The competition has officially begun for the Nintendo World Championships 2015 — after a 25 year hiatus. The eSports event kicked off May 30 at eight Best Buy locations around the country with qualifying events that will weed out the best from the best for the big event at E3 on June 14 at the Nokia Theater at LA Live in Los Angeles.

The qualifying competition featured the Championship mode of the Ultimate NEX Remix for Nintendo 3DS. In this mode, players competed across three score-based challenges in Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3 and Dr. Mario. The top scorer from each of the eight regional competitions will move on to the final event in Los Angeles, which will be a multi-round competition with a variety of Nintendo games. An additional eight competitors selected by Nintendo will also compete in the Nintendo World Championships 2015.

Best Buy has also partnered with Nintendo to deliver a piece of its E3 experience to consumers nationwide, with two hands-on sampling days of the upcoming Mario Maker Wii U at select stores. The events will take place 4-9 p.m. local time on Wednesday, June 17, and noon-5 p.m. local time on Saturday, June 20. Attendees will receive a sweet 30th anniversary Super Mario Bros. pin while supplies last. Chris Koller, vice president of gaming at Best Buy, talks about this unique partnership in this exclusive interview.

How did Best Buy get involved in the Nintendo World Championship?

This is the third year in a row that Best Buy and Nintendo have partnered on a major event around the E3 timeframe. Last year we hosted “Smash-Fest” at our stores and the turnout was tremendous. So when Nintendo came to us with the idea of Best Buy stores hosting the qualifying rounds of the Nintendo World Championships, we were more than game for it.

What opportunity do you see for eSports competitions like this in extending the Best Buy brand with gamers?

We’re always looking for ways to better connect with gamers and provide experiences showing that Best Buy is the place to go for gaming.

How did you choose the eight Best Buy locations for this competition?

We scattered the events across the country to ensure that as many people as possible could participate. As for the stores themselves, they are all important stores in their markets — locations that are perfect for hosting fantastic customer events like this one.

Retro gaming is also very popular today with indie games and big publishers. How do you see this World Championship tapping into that popularity?

Never underestimate nostalgia. We’re seeing great interest from gamers all around the country.

For fans who can’t attend live, what type of livestreaming of these early rounds will there be?

The Nintendo World Championships qualifiers held at the eight Best Buy stores is an in-store only event.

What role will Best Buy play in the Finals at E3 in terms of marketing or cross-promoting the brand?

It will be a thrill to see the regional winners — who came out of our stores — competing on the national stage.

Do you see this as a potential annual event?

Our gaming customers love these in-store events and we enjoy partnering with Nintendo to host them.