Nintendo announced yesterday that it will be skipping the usual big budget press conference for this year’s E3 and instead will be focusing on smaller events focused on the software lineup.
Normally, this would be considered a bad move for a major console manufacturer.
Let’s just take a quick look at the numbers to get a glimpse the financial terrain Nintendo is fielding. Since the Wii U’s sales have not met Nintendo’s forecast, and software attachment ratios (that is, the number of games sold with each console) haven’t done their job of enticing third party software support - Nintendo’s profit dropped from a projected 14 billion yen to just around 7 billion.
So maybe desperate times call for desperate measures.
Nintendo is in an odd position. The Wii U was released last fall and they will likely have no big announcements to compete against the onslaught of news that will be coming from the Sony and Microsoft camps. Even more so with the Wii U being the lesser of the new consoles, at least technically, it will once again have a hard time showing that it’s offering something that is more exciting than what the other, more sophisticated consoles will be showing.
That being said, Nintendo still has the majority of the mainstream consumer consensus when it comes to gaming. Most people who grew up in the 80s and 90s had or were exposed to the Nintendo brand. Even this last console generation with the Wii Nintendo solidified itself as the console for the casual gamer rather than a device for the hardcore. People care about what Nintendo does and even if it were to have an event outside the spectacle of E3 the media would still cover it and it would still get attention. If Apple has proved anything is that you do not need to be at the big conferences to garner the public eye and recognition.
This move also saves money which allows Nintendo to focus on its marketing. Without the massive expense that an E3 conference costs Nintendo can free up capital to spend more on development and on marketing the brand, that frankly needs to be promoted, it is not selling what it needs to and overall the general public is still not convinced it is a new console they need.
With Nintendo using Nintendo Direct to constantly keep the public and media apprised of its ideas and new products, the need for a dog and pony show at E3 has diminished. With each one of the Direct announcements they can target days where no other news is planed and capture the news for that day and target the message the way they want. It also eliminates the situation where Nintendo misses the mark and are considered the “losers of E3”. This has happened more and more lately, where Nintendo targets the conference for the general public and the attendees of E3 feel they are being talked down to or forgotten. This, of course, results in bad press and little good coverage as a whole from the huge E3 expenditure. It is often better to skip the playing the game if you know you are not going to hit a homerun, and this rings especially at E3 for Nintendo. Even if Nintendo have good product to show, if the conference goes badly, that’s what people will talk about. Most of the message Nintendo is trying to get out will be lost.
From this it is starting to be clear that E3 is becoming more and more irrelevant as more and more companies will opt to throw their own events to escape the media special that the conference has become. Although it can give light to some exciting new products it is also filled with a great deal of hype and spectacle that sometimes overshadows the core messages that many companies are trying to get out.
This is a smart move on the part of Nintendo and I’m excited to see what they have up their sleeve in the coming months.