Yesterday my fiancee Nicole and I set out to experience The Nintendo Experience Wii U demo at Best Buy and while we did get to play Super Mario 3D World in the end, the organizational aspects of the event need some refinement. This is Nintendo's first stab at bringing E3 demos to the masses so there are surely some issues to be expected, I think that if the company tries this again in the future, there are a few ways to improve the experience.
Here is the core setup of the event. People line up in the video game section of a participating Best Buy and an employee signs them up for their choice of Super Mario 3D World, Mario Kart 8, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, or The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD. 3D World players are taken in up to groups of four, Kart players in up to groups of two, and Wind Waker one at a time (we did not hear of anyone in our section of the line looking to play Tropical Freeze, but has to be two people at a time at most). 3D World players can choose from one of five levels to play, Kart players run two races, and the Wind Waker demo lasts ten minutes. The bottleneck here is that there was only one Wii U demo station in use. One person can take up ten minutes playing Wind Waker, and we overhead staff discussing that five people were waiting to play the Zelda demo in the front part of a line loaded with approximately two-hundred people that snaked all the way through the game department. That's nearly one hour of the four-hour event held up by five people. Long demos make sense at E3 itself where there can be multiple demo stations running a variety of games, but really doesn't work in a place like Best Buy. Next time around, demos needs to be short and sweet. The more players that can get on one at once, the better. The key is to keep the line moving.
We arrived early and stood in line for two hours. Waiting in line is part of the quintessential E3 experience, so that's one aspect of the show that Best Buy nailed without question (I'm spoiled; I miss the days when I could hold up my press badge, pull rank, and jump the line). The most popular demo requested based on our unofficial observation was Mario Kart 8, but we were determined to play Super Mario 3D World and patiently waited our turn and chatted with people in line around us about the Wii U, Sony's PlayStation 4 press conference, Microsoft's Xbox One troubles, and other announcements of the week. Nintendo 3DS StreetPassing ran wild. We were teamed up with two other people for the demo, one of whom took control of the GamePad and became the lead player. As you'll recall from past multiplayer Super Mario games from recent years, the lead player essentially controls the camera; if you're left behind, you're swept up into a safety bubble and dragged ahead. Unfortunately for us, our lead player was a complete jerkass who was intent on speed running the level and leaving the rest of us behind in bubbles as often as possible while shouting profanity and crude comments about Princess Peach. We were essentially dragged through World 4-2 at a breakneck pace without actively playing much of anything. You'd think after standing in line for so long, people would want to relish the few minutes spent with the demo and not race through it like it's homework. At the risk of slowing down the line slightly, perhaps the lead player position should be handled by a Nintendo or Best Buy representative who can move through the level at a reasonable pace so that the other players have an opportunity to take in the full extent of the demo.
Luigi loot was handed out to those who lined up very early. We saw foam Luigi hats and commemorative Year of Luigi coins. We were given neat Mario Kart flags on our way out of the demo area as well as a small guidebook promoting the Wii U which explained what the Wii U does that the original Wii does not, highlights the Wii U's features, lists currently available games, and includes other marketing material. Best Buy also offered a deal in which if you bought a deluxe Wii U and preordered one of the four games from the demo, you'd receive a $25 gift card. I'm glad that there was a promotion available, but there are better deals to be had elsewhere.
In the end, I'm glad we went to The Nintendo Experience and spent a few short minutes with Super Mario 3D World. For a first try, the event was done as well as to be expected, but there's room for improvement. Nintendo and Best Buy can't control the conduct of the people in line (we heard several people in their early twenties hassling the staff to play the non-existent 4chan-meme-related Battletoads demo), but they can structure the event to keep the line moving and increase the likelihood that the demo experience is worthwhile. We'd go again if the two companies teamed up for a future event, but we would arrive much earlier next time (and not just to score one of those neat Luigi hats).