By now, the news of Nintendo’s recent E3 tactical decision has been circulated and discussed by a lot of gamers and it’s interesting to see the varying opinions on the company’s bold move. And to be honest, my initial response for this was slightly more on the favorable side. However, as I sat on it longer and longer, I began to see some major issues with Nintendo’s new approach to the big conference.
It’s A Good Idea… IN THEORY
With each passing year, E3 becomes more and more polarizing among the gamer community. Some still see it as one of the best ways for companies to introduce us to new products and showcase the latest tech for the industry. While more and more people each year see it as an all-flash-no-substance dog and pony show that focuses more on the pomp and circumstance and eye-catching presentation and less and less on the actual content.
That’s the first place where people went to defend Nintendo’s decision. With Nintendo forgoing the usual rhetoric-spewing and pretty-lights displays of the presentation-centric conference, instead choosing to focus on smaller, more precise software presentations, it’s not surprising people who are tired of the commercial nature of E3 would defend the decision.
And of course, there is the added pressure Nintendo has with trying to keep up with Sony and Microsoft, both of which will be heavily focused on their recently announced (or soon to be announced) next generation consoles. Nintendo would have to go big or go home when fighting against what is sure to be a very heated game of one-up between Sony and Microsoft. Choosing to escape the battle entirely and retreat to a more comfortable, tactical position is easier than simply getting torn apart by people comparing them to the potentially explosive Sony and Microsoft conferences.
So yes, it’s easy to see why people would back this decision by Nintendo. And at first, it made plenty of sense to me. However…
Where It Goes Wrong
Let’s face it: The Wii U is struggling. Even with Nintendo’s recently reporting a much more positive financial position, the Wii U is still not selling well, and it’s slowly sinking into the abyss of “out of sight, out of mind” consumer mentality. And that’s the exact mentality that is going to work against Nintendo’s E3 decision.
When Nintendo showcases their games at E3, Nintendo fans are going to go out of their way to check it out and get excited. They’ll have absolutely no problem getting their core market the information they desire, regardless of how they do it. But that’s the problem: they’ll get it to their core market, and their core market alone.
Even if most hardcore gamers may spend hours a day during E3 online looking at articles from all corners of the conference, that’s still only a small portion of the market that Nintendo needs to tap into. The Wii’s success was just about entirely on the casual market appeal. And that crowd simply won’t be paying attention at all. And with a lot of consumers already having a hard time understanding the Wii U as-is, Nintendo needs to do everything in their power to get it as much attention as possible.
Not to mention the other gamers who have no interesting in the console right now. Those gamers are far less inclined to dig through Nintendo-only articles on smaller presentations than they are to check out the big presentations and summary articles about the bigger presentations.
Cutting chances that those markets, the ones that don’t already have Wii U’s or don’t have much interest in the console right now, won’t be seeing your presentations doesn’t help sales one bit. In fact, it will simply keep the Wii U steadily floating at it’s current pace, which in the long run may harm the system more than help it.
Nintendo is picking the wrong time to take a risky, smaller-market focus on their presentations. This is a time when they need to go all-out on getting the Wii U and it’s future into the minds of as many people as possible. Nintendo may very well be willing to give up the bigger, broader audience in order to focus entirely on their smaller, core market… but that’s where another problem comes up.
Are other developers?
This Sounds Familiar
“Nintendo doesn’t have enough Third-Party support”
How many times can we repeat this saying until Nintendo realizes it’s painfully true? One of the Wii U’s biggest issues right now is that it isn’t pulling in many third-party exclusives or new IPs. It may be getting years-old ports, but it’s simply not getting many other games. And while Nintendo fans may be ok with only a handful of Nintendo first-party games being released a year, a lot of gamers simply won’t give Nintendo MORE money for a console that only runs a few games.
The big problem with Nintendo’s move is that it doesn’t give other developers much reason to get behind the console. If the Wii U is going to sink down into a niche-market position, third party developers are going to be far less inclined to work with Nintendo on creating new games and experiences. Simply because, at the end of the day, they also want to get their games into the hands of as many gamers as they can. And yes: they want to make as much money on their investments as they can.
With Sony’s recent focus on developer relations, and the positive reception by many in the industry, Nintendo has to do whatever they can to keep other publishers and developers on their side. Making it less likely that their games will be seen by the most people is going to do nothing but scare away even more developers, and in the long term this is going to take a large chunk of content away from the Wii U.
Not to mention the damage this could do to sales of games on Wii U that are across all platforms. One of the biggest parts of E3 is seeing which non-exclusives get shown at which big presentation. Last year, we saw Assassin’s Creed 3 shown at multiple presentations, to showcase the game on multiple consoles. It was a good decision by Ubisoft and no doubt helped get the game more attention on all the consoles. And there is no doubt that this concept will continue to show itself each year.
But now the Wii U will be losing that part of the presentation. Non-exclusive games will be showcased on Sony and Microsoft consoles, but we’ll doubtfully see nearly as much focus on the Wii U end of things. And this may very well take away from sales of those games on the Wii U, which will in turn make it harder for publishers to spend the extra money to bring those games over to the Wii U as well.
All in all, this could only add to Nintendo’s shaky relationship with third-party developers at a time when they desperately need all the support and content they can get.
And Now We Wait
Of course, this is all speculation at this point. We don’t know much about the nature of Nintendo’s plans for E3, and without further detail, it’s hard to say how well it will or will not work. But these are definite issues that need to be addressed at a crucial time in the Wii U’s life cycle. Nintendo has to be careful with what decisions they make, even if the intention is good, because it may end up losing them more than it gains.
But, until E3 rolls around in less than two months, we’re simply going to have to wait and hope that Nintendo’s decision doesn’t end up alienating gamers and other consumers even more.