The lights are on
Last night, Nintendo surprised fans and pundits with a startling announcement. At June's Electronic Entertainment Expo, there will be no grand display on the stage of the Nokia Theatre. The live orchestra will not be returning, and Shigeru Miyamoto will not magically pull a Pikmin from his pocket in front of hundreds of onlookers.
Nintendo is trading up the pomp and circumstance of a stage presentation with opportunities both intimate and focused. Make no mistake. Nintendo is saving a lot of money by eschewing the traditional E3 keynote format for smaller, more targeted events.
The news that the company is drastically shifting its approach to North America's largest video game trade show came just hours after further financial troubles were revealed. It's hard to believe that the significant shortfall in operating income (even when considering the modest net surplus) didn't have something to do with this decision. But peel the numbers back and you'll find the reason that spending on the grandeur of a keynote are exactly what Nintendo should be doing.
Sales missed expectations. Furthermore, it's troubling that there is no qualification to my previous statement. The 3DS is a success, but Nintendo has failed to reach its 15 million unit target. The Wii U is drastically underperforming, missing even the reduced expectation of five million units sold globally by more than one million.
Nintendo cites poor communication and a failure to reach the non-traditional video game consumers that bought the Wii. The same families that waited in lines and called every retailer desperate for a Wii for nearly a year are the same ones that have no idea what the Wii U offers them.
These are the people who don't read Game Informer or other video game publications. These are the families that have never heard of Nintendo Direct. These are the parents and grandparents that hear about video games from traditional, mainstream news sources; the same outlets that normally help fill the seats in the Nokia Theatre.
The Nintendo Direct presentations that complemented the E3 2012 keynote and floor presentations were fantastic for fans. They provided a depth of information that diehards craved. This year's Nintendo Direct shows will not reach the average Wii owner. They will not be useful in increasing the limping sales numbers. They will not replace the expensive stage presentation.
Nintendo will no doubt have its least expensive E3 in years. The company is correct to recognize that Microsoft and Sony are going to attract a lot of attention with new hardware. Right now though, Nintendo needs to stand tall, show off an enormous, buzz-creating lineup of first-party software, and hook people who have been sitting on the fence since November. A surprise announcement from third-party publishers offering renewed support would be enormously beneficial, but based on statements from EA and Deep Silver (to name a few), that isn't likely.
It's not too late for Nintendo to incorporate tactics that bring in new consumers. If the strategy is exclusively focused on the base, though, the savings recaptured from this strategy shift won't be enough to create the momentum company president Satoru Iwata needs to reach his goal of 100 billion yen operating income.
Email the author Mike Futter, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.
Even though I hadn't had a Nintendo Console since the GameCube, I always loved watching their Press Conferences, especially last year's.
I don't see how it matters. Nintendo will be at E3. They'll still have whatever games they were going to bring. What difference does having a keynote address make? No one who doesn't know what the wii u is is going to watch e3 coverage. And all the reporters are still going to report nintendos news. They have Direct feed and will watch it. And they'll report whatever games they saw at e3.
After E3 the coverage from every outlet will include a comparison. What coming for the big 3.
Man, I always forget what a hardcore fanbase Nintendo has until I read something that dares to say anything even remotely negative about them.
Great article Mr. Futter. Not having a keynote at this years E3 definitely seems like a strange decision on Nitendo's part. One of the WiiU's biggest problems right now seems to be marketing, and skipping the option to show off your product in a flashy 'look at me!' kind of way doesn't seem like the smartest decision in my opinion.
My magic 8-ball says the possibility of a Mario game appearing on a non nintendo system in the future is "likely". LOL All kidding aside, its not looking very good for Nintendo right now, but I remember a few years ago before the Wii came out and people were already calling Nintendo the next SEGA. Nintendo will survive this.
I disagree, Mike. The average person likely doesn't even know what E3 is, or what it stands for, much less cares about it's presentations. Sure, they might catch a glimpse of media coverage about it, if there's a huge conference. That won't happen though. Sony and Microsoft have new hardware, so any standard news coverage would have very likely ignored Nintendo, anyway.
The Big N is doing fine, they're just in a bit of a lull. What they need, as you pointed out, is to market the Wii U better. Not so easy, though. They don't have anything to market. They're working on improving the software, and the game line-up is looking better and better. Once these two things start rolling, they can advertise the *** out of them, and start making some sales. Until then, there's not much they can do. They can build awareness for the Wii U, but if they don't have anything to show, they aren't going to hold anyone's attention.
keep calm and remember that the wii u still has its best games ahead! it will b fine
We don't want the WiiU to have a bunch of shovelware and 20 games like the Wii. This just sounds wrong and they need to announce more games to be honest.
Wii U game idea: HD port of Fire Emblem: Awakening, all the DLC included. I'd pay $60 for that alone. $200 is they had a Falchion sword in the collector's edition.
Directs will do.
They need to step up their game.