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.
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