Nintendo’s Game Awards no-show proves it just doesn’t need anyone else
Last week was The Game Awards 2021, an event curated and hosted by Geoff Keighley that’s supposed to be designed to bring the entire industry together for a general celebration of video games – and some awards too (after all, it’s there in the name). Opinions will vary, of course, but perhaps for Nintendo fans more than others, it’s been a disappointing year that has given more weight than ever to the argument that the whole show is anyway. more publicity than reward.
The thing is, though it’s often compared to the Oscars, the events really aren’t alike. You don’t watch the Oscars thinking you might witness the reveal of the next Marvel movie or the latest Wes Anderson film, do you? In the case of the Game Awards, the “awards” are a ruse to attract everyone’s attention, companies and consumers alike; one of the factors that has allowed Keighley to make it such a big event – one that gives the outward appearance of the “Oscars of Games” – almost since its inception in 2014.
Keighley is sparring with the biggest names in an attempt to get some juicy reveals that we gamers love so much… Although this is theoretically an award show, for many gamers it’s has become something of a “winter E3”.
The rewards themselves are on the way, with winners and losers feeling as deserving or not as they do every time shiny trophies are handed out. This is not to downplay the achievements of the developers who won, or the games themselves, but the rewards – all rewards – are, by their nature, a bit silly and it’s not worth getting upset about, no matter how they were elected or who wins the trophy. It’s a little annoying that, with 180 minutes to fill (and even the most ardent TGA fan would probably concede the show was too long), various awards were pressed in the pre-show segment.
But like I said, it’s not about rewards. Keighley is sparring with the biggest names in an attempt to get some juicy reveals that we gamers love so much – the kind of announcements you’d expect from a rig holder conference type event. Although nominally an awards show, for many gamers it’s become something of a “Winter E3” – especially with “Summer Game Fest” now established as an affiliated, annual counterpoint. Geoff Keighley has found himself in the position of crossing his fingers and hoping that the big companies deliver a meaty reveal as they roll in to pick up a gong and whip their existing wares.
Nintendo fans who watched the whole show probably drew the shortest straw of them all. After looking back and analyzing the pattern of Zelda and Smash Bros. reveals, I was personally convinced that Nintendo would bring Something at the Game Awards. Metroid Prime 4? No chance. Breath of the Wild 2? A very long shot, certainly, but not totally impossible. Bayonet 3? Probably not, but don’t worry, we hear it’s progressing well.
If, after all, The Game Awards is just a glorified set of advertisements for major video game companies, why not showcase an upcoming game or two? There is a global audience there for advertising. Surely Nintendo would throw Keighley a bone?
I actually thought we’d see a Kirby update and the Forgotten Land trailer with some new gameplay, maybe, or the reveal of a new Hisian form monster from Pokémon Legends: Arceus, or something thing from the delayed Advance Wars 1 + 2: Re-Boot Camp to keep us going until 2022. Not a huge new announcement or bespoke CG trailer, but an exclusive little extra for anyone who had tuned in to this live-streamed event. directly around the world. If, after all, The Game Awards is just a glorified set of advertisements for major video game companies, why not showcase an upcoming game or two? There is a global audience there for advertising. Surely Nintendo would throw Keighley a bone?
No. Not a bean. Well, unless you’re counting on the President of Nintendo of America to personally accept the award for Best Action Adventure, primarily for plugging in Metroid Dread. For MercurySteam and the team behind this game, it’s obviously a big moment and Doug Bowser’s presence makes sense in an awards show capacity, but it felt odd when the expectations (and reality) of TGAs are so different. . Yes, Bowser was the bone Nintendo threw at Geoff this year.
In fact, with nothing else to show for it, its presence could be uncharitably interpreted as a cost-effective way to keep up appearances and avoid the appearance of hubris now that Nintendo is on a hot streak. With no first-party announcements, Switch-related announcements have been left to a small handful of third parties – Cuphead DLCs, Persona 4 Arena Ultimate, Rise of the Monster Hunter DLC and amiibo details. Perhaps the biggest Switch news is that Sonic Frontiers is coming to the console, which wasn’t guaranteed.
In fact, the complete lack of first-party announcements at TGA 2021 highlighted just how superfluous external events are for Nintendo these days. The importance of events like this and E3 is recognized for form, but Nintendo just doesn’t need it anymore. It’s less about having full control over messaging (although that’s invariably a factor), and more about the company not being in a rush to reveal anything if it’s not on their schedule. precise. Even with global audiences and all that Hollywood glitz, Nintendo felt it wasn’t worth showing up with first-party games or DLC of any kind.
Obviously, Nintendo isn’t obligated to show anything, but there is an expectation – in this case, an expectation that’s been building since 2014, and with two of the biggest game series as well. 2021’s no-show is a far cry from seven years ago, when Shigeru Miyamoto and Eiji Aonuma sat down for an awesome chinwag with Breath of the Wild gameplay on TV. Of course, the Wii U was going down the drain at the time, so the company was in a very different position; the opportunity to advertise it, hey, Nintendo is still here and Zelda is coming! was not something to pass up.
It’s just surprising how much of a turnaround this year’s showing was from the support shown with previous years’ reveals. There was really nothing in 2021: no DLC costume for Mario Golf, no Ultimate Edition physical version for Smash Bros. Ultimate that groups together in all DLC — the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Ultimate Edition! — and no Ring Fit commercial with Pedro Pascal and Carl Weathers. For God’s sake, give us a meme if nothing else! No.
It looks like Sonic came out on top at this year’s TGAs. Sonic Frontiers filled the open world BOTW quota (even though it looks a bit more like ‘Sonic of the Colossus’ from the pictures), and the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 movie trailer looked pretty good – great, even. Yes, Sonic had a decent evening, although in truth he ran this particular race unopposed.
And TGA 2021 wasn’t all bad. A handful of smaller independent studios have garnered attention that they otherwise could never have hoped for. Notably, Game of the Year went to It Takes Two, a game that also won Best Family Game, leaving Nintendo looking like fools in a category it’s usually packed and bagged at the stadium. appointments. Maybe Microsoft and Sony fans felt better about the show and the three-hour investment it took to watch it all.
Anecdotally, it feels like more people than ever skipped watching this year’s TGAs, or – more accurately – skipped it and didn’t feel like they missed it. anything.
Say what you love about Keighley (and how he’s addressed the issues of rampant inequality and malpractice in the industry in the loosest way possible), but he’s got something of an impossible job with The Game Awards, even if it painted itself in this particular corner. In order to attract the biggest announcements, it’s forced to play ball when companies like Nintendo show up with nothing, all on the vague promise that next year there could be able be an out-of-the-box Zelda or Metroid teaser, as long as it fits on schedule.
Fair enough; as I say, no company is obligated to attend or show anything. They can do whatever they want, but that doesn’t make for a show that’s appealing to a viewer, even if you’re invested in the “Oscars of Games.” Anecdotally, it feels like more people than ever skipped watching this year’s TGAs, or – more accurately – skipped it and didn’t feel like they missed it. anything. That might not be a problem for Nintendo as it rides the wave of Switch success, though Geoff Keighley should definitely think long and hard about next year’s show.
So let’s go back to waiting for a Direct, then.