By Scott Bowers
Last month, Nintendo surprised everyone with the news that they would not hold one of the traditional giant press conferences at E3. For many years the game industry’s major players have staged their own events, usually just before the show opens, to gloat about sales figures and to hype their upcoming products.
While Sony unwraps more details about Playstation 4 and Microsoft showcases the new Xbox, Nintendo is struggling against difficult and evolving market conditions. More and more, mobile devices threaten the traditional gaming market. On top of that, Nintendo’s Wii U was met with a lackluster reception when it launched in November and hasn’t gained much traction since then.
By not holding a press conference is Nintendo admitting that it won’t hold its own this year? Or will it instead earn attention in a more efficient manner, without all the glitz, glamor and money companies put into the normal E3 press event?
Last month, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata explained the new strategy. “As a brand new challenge, we are working to establish a new presentation style for E3,” he said. Its presence will be “specifically focused on our software lineup for the U.S. market.”
In previous years, Nintendo’s presentations have tended to be targeted to an international audience. Even though the show is held in Los Angeles, Nintendo had Japanese developers such as Mario-creator Shigeru Miyamoto take the stage to talk about upcoming games in Japanese. Though a translator was provided, the focus was hardly on the U.S. Iwata says Nintendo will now focus on each market individually by using a series of Nintendo Directs – a news video from the company’s headquarters — designed for specific regions.
One of the major reasons that Nintendo chose to not take the stage is to avoid the massive war that Sony and Microsoft will be waging with their respective console releases. Nintendo’s hardware is already available, so this year’s focus will be on software. While that’s obviously an integral part of the gaming industry, let’s face it: New hardware announcements will rule the headlines from the show. Instead of battling for attention, Nintendo’s decided to remove itself from this particular battlefield and direct its message to the people interested in titles and tools.
When it comes to franchise software titles, Nintendo has no equal. Its party games are enough reason for many gamers to buy one of its consoles in the first place. Because of this, Nintendo will emphasize hands-on time with media outlets as much as possible during the show in the hopes of getting journalists excited so, it hopes, they’ll share that excitement with their readers.
It’s hard to say whether Nintendo’s decision to pass on a dazzling press conference will be the right move. Smaller, more intimate meetings with media outlets and bloggers, along with more educative Nintendo Direct videos, sounds like great ideas. But those ideas may only impact gamers who are already Nintendo fans. By skipping the bigger, more general presentation, it may be missing a chance to win over the rest of the gaming market.
At the same time, it’s rumored that Nintendo will bring a slew of its leading in franchises to the Wii U this year, including new Zelda and Super Mario games. Those two titles alone could be enough to move Wii U consoles, so a software-focused E3 may be the perfect move for Nintendo after all.
Scott Bowers is an avid gamer, blogger and Senior Service Desk Technician at Dice.