By Quentin H. / September 19th, 2023
Ordinarily, I put out my thoughts on a fan-event fairly quickly -within the week- of the event itself. Nintendo Live 2023: Seattle has been the one exception. Not for a bad reason, but simply because there is so much potential that I kept talking with other people connected to oprainfall and to my own social group about what Nintendo could do with it. If you want to take away one thing from this column, then let it be this: Nintendo Live 2023: Seattle felt like an incredibly successful dry run for a potential future standalone Nintendo two-day convention.
Before we get to why I feel that way, let’s talk about the event itself. Hosted adjacent to PAX West (and sharing a building with part of the event, in fact), Nintendo Live 2023: Seattle was a separately ticketed event that did not require PAX West 2023 admission to attend but instead held a free lottery system for people to potentially gain admittance for a few months beforehand for one particular day. Nintendo also distributed a handful of tickets at PAX West itself. What this means is that Nintendo was able to spread the attendance out over the full four days of PAX and that, most crucially, Nintendo knew exactly how many people were going to be attending each day and it helped to make Nintendo Live 2023: Seattle feel like an event that was both at capacity yet not overwhelmingly overpacked.
Inside Nintendo Live 2023: Seattle itself, the different activities fell into four categories: demos (including for the yet-to-be-released Super Mario Bros. Wonder), photo opportunities with characters and items, live events to sit and watch that ranged from competitions to musical performances, and merchandise shopping. I will be taking each of these up in turn.
First and foremost: the demos. Nintendo had several video game demo available – as well as some of their partner’s titles like Just Dance 2023 and Disney Illusion Island – across the entire show floor. While all but Super Mario Bros. Wonder have already been released, it was a great opportunity for people to pick up a console, play a demo in a staging area themed after the various game, and try it out. For example, Pikmin 4 was in a full-on Pikmin-themed area that took you right into the game. Nintendo even cleverly enticed people to play retro titles that are available on Nintendo Online, such as the NES classic Ice Hockey, but turning it into a competition. The wait to try out the demos were not very long, and even for Super Mario Bros. Wonder, I only spent around 20 minutes waiting to pick it up and run through it. Some of the competition slots ran longer, but nothing was too bad.
If you are already a major Nintendo fanatic, then chances are you have probably owned or demoed everything that was there but Super Mario Bros. Wonder. To help keep those Nintendo fans busy, there were a ton of photo opportunities. Did you see the billion-dollar-making The Super Mario Bros. Movie? Nintendo hauled in the Mario Bros. van for you to take a picture with. What about if you’re a fan of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate? The life-size replica props were available for you to take pictures with. Kirby, LEGO Bowser, Tears of the Kingdom Link, Ink Squid, the three Pokémon Scarlet/Violet starters, and more were all on hand for you to get up and close to take pictures with. Nintendo also smartly rotated out the non-statue photo opportunities fairly frequently, and so there was always someone new to get a picture with just around the corner.
All of these lines seemed fairly quick to get through, with one exception: K.K. Slider from Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Every single time I passed by that line, it was capped, and it seemed to be around 50 minutes to an hour long. Not because K.K. Slider was doing some really long photo shoots, but just because he was that popular.
My personal favorite was the re-imagined room from the 1980s. This photo line, while not as busy as K.K. Slider’s, was always busy as well. And when I was able to get in, I was surprised to find that it was a fully-realized and built living room. I flipped through the albums, checked out the NES and R.O.B. at the TV, and even the vacuum cleaner and the couch. It is a cool idea that I really hope Nintendo will expand upon for the future. I would love to see, for example, a 1980’s Japanese living room with a Famicom in it!
Next, there are the various live events to sit through and watch. The big marquee event for Day 4 of Nintendo Live 2023: Seattle was the Splatoon 3 Championships 2023. This event took place on a giant stage in the back of the event hall, and it had excellent on-site commentary for people who weren’t fans (at least until then!) of competitive Splatoon 3 gameplay. There were also two concerts being held per day with a full-on live band: one for The Legend of Zelda and one for Super Mario Bros. There was also something called Mario Dojo for people to compete in, but I only saw it start right before I had to leave for other media appointments. I don’t know if that was just poor timing on my part or if Mario Dojo (seemingly no relation to the DSiWare Photo Dojo) was just put on that infrequently.
The biggest surprise was that for all of these live events, I had no trouble showing up at the last moment and getting a fairly awesome viewing spot. Now, it may have been a bit further back or it might have been standing-room-only, but at no point did I feel like I was being walled off from enjoying a part of the Nintendo Live 2023: Seattle experience. Even the Super Mario Bros. concert that I attended, which had given out ‘Warp Pass’ tickets a while ago for seats up close, had a ton of standby seating and stand-by watching areas for people if you really wanted to watch it. My biggest fear, going into Nintendo Live 2023, was that the concert was going to be performed in a walled-off room and I was going to miss it entirely. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case at all. Even when I dipped in and out of the Splatoon 3 Championships, I was able to find a spot to watch the tournament happen live on stage.
If there was one somewhat dark spot though, it had to be the merchandise line. The Nintendo Live 2023: Seattle merchandise sold out through the online My Nintendo Store fairly quickly on both occasions it was put up, and so many attendees had to buy it in person if they wanted the event-exclusive T-shirts, the event-themed Switch case, or more. The line ended up taking people around one-and-a-half to two hours to get through, and it wound through the outside courtyard, back inside, and then through an inside queue system.
When you got close to the front of the line, a store employee would mark your order down on a wipeable sheet and hand it off to the stockers, so that they could assemble the order and have it ready for you to buy when you got to the front of the line. It was, in theory, a great system. However, there were simply not enough cashiers on hand to help move the line as quickly as it needed to go in order to process people through in a timely manner. I found myself ultimately wishing that there was some way for people to scan a geo-locked QR code, place an order through a secret website, and then have Nintendo ship out the goods after the event. Instead, there were ever-capped merchandise lines instead of people being out on the event floor.
All of Nintendo Live 2023: Seattle, with the except of the merchandising, was a master class on how to put together a fan-based event. There were plenty of demos, tons of photo ops, live performances and events to attend, and it all happened in lines where you were never waiting truly long. In fact, the whole event kept things moving so quickly that I could see that everyone not in the merchandise line was having a wonderful time.
And that brings me to the point I made at the top of this column, about this event feeling like a ‘dry run.’ The only thing missing from Nintendo Live 2023: Seattle from making it a full-on fan convention like FINAL FANTASY XIV FAN FESTIVAL 2023-2024 or BlizzCon was the lack of a Keynote Speech ala a live Nintendo Direct.
As I was taking pictures and watching performances and playing games, my mind kept being flooding with possibilities about how this event could be expanded in a future year to be the launch event for a Nintendo console. I could easily see the executives from the various Nintendo branches presenting a live Nintendo Direct to show off a new console and new games on Day One, and to conclude with the words “and you can demo those games on our new console for yourself today on the show floor, you can take pictures with Mario and our other new friends, and you can even see a live performance of a couple secret tracks from one of the new games later in the afternoon.” It would take what Nintendo did with the unveiling of the Nintendo 3DS at E3 2010 (complete with hands-on fan demos) and crank it up into a Nintendo-only event where they wouldn’t have to share the viral social media attention.
All of that may, of course, just be ‘blue sky’ dreaming on my part.
But Nintendo Live 2023: Seattle seemed to be so successful that it is hard believe that it wasn’t a test run for a more substantial Nintendo event of some sort in the future. Personally, I plan on the next Nintendo Live event, no matter where in the country it is held. And honestly? You should too, if you can.
Did you attend Nintendo Live 2023: Seattle? If so, what did you think?
Where would you like Nintendo to host their next Nintendo Live event?
Let us know in the comments below!
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