What a difference a year makes.
Last May, Nintendo drew the ire of some fans by inserting ads and claiming revenue on Let’s Play videos, a YouTube genre where gamers share and comment on their gameplay, often with entertaining results. With other companies taking a laissez-faire approach — Let’s Plays are generally believed to be free native-esque advertising so long as the commentary is positive — critics called the Japanese gaming company backward for being different, and greedy for taking ad revenue away from the video makers.
Although Nintendo seems to have quietly backed off of inserting itself into videos (a company spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on this article), the narrative stuck.
It probably didn’t help that just a month after the supposed YouTube resolution, Nintendo tried to prevent a videogame tournament from streaming video of its popular fighting game Super Smash Bros. Melee. As recently as two months ago, Major League Gaming was calling the Smash Bros. publisher “difficult” and unwilling to promote online-streaming tournaments around its own game.
Today, though, 2013’s battles seem a distant memory as Nintendo issued a one-two-three punch: Letting a group of popular YouTubers “leak” its E3 plans, which will include supposedly unscripted live-streams and (hey, what was that pink oinking thing that just flew past the window?) an official Super Smash Bros. tournament.
Pre-E3 hype often amounts to a lot of “who the hell cares?” but this is a small indication that Nintendo may be evolving its approach to the Web. As Ben Kuchera at Polygon writes, these are “conservative attempts” at Internet relevancy that probably won’t do much on their own. But they’re something.
The next question is whether Nintendo will sacrifice its control over the message online — for the second year running at E3 2014, it will broadcast one of its neatly assembled “Nintendo Direct” game trailer packages in lieu of hosting a press conference. If it chooses to follow in its competitors’ footsteps (which is never a safe bet), the next step may be to actively promote videos about its games that it doesn’t produce.
The E3 “leak” video released by comedy group Mega64 stars Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime and is full of in-jokes that will probably make zero sense to you. Here it is anyway!