Over the weekend my colleague John Kinsley wrote an analysis on why he believes Nintendo bowing out of E3 is the worst thing the company could have done this year. While I agree that it was a surprising move, I don’t share his opinion on Nintendo’s decision. With the May 21st unveiling of Microsoft’s next Xbox, the gaming industry at large will be focused on what Microsoft and Sony will be bringing to E3. It’s akin to two linemen going head to head while Nintendo’s in the background, kicking field goals.
Changing Focus on America
For the first time since the early 80s, Nintendo is once again focusing on the American market. Previous E3 presentations were done with Satoru Iwata and Shigeru Miyamoto, as well as other Japanese developers taking the stage to talk about their upcoming games in Japanese. A translator was provided for American viewers of course, but the intention was to broadcast the Nintendo E3 press conference in Japan for Japanese viewers. Now, Nintendo will focus purely on each market individually, by addressing them through a series of Nintendo Directs designed for their specific region.
Nintendo realizes that in order to succeed, the Wii U must be successful in America. At the time of writing, only 3.45 million units have been sold since the November launch, which was rather strong. To counter the stalled sales, Nintendo recently announced a change-up in their day to day operations. Satoru Iwata is now the CEO of Nintendo of America, giving him what Nintendo calls the ability to streamline its international business.
Over the next few months, we’re likely to see advertisement for the Wii U step up tremendously. We’ve already seen three new advertisements showing families playing the Wii U, as well as several promotional materials at trade shows like PAX East explaining the difference between the Wii and the Wii U. Expect to see the same at E3.
Staying out of Microsoft and Sony’s Fight
Nintendo chose not to take the stage this year to avoid being sandwiched between Microsoft and Sony and their respective console releases. Inevitably after each of the big three give their press conferences, journalists around the world take to the Internet and write a “Who won E3?” article for their viewers. With Nintendo’s hardware already available, their focus on games is going to seem a lot less grand to the general gamer. Therefore, they’ve removed themselves from that position entirely and can focus on delivering information on games to those who want it.
Last year at E3, I waited in line for up to an hour to play some of the newest Wii U games. For the entire three days that the show floor was open, Nintendo’s booth was packed to the brim with people wanting to play the new games. Microsoft and Sony’s booths were full as well, but walking through the showfloor you could always catch a lull there. In fact, the guys working the PlayStation Allstars: Battle Royale booth actually begged me and my colleague to play on the second day, as there was no one within the trailer.
Nintendo knows that it’s a force to be reckoned with when it comes to software and the Wii U is certainly capable of going head to head during the next generation. With rumors like always online connectivity required for the Xbox and the PlayStation 4 allowing a limited use of used disks, Nintendo is standing up and saying, “We’re giving you games. We’re not putting any limitations on those games. Come play with us.” That’s a good thing.
Better Coverage for Journalists and You
While the Nintendo booth will still be available at this year’s E3, Nintendo is taking the time to set up press meetings with outlets in order to provide exclusive hands-on coverage with what’s happening this year. That means journalists will be able to bring you news that’s focused on the content they’re previewing. You’ll get the same hands-on treatment that journalists get, without having to listen to the massive muffle that is the E3 show floor. In short, Nintendo is ensuring journalists can provide you with custom-tailored content about the games you want to see.
Overall, some may lament the loss of the E3 conference for Nintendo, but the reality of the situation is that it just wasn’t feasible this year. Both Microsoft and Sony will be at each other’s throats from the moment the doors open and Nintendo just wants you to play their games. I think I know where I’m headed first.