Talking Point: Time to Adjust Nintendo Direct Expectations
Posted by Thomas Whitehead
How many big reveals can there be?
It's easy to lose track of time in the helter-skelter video game industry, with games and exciting new projects that are merely months old already being so yesterday. We want the latest, hottest new games and announcements ten minutes ago, so stop telling us about old stuff, ok?
For Nintendo gamers, the frustration in satisfying these cravings for news was sometimes hard to avoid in past-times, as the company itself would remain tight-lipped outside of the occasional press release or appearance at a major event. It led to a particular frenzy when a certain annual expo would roll around in Los Angeles, and attention-starved Nintendo gamers would grab whatever Nintendo threw at them, relieved to hear about new games on the way in the next 12 months or, in some cases, within weeks of the presentation.
When it came to utilising the most powerful and vast information medium, the internet, Nintendo did seem way behind the times. In an effort to resolve this, and after an initial broadcast that intrigued rather than set the world alight, the big N went big with its first substantial multi-region Nintendo Direct blow-out in February 2012, on the same day that PlayStation launched its Vita handheld in North America and Europe. It was the start of a new brand of online communication that was, in many respects, not exactly typical of the company. We were treated to footage and details for a host of high-profile 3DS games, while messages via Swapnote/Nintendo Letter Box were joined by long overdue Twitter accounts for Nintendo UK and Nintendo of Europe.
It was rather new, intriguing and exciting for many at the time, and there was an extra degree of novelty in the fact that Nintendo's most senior figures were presenting these broadcasts, not glossy professional actors. The concept is evidently simple, and all in the name and now famous hand gesture — it's Nintendo speaking directly to you.
Of course, websites such as this and readers respond well to these broadcasts, because it's overseen a dramatic shift towards greater communication from Nintendo. It has also brought regular doses of mini E3-itis, with information overload and excitement quickly becoming par for the course; the initial spate of broadcasts coincided with a major 2012 software push on 3DS, confirmation of 3DS XL and the arrival of Wii U. Every broadcast seemed to either show us more eagerly anticipated games, or give us tantalising glimpses of the previously unknown. There's also been wonderful scripting and a playful willingness to include humour and meme-friendly images. You just mention the words "Non-Specific Action Figure" or "Satoru Iwata holding a banana", and imagery that's borderline iconic among Nintendo gamers springs to mind.
The initial burst of broadcasts enjoyed a perfect storm of attention starved gamers, E3 and a brand new home console; Nintendo was never exactly short of big details to tease us with, on some occasions once every few weeks. With that burst of early excitement in the concept it's become easy for Nintendo gamers to suddenly expect Megaton announcements in every stream, perhaps forgetting the fact that Japanese specific videos, particularly "Mini Directs", have passed by with relatively few details or a focus on specific games. There have been Western equivalents of 15 minutes or less, yet generally the expectations have been set that they're merely cherries on the icing, so we avoided out-of-context hysterics.
Yet, when we know a broadcast is set to be longer, and promises details on games covering a decent period, many are currently pre-conditioned to immediately engage hype-mode, including us — to an extent — here at Nintendo Life. And so we came to last week's multi-region videos, which were announced — as is typical for Nintendo Direct broadcasts — at short notice and suggested details on a number of games. Minds may have drifted to other big Nintendo Directs in the year, and talk on social networks quickly shifted to what "surprises" Nintendo might unveil, with some expecting a surprise eShop game or perhaps something bigger. The recent comments from Reggie Fils-Aime that we hadn't seen everything for the Wii U launch window didn't help, and when the broadcast was finished there was a distinct sense of "wait, was that it?"
Fan predictions of possible surprises, even those of a more realistic nature (Zelda HD was never going to happen in that broadcast) fell short, with Zen Pinball 2 not necessarily pushing buttons in the same way as Bayonetta 2 before it. It didn't help that eagerly anticipated titles such as Pikmin 3 and Animal Crossing: New Leaf were pushed back, though others such as Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon and Fire Emblem: Awakening were given more concrete release details. For many that had become accustomed to big details dominating headlines, release windows on games that were already very familiar didn't get the pulse racing.
Yet that's probably what we can expect in future Nintendo Direct broadcasts. That aforementioned perfect storm of a big 3DS push and Wii U hype may make way for less surprising information, as Nintendo will start to show us more details for games we already know are coming. There are sure to be some blockbuster moments, especially as Nintendo has told us practically nothing about any games coming outside of the Wii U launch window, but the routine may settle down. Unless a 3DS Mini or Nintendo phone is on the way in 2013 — no, they're not likely.
While disappointment in some reveals, or lack of, is understandable from the most recent Nintendo Direct broadcasts, we shouldn't forget the days before this initiative burst onto uStream in early 2012. At least now Nintendo is keeping us in the loop, and while not every "mini-E3" will blow our socks off, we should remember that Nintendo is at least talking to us, and giving us some humour and game footage to enjoy at the same time.
Keep an eye out on our upcoming feature looking at some of the best Nintendo Direct moments of 2012. Until then, let us know what you think about this topic in the comments section below.