted to copy the Direct formula with its State of Play events, but these have always been compared unfavorably to Nintendo’s offerings, due to a lack of announcements.
The series that helped shape the Directs was Super Smash Bros. The announcements for characters like Mewtwo, Ryu, Cloud, and Bayonetta (not Corrin) made mainstream news and helped bring more attention to the franchise than ever before. This level of attention continues to this very day, with the DLC characters for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate still being the highlight on many Directs.
The End Of Directs?
2020 might have marked the end of Directs as we know them. This is mostly a practical decision, as COVID-19 has prevented staff from meeting up to film Directs. Even Sakurai’s Smash Bros. Directs have become amateur affairs filmed in his own home. Nintendo has started hosting smaller Directs for third-party games and indie titles, but these feel like a response to backlash from shareholders, a response to the lack of announcements for Switch games in 2020.
The more worrying trend involves Nintendo randomly announcing games on Twitter, rather than saving them for Directs. Titles like Paper Mario: The Origami King were announced on social media shortly before release. It feels as if Nintendo could have cobbled together more Directs over the course of the year, but the lack of solid release dates caused by COVID made it gun shy about announcing games. The late announcement for Super Mario 3D All-Stars seems to be an indication of this.
It’s possible that Nintendo has been testing the waters for solo announcements on social media and abandoning the Direct format altogether. When games are announced during a Direct, they share headline space with each other, whereas a game revealed on its own becomes the focal point of the buzz and the news. It would be a shame if this is the case, as Nintendo Directs helped change how video games news is given. The announcement of a Nintendo Direct is always met with excitement and speculation from all corners of the Internet, and it would be sad if they didn’t return once the world goes back to normal.
Next: China Gets Its Own Nintendo Direct This Week
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Scott has been writing for The Gamer since it launched in 2017 and also regularly contributes to Screen Rant. He has previously written gaming articles for websites like Cracked, Dorkly, Topless Robot, and TopTenz. He has been gaming since the days of the ZX Spectrum, when it used to take 40 minutes to load a game from a tape cassette player to a black and white TV set.
Scott thinks Chrono Trigger is the best video game of all time, followed closely by Final Fantasy Tactics and Baldur’s Gate 2. He pretends that sorcerer is his favorite Dungeons & Dragons class in public but he secretly loves bards.
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