The lights are on
Veteran Member - Level 13
It was revealed yesterday that Nintendo is not going to be having a traditional E3 press conference this year. While this news may seem shocking to those who see E3 as the Superbowl of the Videogame industry (it isn't, that would be Q4), I find this news rather comforting. Why? Because E3 has been beyond underwhelming for a while now. In fact I can't recall the last E3 where I felt like the event came even remotely close to living up to the hype. You want to know my strongest memories of recent E3's?
In the face.....
Horrifying and memorable for all the wrong reasons. I would imagine a tour of your local insane asylum might have a similar effect.
I am not saying E3 as a press event doesn't have its value, but when the most memorable moments of these events are the embarrassing on-stage antics of videogame executives doing their best to appeal to humans, well lets just say I feel like we could do better.
I've always found the presentation format of E3 somewhat odd. Why are we trotting out executives, awkward developers, and silly bells and whistles on a stage when everyone will have their attention ultimately focused on the big screen behind them anyway? Why is the stage an essential ingredient in making a successful bid to consumers about your products? I know am not alone when I say I find this format to be dated and furthermore, almost ritually embarrassing for many that take part. Even when the presentations come off clean they just don't have the power of a really good trailer or prerecorded developer discussion, full screened on my PC, with my headphones plugged in.
Lets compare E3 conferences to Nintendo Direct.
In my opinion, E3 is too long, poorly produced, and a woefully self important exhibition that exudes much of what is wrong with the videogame industry. The booth babes and scantily clad dance troops(IE Ubisoft's 2012 presentation.) Getting cheap pops from the audience by whipping out ultra violent segments of a game like we saw with The Last of Us at Sony's 2012 conference. Awkward developers being forced to explain the nuances of their games in 1 minute or less so that the show can roll on. The hopelessly out of touch executives who hire the even more out of touch C level celebrities to host their events. The best moment of last years E3 was Southpark creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone mocking the very event they were invited to speak at. I have more memories of E3 that inspire embarrassing laughs and pity than awe and wonderment and this shouldn't be the value of E3, even though for many I suspect it is.
Meanwhile, Nintendo Direct offers something entirely different. With a run time of about 30 to 40 minutes, Nintendo Directs are tightly edited and each second is efficiently used. The presenters aren't nervous because it isn't live and they can get as many takes as they need to get it right. When a new game is shown I can full screen the trailer rather than seeing a video of a big screen behind a stage. The presenters don't embarrass themselves because they have as much time as they want to explain their games. The Nintendo brass appear to be humans. Nintendo Directs haven't been flawless. Some of the information can be a little dry but at least that information is usually useful. What's better is that Nintendo Directs happen every couple months and isn't that better than hyping up everything to one week per year? That just seems like a recipe for disappointment.
Do we need E3? Maybe, but not in its present format.
So why are we shocked at Nintendo's E3 change of pace? Probably only because they are the first ones to do it. In my opinion Nintendo Directs have been a great success in both whipping up excitement and garnering press coverage. They don't have the hype train that surrounds E3 but does the industry need that now? I do not purchase a game or a videogame system because of the way it was presented at E3 and while E3 is a good point for the mainstream press to engage the videogame industry, that is changing too. Do we really believe that 3 to 5 month old press coverage will have a real impact on how successful these products are when they are launched in Q4? I don't, and I think we should realize who watches E3 (core fans/press/industry experts) and think about how that information is dispersed to the public (through intermediaries like GI). Nothing about this process will change with what Nintendo is doing. Nintendo fans like myself will watch their E3 Direct and whatever else they put on the web. Journalists will too and they will report on it. The masses will read that news on their favorite sites (hopefully GI) and nothing has really changed except the way that information is initially presented.
I expect the traditional gaming press to react to this move by Nintendo with harsh criticism because it takes away something significant from them. In some ways it goes over their head. Now they will be stuck with little else but game content to mull over rather than the effectiveness of an inherently flawed stage presentation. I am sure some of them will say this is a bad marketing move for Nintendo and maybe it will be, but only because the press has decided that games are simply not enough to report on. They want that presentation to criticize and pick apart for days on end. That is where the clicks are at. Inflammatory opinions regarding who won E3 probably get more attention than games.
There was a time when E3 stage presentations were the best way to show new products in the gaming world. In the days before the internet and its wonderful live streams, and incessant leaks, E3 was how the videogame industry informed the press about its new products and the press would inform all of us. The fact that in this day in age we still think this is a necessary exercise is very surprising to me especially considering disasters that have happened on the E3 stage. Not just Ravi Drums, Mr. Caffeine, Kinect awfulness, and Wonderbook. There are more, many, many more.
Things are already changing, just look at Sony and Microsoft.
Sony and now Microsoft have chosen to reveal their new systems at their own self produced events before E3 and that should say something to everyone. Things are changing. Putting it all on the line at E3 where those companies have less control over the message and the hype is palpable is not the best way to present new products to the masses. Furthermore, we don't need E3 to build hype. You know what the number one trending news story on Google News was yesterday? Microsoft's event on May 21st. Sony had similar results in and around their own reveal in February. The fact that these events aren't attached to E3 didn't dent the interest that can be accurately measured down to a click on the internet.
This is not Nintendo is standing down, this is Nintendo changing for the better.
There have been a few people who have already claimed that Nintendo is "throwing in the towel already." Non-sense. Iwata has already confirmed there will be playable demos of a new 3D Mario platformer, a new Mario Kart, and Smash Bros 4 at Nintendo's E3 booth. We will probably see more of the amazing looking game from Monolith referred to as "X", and hopefully a glimpse of Bayonetta 2. I am sure Nintendo will come out with at least one surprise that we don't know about. Add in the 3DS lineup, which is immense by any standard, and you have a bevy of products that I dare say can stand proudly next to the next gen games being trotted out by Sony, Microsoft and whoever else. If those competing products are anything like Knack or Drive Club or Killzone 4, well I have no problem saying that Nintendo's products could easily tower over them despite their lack of particle tessellation and Direct X whatever.
No, this isn't Nintendo lying down for Sony and Microsoft. This is Nintendo doing something they haven't done since the Wii launched. They are ahead of the curve and this time they are changing the game that is "winning E3." I'm as shocked as many of you probably are because this time Nintendo is embracing the internet in way that is ahead of their competition, which is a first for them.
I am not saying E3 is going away. It is just changing, rapidly, and seemingly for the better. Don't be surprised to see Sony, Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft, and the rest follow suit and start bringing their wares directly to you.