Nintendo at E3: Is it a Big Deal?

Yesterday we learned that Nintendo’s offerings at E3 this year will be a little different from the formula we’ve come to know so well. Instead of one big press conference, the company is offering smaller showings with more focus. The announcement was surprising to some, but did it actually come from out of left field? Is this really a big deal?

Of course there’s some sort of sadness to be felt when something that’s almost tradition at this stage gets broken. E3 has always been about seeing what exciting new products Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony have to offer for the year, and we’ve all taken part in sometimes friendly, often times downright aggressive discussions about ‘who won E3’. We stay up late (at least here in Australia) and miss out on a lot of sleep over two days just to keep up with the information. It’s an exciting time for the industry, and it’s usually fun, but its gotten tired in this decade, and Nintendo making a move like this is something that we could definitely have seen coming.

Lately, Nintendo has been pushing their Nintendo Direct presentations. This year alone, we’ve been given a variety of Nintendo Directs (many of which are at more convenient times for the Australian audience) with content ranging from general company announcements to console specific discussion or even just dedicated entirely to one franchise. The sixth generation of Pokemon games were announced via this model of communication. There’s a lot more focus to the presentations, and it means the consumer doesn’t have to sit through it if the content doesn’t interest them.

This is no longer a model exclusive to Nintendo, though. Back in February Sony announced the Playstation 4 in its own press conference streamed online to the world, and in late May Microsoft will do the same for their next Xbox. What this means is that, even in the regularly formatted conferences Sony and Microsoft will give at this year’s E3, the hype won’t be around the announcement of new consoles.

In fact, the big question now is: what will happen at E3? Both Microsoft and Sony will likely have more information about their new consoles, but the anticipation will be gone, already used up. Nintendo have already announced some major titles including Pokemon and Zelda for the 3DS. Some of the biggest draws for E3 simply won’t be there.

For years, E3 has dominated by being the lead event that gamers and journalists flock to to hear and see all the year’s most important developments in the industry. One event dictated much of how the year in gaming would be. Now, we’re seeing that information spread out over the year, shared by companies when it is most convenient for them, and presented as their own special events. There’s room to focus on something.

In the past at E3 we’ve had multiple talking points, a lot of different things from all three major players to discuss. Last year it was the incoming launch of the Wii U, the wealth of game announcements from Sony, and the way Microsoft flailed through its own conference and desperately tried to tell us the Kinect was still relevant. That’s certainly simplifying things, and that last comment might be strangely filled with personal contempt, but there’s no denying that E3 brings us a lot of new information and not a lot of time to process it before something else is trotted out in front of us. I think, for example, announcing Pokemon X & Y through Nintendo Direct was a smarter move for Nintendo, because the information wasn’t lost in a sea of other game announcements. We were allowed to celebrate the announcement by itself.

I look forward to more Nintendo Directs. And I look forward to seeing Microsoft announce their next console. And I really look forward to seeing how E3 will play out this year, both with Nintendo changing things up, and with Microsoft and Sony already having announced their biggest news of the year.

Nintendo changing up the way they present at E3 shouldn’t be that big of a deal. It’s merely another part of the way the industry is changing.

3 comments

  1. I think the big-reveal focus is destined to shift from big expos like E3, PAX, et all now that companies have worked out that they can create their own hype. They’re in control of how, when and where their information is presented to the public, and there are enough gaming news outlets out there that everything will be reported on in painstaking detail.

    The reason E3 used to be such a big deal is because it was the only forum where huge announcements were made and guaranteed to get the most coverage. But that’s not how things work anymore.

    There will always be a place for expos like E3 though, because developers will always want to let people actually play demos of their upcoming games in a controlled environment. But I don’t think they’re going to be as important going forward as they have been in the past.

  2. Personally, I never watch live E3 conferences; I just read/watch wrap-ups. So this won’t effect me.

    I don’t think it’s a big deal. As said, this way, game won’t get lost in a sea of other announcements, and with the focus on smaller and more frequent media announcements, Nintendo can pick and choose their timing to make a bigger impact.

    It might be bad if it causes further fragmentation between Nintendo and the rest, since Ninty are, or are at least perceived to be lacking in 3rd party interest. Obviously, the visual absence of Nintendo alongside the rest will have a cultural effect.

  3. One thing that wasn’t touched on is that the E3 press conferences have direct feeds to all major news outlets, and that kind of coverage is a massive opportunity cost when you decide not to have one; at a time when the Wii U is not performing strongly, when Nintendo really should be shouting from the rooftops about their system, with its upcoming games, instead of these small, largely overlooked mini-announcements that Nintendo does themselves.
    This could be a massive misstep. In fact, I believe it *is* a massive misstep. E3 still carries a lot of weight with the news outlets that *general public* care about, not just us. The attempt should be to widen focus, not narrow it.
    Nintendo is still synonymous with gaming with the average consumer, and to have them not be in the public consciousness during arguably the most important marketing event in gaming, is ominous.

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