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Why Nintendo Won E3 2014, Even Though No One Wins E3

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As our possibly slightly over-wrought splash this week should have made clear, I don't really think anyone 'wins' E3.

That's not to say the world's biggest video games show is anything less than ruthlessly competitive -- but it's not a zero-sum, well, game. The more good titles there are, the better. The the more hype E3 generates, the longer we can luxuriate in its warm glow like a big, creamy, pre-rendered bath. (I like baths.)

And when it comes to games I'm essentially just greedy. I want more, whatever it is. I want to gaze to the distance of Holiday Season 2015, or Q2 2017, or whatever decade a consumer Oculus Rift chooses to arrive, and while away my remaining days on this Earth dreaming of a brighter, higher-definition version of FIFA, and preferably something even more interesting I didn't expect too. I want more good games, please. Preferably now. That's it.

But with all that said, I think if anyone won... well, it was clearly Nintendo.

Why? Well let's just agree that it's pointless to go into this with any kind of objective analysis. I can't take the entire show game-by-game and come up with a score out of five for the big companies involved. All three hardware makers had some great games, some surprising games, and a few stinkers. None of those games are out yet, and I haven't played any of them. Let's wait and see before we start dishing out review stars.

But on an emotional level? On a gut-check, vision of gaming, which world do you want to live in level? Let's compare:

Xbox: "Futuristic guns… Cars… Cars… Shooting Monsters… Killing French Soldiers… Dragons… Madcap guns… Madcap zombies… Dancing… Admittedly cool-looking fun RPG… Halo… Halo… Halo… Halo… Halo… Apocalypse New York… Dragons"

PS4: "Gruff man… Victorian guns.. Guns and axes… Platformer… Island guns… Magic guns… Zombies… Remastered zombies… Cops 'n' robbers… Platformer.. Tetris.. Cars"

Nintendo: "Paintball squid firing paint like Call of Duty meets Nickleodeon.. fighting toads and plumbers and elves.. a clay pink thing floating about on a touch screen… a weird elf shooting laser arrows.. a little Toadstool hunting for treasure.. some kind of fighting game.. money-making toys… a draw your own adventure Mario game.. dinosaur thing made of wool for some reason swallowing wool for some reason.. "

And this was how Nintendo presented its announcement:

You don't have to be an 8-year-old or a rabid nostalgist to see the difference. Nintendo's strategy of making bright, family games in a market of death and destruction might not be winning it market share -- at least not in the living room. But it's different, in a fundamental, core-of-the-company way. It's the only one of the big three that is still putting Play, in the truest, lightest sense of that word, at the heart of its strategy, products and message. It's ridiculous, genuinely batty, and it's impossible not to love.

Microsoft and Sony are asking you to fight -- to compete, demolish and crush your opponents, and your friends hopes and dreams by owning the best, most powerful and most aggressive hardware in the world.

Nintendo is asking you to make a dinosaur made of wool fly around with his tongue.

That's not to say that I don't want to play GTA 5 in HD, or shoot bad guys in the new Call of Duty, score a touchdown in Madden 15 or play all of the genuinely cool looking indie titles coming on both next-gen platforms.

It's also not to say that Nintendo doesn't make mistakes, release bad or incomplete or poorly thought out games, or need to rapidly reassess its hardware strategy, if not at this E3 than in a few years time. Or -- in the case of the Wii U -- that it couldn't do with at least a couple of those above third-party titles on its own system.

But it was also clear during Nintendo's E3 announcement that when it comes to a vision for what games are, should be and will look like in a year or two years (in the case of Zelda for Wii U, probably, alas), the Japanese joker is the only one of the three that has its head really above the clouds, gazing at the stars and wondering what they'd look like if they were made of yarn or something.

Anyway, back to reality. The line-up of games for Nintendo isn't bad, but could be better. Smash Bros and Bayonetta 2 look great. The new Zelda appears to be dramatically gorgeous, if a bit ethereal at this early stage. Some of the platformers looked a big generic, but Splatoon could be a brilliant reworking of the stale shooter genre, if it's given a chance. Too many of the games aren't out for too long. The Wii U might not last that long.

On the other side, Microsoft and Sony also had some killer titles -- most notably the glut of Halo on the way to the Xbox One, and Uncharted, Grim Fandango and LittleBigPlanet 3 will all be must-plays on PS4. They have momentum, big ideas, money and the allegiance of the hardcore.

If I can, I'll play them all. And I'll love many of them equally. But when I look back to E3 2014, and how each of those companies sees games, and how they want me to play them, there's only one winner. Except, of course, there isn't.

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