Earlier today, Nintendo announced they are forgoing the traditional E3 press conference this year in favour of a digital event again. While the presentation showed that it would be a fun time, the reality is it’s a risky move for the Japanese console manufacturer. That isn’t to say it’s bad or good. It’s just different, and it could backfire.
E3 is the big show. Not just for gamers, but for investors, publishers and developers too. A strong showing at the expo could generate enough hype from the industry to set things right for Nintendo. They need it. In January, the company announced it’s third consecutive annual loss. This isn’t good for a business that relies only on gaming, and has content that’s exclusive to one home console and one handheld. There is a genuine buzz that comes with E3 announcements, and a lot of it comes from the crowd reaction. Last year, Sony got gamers hyped to get their hands on the PlayStation 4 while the Xbox One floundered. They caught people’s attention with a good stream of content while putting down Microsoft’s original plans for the Xbox One. It was effective the crowd got so excited, that you could feel it through your screen. If Nintendo ditches a crowd, that could kill some of the electricity that comes with presenting the next instalment of a historic franchise. But a lack of enthusiasm from an audience can be just as damaging.
That’s why a digital event could work this time around. If Nintendo puts enough time into the Direct, they can make up for the lack of live appearance with good production value. Here, Nintendo can highlight what makes their games great in an entertaining and natural way. They also won’t have the time restrictions their competition has. So in theory, Nintendo could show more games than Sony or Microsoft and they'll have more time to show them. That probably won’t happen because the other two companies have better working relationships with the bigger publishers.
That’s another reason to be concerned. There is a likely scenario where Nintendo doesn’t have enough content to show, kind of like last year, and the year before that when we got the Nintendo Land fireworks show. To make this work, Nintendo needs a strong line up this year. Their big titles from last event were Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, and Bayonetta 2. That won’t do. Wii U sales showed that isn’t enough.This show feels like it will rely heavily on Smash Bros. which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the company needs more than that to keep people watching. The Super Smash Bros. Invitational is a good way to generate excitement, but there needs to be more. There needs to be some commitment from third party developers mixed with original Nintendo titles. If one of those areas are lacking, this decision will make sense. It would be worse if Nintendo rented out a space and did not have much to show.
Whichever way this goes, it’s an interesting move by Nintendo. It might not be the first time the company has done this, but it is indicative of how they want to interact with their fans. Ditching the grand stage will be cost effective, with less time restraints, but it lacks the emotion shown from an actual audience. Nintendo is going to need to kick down the door with guns blazing to make this work, but the risk might be worth the reward. The only way to see how it will play out is on June 10, at 12:00 noon when Nintendo goes on air.