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Is Nintendo admitting it can’t hang with the competition?

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Sometimes perception is reality. Nintendo has revealed that it won’t be holding its traditional E3 press conference just before the official opening of the gaming industry’s biggest trade show this June, and while I imagine there are logical reasons for doing so, the perception, at least for many, is that Nintendo has taken its ball and gone home.

Heck, the organizers of E3 have already had to jump in and confirm via Twitter that Nintendo is still actually going to be at the show. The situation is sure to become clearer as E3 draws closer, but the fact that Nintendo’s participation needs to be reaffirmed isn’t a good thing for the Big N.

Admittedly, Nintendo will probably save some cash by dumping its press conference--although it’s still gonna splurge on renting out the Nokia Theater to show its wares to retailers and other business partners. Fans, too, will still get to keep up with what will likely be an impressive showing of Nintendo’s E3 games via web streams as they have in previous years, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily what’s most important. While Microsoft and Sony are undoubtedly preparing monster presentations to tout the Xbox 720 and PS4, Nintendo seems to be waving a white flag and saying that it can’t compete.

It's going to be tough for Nintendo to grab the biggest headlines without shiny new hardware to unveil, but in the past Nintendo has often come out of E3 with the most exciting presentations thanks to great software. Now it won’t even be able to do that. As anyone who attended the poorly received, scaled-down 2007 E3 in Santa Monica can tell you, E3 is better when it’s bigger and louder--yet Nintendo is pulling back at a time when it needs to make a lot of noise if it doesn't want to be overlooked completely.

For another opinion, check out Radar Reacts, above.

Nintendo looking like it can’t hold its own against the other hardware manufacturers is only part of the problem. In the past, some of Nintendo’s most jaw-dropping moments came from its E3 presentation--not only from the games themselves, but from the reaction of the live audience. Sure, E3 is supposed to be a meeting of industry professionals, but Nintendo’s E3 press conference, in reality, was a gathering of some of its most hardcore fans, held captive and eagerly awaiting the chance to go bananas at the next huge announcement. Twilight Princess reveal, anyone? That sheer enthusiasm is something that’s hard to put a price on. However Nintendo chooses to debut its new products, it’s unlikely to have the same kind of impact without a live crowd.

Unfortunately, Nintendo ditching the traditional E3 conference feels like an ill-advised gamble. According to Nintendo’s senior director of corporate communications Charles Scibetta, “We are continuing to consider exciting new ways to bring the news of our games and information directly to the players at home during the E3 timeframe.” Unless that’s just a smokescreen, it sounds like Nintendo has cancelled its conference without fully knowing how it’s going to get its news out. A Nintendo Direct-style webcast prior to their small-scale hands-on media event on June 11 is the obvious answer, but it’s baffling that such a thing hasn’t already been set in stone. And if that's it, there's no reason to hide it--the lack of solid answers confuses things the most.

Only time will tell if this decision is a smart one, but Nintendo was already facing an uphill battle attempting to prove to the average gamer that it’s on the same level as Sony and Microsoft, and the decision to reduce its presence on gaming’s biggest stage isn’t likely to help. Hopefully Nintendo will solidify its plans and come up with something that really makes a splash during the show (I’m dreaming of limited-time downloadable eShop versions of its E3 demos, but I’m sure not holding my breath), because if Nintendo wants to be seen as a serious contender, it’s going to have to do something to be perceived that way.

You know that kid at parties who talks too much? Drink in hand, way too enthusiastic, ponderously well-educated in topics no one in their right mind should know about? Loud? Well, that kid’s occasionally us. GR Editorials is a semi-regular feature where we share our informed insights on the news at hand. Sharp, funny, and finger-on-the-pulse, it’s the information you need to know even when you don’t know you need it.

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42 comments

  • deiradinn - April 29, 2013 3:11 p.m.

    Nintendo has ruled handheld and console sales the last 7/10 years. Completely dominated this generation. People act like they've been struggling. The Wii U might not be selling fast or the 3DS but anyone giving up on Nintendo is stupid.
  • Fireninjastar - April 29, 2013 7:08 a.m.

    I like this approach. I don't think Nintendo wants to not show up because they think they're inferior, i think they don't want to show up because they don't want to be in such a stupid situation. I've seen panels and booths for games alone in conventions that are either awkward or just plain unecessary. Microsoft is probably going to use cheerleaders, strobe lights, a barabque, a fireworks show, and a whole parade just for announcing a new Halo.
  • eaa1300 - April 29, 2013 10 a.m.

    Yea i totally agree, I think Nintendo is trying to distinguish itself further from the rest of the crowd by putting some space between them, rather than saying we feel we even have to compete with you. There's a few articles that show the lineage of the wii and Nintendo games and how they captured certain markets. It's on www.newlyreleasedgames.com you should check it out.
  • Fireninjastar - April 29, 2013 11:28 a.m.

    *grabs the url* thanks.
  • Sjoeki - April 28, 2013 12:18 p.m.

    I think Nintendo is just going it's own way, they didn't have a press conference at gamescom last year if I remember correctly, and that was just before the WiiU launched. And if I remember correctly they also don't do that much at the TGS, they just do their own thing. When you show your own things at your own time without your competition also fighting for attention your stuff gets a lot more publicity. I think that also explains why we allready had the PS4 announcement and why Microsoft will show the new Xbox ahead of the E3, you can do it at the E3 but at that time there is so much new stuff announced that your product probably doesn't get the attention you want it to have.
  • Aquacure - April 28, 2013 6:06 a.m.

    Back in the 8 bit era, people cared about which console could get a licensed/arcade port even if the game shared only its name with the arcade. 16 bit era people wanted better looking arcade ports. By 32 bit the arcade was dying so a lot of what got people to buy consoles before, now shifted to original IPs and new style of visuals with polygons. Up to this point, Nintendo got by via its own casual flagship titles coupled with arcade ports. N64 saw its own flagship titles coupled with a number of throwaways. GC had flagship mixed with games that were on the other two systems and chances are, you had one of the other two or both. Wii has its casual flagship regrabbed from the past games and shovelware. Nintendo to me is like, DLC. You're paying full price for a game (again) where the story hasn't changed or because its so casual it's nonexistent, and for what? Updated graphics? A new power? I have a PS3 for my more serious stuff, DS and 3DS for on the go but I can't see myself buying a Wii or Wii U because of the redos and devvies making games just to capitalize on the whole waggle wand stuff.
  • yonderTheGreat - April 27, 2013 9:11 p.m.

    There are too danged many uninformed and mis-opinionated comments for me to actually respond. Nintendo is admitting they're not even acknowledging the competition.
  • talleyXIV - April 27, 2013 10:04 a.m.

    I think Nintendo will come back strong just like the 3DS did, it is purely a lack of games causing all this. Quite frankly I am really happy that they decided that saving money on an E3 conference was a better choice than having an embarrassing showing, and Nintendo Direct is awesome!
  • AtlanteanLancer - April 27, 2013 3:10 a.m.

    why spend that kind of money on a huge show when it's not gonna have the desired effect after all, the WiiU is profitable with just one game bought it's a low risk approach
  • gopikmin - April 26, 2013 3:01 p.m.

    Substituting their E3 press conference for a Nintendo Direct is much more efficient than keeping it their old ways. E3 press conferences are always hodgepodges trying to appeal towards investors, mainstream media and the gamers. Regardless of if you watch it or not, the game journalists will still report on it or you'll watch it like any other Press Conference. With a press event still going on demonstrating the new games and stuff, its almost exactly an E3 for everyone except Game Journalism who now don't have to sit through one more conference that spends a quarter of the time referencing sales and numbers.
  • BottleBank - April 26, 2013 12:27 p.m.

    Lots of Nintendo fans seem to be using the Wii's success as an example, but times have changed. The Wii captured the zeitgeist back in 2006, despite being under-powered compared to the competition. Non-gamers saw the revolutionary controllers and cheap price point and bought their own Wiis. The Wii U on the other hand, is an under-powered game console with a tablet controller which non-gamers aren't talking about. In fact they don't even know it exists. I'd never write Nintendo off but i don't think they can rely on the support of the hardcore fans alone.
  • SirDinkleman - April 26, 2013 7:48 p.m.

    True mayne
  • UnderdogSMO - April 25, 2013 10:38 p.m.

    AAnd than on the PC side of things we will be getting the oculus Rift which has the potentaul to flip the hole industry on head, 5 years from now with the next console gen than we could see a hole shift to VR consoles. Oddly enough its because of things like the Wii and cellphones that the OR can exsist.
  • AnghellicKarma - April 26, 2013 12:24 p.m.

    Why do you hate grammar?
  • yonderTheGreat - April 27, 2013 9:07 p.m.

    I love you.
  • SwirlyGreenLogo - April 25, 2013 10:12 p.m.

    Personally, I think Nintendo has gotten too obsessed with trying to re-invent the console. As much as I have fond memories of growing up in a Nintendo household, I can't help but lament the fact that they are responsible for many bad trends throughout gaming history - including, I hate to say, the implementation of 3D into every franchise. I mean did we really need a 3D Castlevania game to begin with? You could argue that Nintendo was simply the one who got it right, but the fact is they're not the only ones who got it right. I'm not faulting the trends for the fruit they beared. But when I look at the motion control boom since the Wii launched in 2006, I have to wonder if the industry has changed for the better. I have to wonder how tablet functionality will be shoehorned into other games in the wake of the Wii U.
  • Asmodean - April 25, 2013 8:21 p.m.

    Sadly I think this is the first sign that Nintendo might be readying to bow out to the home console market. The Wii U was ill timed and conceived from the get go, I'm not arguing its quality. But unlike Sony who can synergize (sp?) the Play Station brand with their other divisions or MS who seems to be committed to owning the online space as Sony is, Nintendo is left high and dry. Big N is at heart a toy company, they have no other divisions to cross promote the Wii U and they're still 5 to 10 years behind in the online space. Some might claim Nintendo is the only company touting a games focused system. The reality is that their competitors are just as game focused but have the understanding that a home console now has to be more then just a games system. If Console are to survive, in any from, they will have to evolve into social outlets for the communities that use them, in effect I think consoles have to become the best facilitators of social media. Nintendo IMO isn't doing that, or has any idea how to become that, heck I'm not sure Sony or MS do either, but at least they're trying .
  • TheMariner - April 25, 2013 8:16 p.m.

    I think it was a calculated move on their part. Why have a big press conference announcing a bunch of new games when you can simply have those games on the show floor ready for people to play for themselves. Since they're not announcing any new hardware and the Nintendo Direct videos have taken care of most of their software announcements, it only makes sense to me that they would forgo a big, flashy show and just let people play the games. A press conference for Nintendo this year would be superfluous because hype for their games can be better built on actual experience rather than posturing and aggrandizing.
  • Zeapron - April 26, 2013 2:08 a.m.

    You might be on to something here. Maybe Nintendo will focus a lot more at making sure a lot more people get to try the ne games, and then via word-of-mouth, and the Miiverse (which is now available in browser form), to spread the the news, the excitement, the hype, all around.
  • shawksta - April 25, 2013 8:08 p.m.

    Nintendo is always the first ones stepping in new directions, let's see how this unravels, they are the ones always going the surprising routes.

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