Sometimes on certain windy nights, if you listen hard enough and believe fervently enough, you can still hear the sounds of E3 2006 reverberating through the streets of downtown Los Angeles. One of the last great E3s of days gone by before the expo contracted into the airplane hanger years for a while, 2006 gave rise to Nintendo's big Wii debut and Sony's lackluster PlayStation 3 introduction. Nadia Oxford of USgamer was there, and her story about seeing the first Super Smash Bros. Brawl trailer reminded me of one of my own favorite E3 2006 stories.
Meanwhile in Nintendo territory, we saw the reveal for Super Mario Galaxy (charming and highly unique at the time of its reveal, and still one of the greatest 3D Mario games of all time), a playable version of Metroid Prime 3, and the incredibly crowd-pleasing trailer for Super Smash Bros Brawl. I still smile a bit at that Snake reveal at the very end: It set a standard for the surprise Smash character reveals that have evolved into tiny, potent packages of fan-crack. The Mega Man reveal for Smash Bros on the Wii U and 3DS at E3 2013 set a fire under a property that was nothing but cooling ashes at that point, and I don't think I'll ever be over the Cloud reveal.
I was also at that fateful E3 as part of the Advanced Media Network team, the crew that would later go on to become the now-defunct Kombo. AMN had drastically scaled back its 2006 presence at the expo from around fifty representatives in 2005 to a more manageable and hard-working twelve people. Nintendo was still holding live stage show press conferences back then, but the company also always saved a little something to show off later in the week. Super Mario Galaxy stole the press conference and the show floor, but it was the first look at Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii behind closed doors later in the day that really turned heads.
Allow me to remind you of the technology scene of the era. No YouTube. No Twitter. No Facebook. No iPhone or Android. Certainly no Twitch. WiFi was a rare and expensive commodity in public settings when it worked at all. Large files were still distributed by discs instead of cloud services or streaming video sites. I was still carrying around a digital camera strapped into a belt holster at the show that year and my primitive cell phone only made calls. AMN had sent two of our team to the closed door showcase and we all had to wait patiently to find out what was being announced in Nintendo's room. Finally, the boss got the call: Nintendo had shown off the new Smash title and had given out discs with the trailer on them. Whichever site could get that video online first and start the link spreading around the Internet through Digg and the like would win all of the gaming community traffic. Our guys had a disc in their possession, but no way to get it on the Internet from the convention center. So began the great Smash Bros. run of 2006.
Our guys at the convention center had the trailer disc and a laptop, but no Internet access. In the AMN hotel room we had Internet access, but no trailer. Running as fast as they could on foot from the convention center during the height of rush hour traffic in downtown Los Angeles, our guys raced through the streets and down sidewalks with an open laptop in their hands that copied the Smash trailer from the disc to the hard drive, then began converting and compressing it into a video format that could be posted to the AMN website. Meanwhile, two of our hotel team ran off to meet them halfway. The laptop was passed like a baton at a relay race over the two mile distance between the convention center and our crappy under-renovation hotel with the broken air conditioning, and by the time the team returned to the AMN room with the laptop, it was just finishing the file conversion. We queued up the upload to the website over the hotel's middling hardwired network connection and, while it was uploading, finally opened up the disc and watched the video.
The room went silent at first with anticipation, then laughed at the sight of poor Kirby failing to receive a noticeable graphical upgrade compared to Mario and Link, then came awe at realizing the scope of what Nintendo was promising with Brawl. Meta Knight was getting in on the action! Pit had been resurrected! Wario got the last cheap laugh and everyone exhaled as the title popped up and dropped out. Nothing could possiblly top that... until Solid Snake showed up in the coda and had everyone screaming in amazement. We typed up the absolute bare minimum article required to get the trailer out onto the website, then patted ourselves on the back at a job well done before watching the trailer two more times. This is what the E3 experience was all about: working hard for the chance to be there right in the center of the action with a group of friends that spoke the same unwritten language of gaming and community, then channeling that energy out for the benefit of everyone else who couldn't be there in person.
IGN got the video out there first and received the lion's share of the Internet traffic, by the way.