News Article

Talking Point: Nintendo's Revised Approach to E3

Posted by Gaz Plant

It’s not all about the LA expo

Nintendo has often been one of the most secretive companies in the world, and while that prevents any unwanted information being leaked ahead of schedule, it means that at times it’s infuriating to follow as a fan. Up until a few years ago, the only chance we got to look inside the hallowed grounds of Nintendo HQ was at E3, where its hour-long show would present the biggest news for the coming months and beyond; for the rest of the year, the most we saw was a new trailer or a handful of screenshots. It was secrecy of the highest order.

And there’s certainly a lot to be said for keeping things under wraps, especially with competitor companies ready to mimic the next big innovation, but recently Nintendo’s approach to E3 has changed, making this mindset untenable. E3 2012 is a good example of Nintendo’s revised approach to the year’s biggest gaming showcase, with the games on offer appealing to a wider range of gamers, and narrowly focused on the current year ahead. It’s indicative of how broad the audience of E3 has become, but it also means that announcements that would once have brought the room to its knees are little more than interesting side-notes to another instalment of the Just Dance franchise. So in an effort to combat this, Nintendo has opened its doors.

Begun in October 2011, Nintendo Direct has become a valuable global marketing tool for Nintendo, providing inside access to the company throughout the year to the legion of loyal fans who are eagerly awaiting the next big story from Kyoto. Nintendo Direct has become a big event in a short space of time, providing us with hours of brilliant new footage, breaking news stories, and perhaps most importantly of all, bananas.

Since its inception, the show has largely been focussed on providing updates on previously announced titles, and showcasing new trailers as release dates approach. But this year, Nintendo’s strategy changed, and with the recent Wii U and 3DS Nintendo Direct broadcasts, the target wasn’t just to show off previously announced games, but also to unveil all new games.

Pre-2011, big announcements outside of E3 would have almost been unheard of, and aside from third-party titles, any announcement at all from Nintendo would be unlikely. Yet here we are, just three months into 2013, and we already have new announcements for big titles such as The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team and Pokémon X & Y, to name just a few, and that’s before we even consider the updates on titles such as Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon and Bayonetta 2 that have been showcased. Not bad for less than a quarter of the year!

If you were handed that list of games out of context and asked to name when they were announced, the obvious answer would be E3, but instead Nintendo chose not to announce them in its own time, and that shows the company’s new mindset to E3, driven largely by the way the industry is changing.

You only need to look at E3 as a spectacle to see how the event has changed. Typically the gamer’s New Year, E3 has become a huge commercial event for publishers, allowing them to sell their latest games to the broadest audience possible. Whereas the show was previously streamed online on dedicated gaming websites, the big conferences are now broadcast on TV, bringing the event quite literally into the living room. And as Nintendo has shown us with Wii U, it’s not just gamers who want to use the living room.

This broader audience that is now accessible thanks to TV awareness, along with Wii’s development of the family market, means that E3 has had to change its target to a far broader audience. Nintendo’s E3 show now features titles like Nintendo Land as figure-head pieces, whereas in the past it would have perhaps closed with Pikmin 3.

Perhaps the most important thing about Nintendo Direct, against this backdrop, is that it’s broadcast to an attentive and regular audience, an audience that while curious about Wii Fit U, is far more interested in the next big Mario game, or a niche title like Fire Emblem. It allows Nintendo to be unashamedly itself, giving us the quirky humour that we’ve all grown to love, rather than the auto-cue led back-and-forth that are so awkwardly placed during E3 conferences.

And most important of all, it allows the games that the core Nintendo fanbase is clamouring for to be announced and to take centre stage. Take, for instance, the reveal of Wind Waker HD. It’s an utterly charming and brilliant re-imagining of one of Nintendo’s finest ever creations, but throw it into the E3 show and it will easily be forgotten about. In an era where the next big thing is the talking point, a remake of a decade old game, while good news for fans, is unlikely to cause much of a stir. So instead, Nintendo reveals it to an audience that’s taking time out of it day and which clearly cares immensely about Nintendo games – everyone wins.

That’s not to say E3 isn’t important to Nintendo any more, and in fact, Nintendo Direct is becoming an important outlet for pre-E3 news too. While last year we saw Non-Specific Action Figure in his Oscar worthy performance alongside OctoG123 previewing Miiverse, this year Nintendo has taken the initiative and begun to place tentative hooks for their big E3 reveals.

One of the biggest talking points from Wii U Direct was the trio of E3 confirmations, Super Smash Bros, Mario Kart and Mario 3D, all of which are confirmed to be appearing at the show in some form. Add this to the already huge list of Nintendo published titles coming this year, which will almost certainly appear in playable form, and it’s clear that some early groundwork has already been done. You want Smash Bros? Yes, it’ll be there, so why not tune in to see the rest?

These early announcements also act as a constant counter-point to the barrage of next-gen announcements that are coming from the Sony and Microsoft camps. While PS4 has just been announced, and the new Xbox announcement rumoured to be imminent, E3 will be the big staging ground for these platforms; thanks to that, it will be easy for Nintendo to be forgotten about. After all, this year is all about software for Nintendo and selling Wii U to the masses.

But with these announcements out early, attendees now have a very real reason to be organising a trip to Nintendo’s booth, and not being surprised to discover that Smash Bros is tucked away in a corner somewhere. While the surprise factor is still important — something Retro Studios will undoubtedly be making use of this year — there’s good reason for making reference to games that will be there in advance of the show. A new 3D Mario and Super Smash Bros are huge talking points, and have given Wii U interest a considerable momentum boost since their announcement – just imagine the reaction when they are properly unveiled in June.

So while E3 remains the figure-head of the gaming year, it has evolved into a new form. With a broader audience than ever, the impetus is now on the console manufacturers to present reasons to buy their latest console to more than just the core audience, and that means that some titles have to fall by the wayside. Instead, it falls to Nintendo Direct to announce these games, and while E3 may not be the event we once remembered it to be, its legacy lives on in these broadcasts. Nintendo will continue to be at E3, and the megaton announcements of Mario and Smash Bros will continue to rock venues like the Nokia Theatre, but it is Nintendo Direct where the real details will be, and presented in a way that only Nintendo can do.

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User Comments (55)



Ryno said:

Is it June yet?

Though I am a Nintendo fan, I am really looking forward to E3 this year from all companies.



WingedSnagret said:

I predict that there will be lots of excited screaming, perhaps even surpassing the magnitude that the Twilight Princess reveal generated. And I'll be yelling with joy along with everyone else.



Dpishere said:

I dislike having to wait an ENTIRE year for any sort of new announcements for games. These nintendo directs tend to get me pretty excited for the upcoming games they show.



Dpullam said:

Great article! I am really eager to see what Nintendo has up their sleeve at E3. I am also very curious to see what Retro Studios is working on. It is sure to be epic.



WingedSnagret said:

@Five-seveN Retro still hasn't revealed what they're working on, HAL is working on something (beyond Sakurai's team on Smash Bros.), and there is Miyamoto's secret project. I'm sure there will still be quite a few surprises.



klautrec said:

The announcement of Monolith's ''X'' was totally unexpected. Also, even at e3 2013 I wouldn't expect a playable 3D mario game. You know what would be great? If we could get a taste of these new games at the same time of the Journalists on the show floor at E3 2013, downloading the same WiiU demos they are playing, in our houses.



rjejr said:

The last 2 Nintendo Directs were at least as good as E3 and I really look forward to more of them, as well as more news at E3. I think it is a bit disingenuous though to imply that only Nintendo can spread videogame news outside of E3 - "and presented in a way that only Nintendo can do." Sony and MS may not do "Directs" but there is year round news. Well at least from Sony, I really don't know anything about the Xbox other than Halo and Gears of War.



Jukilum said:

Hopefully Miyamoto's new project will be better than Steel Diver. It was fun and all, but… yeah.



Jukilum said:

@rjejr I believe the article was referring to the style of the presentations as something unique to Nintendo.



ThumperUK said:

I don't want any more announcements about WiiU games, I just would like some decent games to be released for the system. I just pray that Lego City is as good as it looks - only a couple of weeks to go now!



luminalace said:

I think E3 is also about presentation. Ending the show last year with Nintendoland was not enough of a gasp moment. X ending the show on Nintendo direct was awesome and I hope Nintendo do it way better this year.



klautrec said:

@rcmadiax Yeah, I know. But I was wondering how great would be if they put those playable demos on WiiU eshop at the same time people will be playing them at E3.



JSuede said:

@klautrec That would be BOSS.

It's exciting to think that even though they have these big things planned for E3.....they are likely to have at least 1 more Nintendo Direct before then. With them showcasing Pikmin 3 and W101 this weekend at SXSW and both of those set to launch before June, they will most definitely have a Direct to give a release date.

Iwata also said he was eager to share what third parties are working on, so that could either be another ND before E3, mixed in with the P3/W101 Direct, or just saved for E3 surprises.

E3 is going to be fantastic.



tsm7 said:

I think Nintendo held back a bit last year because of the 3DS.. They revealed a lot of games for the 3DS too early. We saw tons of footage of Kid Icarus far before we got to play it. Showing things incrementally seems better. Then again, fans won't be pleased without reveals at E3.



cornishlee said:

I'm still predicting a big E3 show from Nintendo. You're right to say that it's a different audience to that which Nintendo Direct serves but wrong to dismiss it as a necessarily 'casual' (Just Dance) audience. If Nintendo's still serious about targeting 'core' video game players (inverted commas used because I dislike both terms but can't think of any better) then E3 is still the best place to reveal some new games.

Nintendo direct is watched by Nintendo fans. Those people will get excited by confirmation of a new Mario/Zelda/Metroid. Those not bothered to watch will likely simply shrug that it was inevitable; even the new Yoshi platformer is one that will appeal to Nintendo fans but won't get others excited.

E3 is a time when all video game players, regardless of brand loyalties, console ownership, or any other considerations, are watching all of the video game news. That's when it's best to reveal new IPs and new directions.



Tsuchiya said:

I'm looking forward to E3 as a whole but Smash Bros is the one franchise I'll carry a change of clothing for. I cannot wait to see what Sakurai has done with my favourite series.



DerpSandwich said:

This year they're doing it right. Lots of pre-E3 announcements, and probably a few more at E3 itself.

Last year they gave us nothing pre-E3, nothing at E3, and nothing in the months following E3. That was wrong.

Good to see they're on the right track again.



FluttershyGuy said:

I'm not sure there aren't too many Nintendo Directs pre-E3. There were a few Wii U surprises last year. But, we already had knowledge about most every 3DS game that was mentioned at the Nintendo E3 conference. It was more like a review of upcoming titles. Took a lot of fun & suspense out of E3.



Znerd said:

I Think i get Nintendo idea with the Nintendo Direct we could already see that this is for Hardcore Nintendo Gamers to let us Know and then E3 is were we get the big showings like A trailer or a Playable Demo



TwilightV said:

I like ND more. Not only do we get to see some awesome new games, but we also get detailed insight into them and the companies behind them. Also, Arino!



Davidiam007 said:

::looks left and right::

No trolls so far...looking good...looking goood

Looks safe....



I wish there would be a new luigi's mansion on the wii u or at least put the GameCube version on the virtual console. Plus I think it would be fun to have another mario sunshine!



NintyMan said:

E3 has certainly changed a lot, and it lost some of its significance at least when it comes to Nintendo not being as secretive as before with its off-and-on Nintendo Directs. However, the event still means a great deal because it's all about presentation. You want consumers and fans alike to be excited for a new game or a new series, and what better way to do that then introduce your new idea on the big stage?

I still really like Nintendo Directs, though, because they are a smart way to build up hype and keep it going with regular announcements. Not saying anything for a full year until one event in the summer doens't make sense in today's connected world. In a recent interview with Polygon, Miyamoto had similar thoughts.<br />



artofmana said:

Excellent article. You make some great points. Nintendo seems to be pretty with it lately.



HawkeyeWii said:

I will be pleased with Nintendo if they just show the title screen of the next Smash Bros. Cannot wait for that game!!!



Kirk said:

To be honest, I'm not really sure how Nintendo's going to compete with Sony and Microsoft this E3. All it has is a few franchise games that we all expect to see anyway. Sony and Microsoft have brand new next-gen entertainment consoles to show off and all the games and other stuff that comes with that.



aaronsullivan said:

@klautrec Having the E3 demos playable at home would be a technical problem as they'd have to define to the public WHAT exactly they are playing (it will change, it's development software and buggy and could crash your system, etc.) but that would be AMAZING and would quickly set a precedent.

I'm not sure I want developers having to set aside so much time to make good playable demos before release instead of finishing a game but I KNOW I'd want to play them.



FluttershyGuy said:

I think the biggest disadvantage of revealing so much before E3 is what was mentioned in the article: And that is media attention. Unless it's the revelation of a console or handheld, it's not likely that a Nintendo Direct is going to get media attention.

Nintendo definitely gets coverage during E3, however! I remember seeing a story about Mario Kart: Double Dash!! and other Nintendo games on a CNN tech program several years ago. And, before the Internet caught fire, I would follow programs like that around E3, hoping to see Nintendo's reveals (as back then, it was that, wait for a magazine, or call their 900 number to find out...).

So, I think lessened media coverage for big name surprises hurts the Big N in terms of word-of-mouth.



klautrec said:

@aaronsullivan Yeah, that's why it's very unlikely. People would be somehow frustrated with the lack of detail, or gameplay bugs. Journalists are well aware that those experiences are still under development and the demos are showcasing the concepts of the game. Unless they make these demos already thinking about releasing them on eshop and these games are almost on gold stage. But i'm really happy that we'll be playing a 3D mario and mario kart soon on WiiU! Something tells me this year is gonna be the BOMB!



SpaceApe said:

It is all about the games Nintendo and you seriously need to bring it big time with good games not rehashed ips and year old ports. I want to see some Dark Souls 2 coming to the Wii U.




Nintendo just needs to put games like wii u fit, just dance, lego games, etc to a minimum attention and focus on zelda and smash bros this e3; nobody travels to e3 just to see a new gimmick game like wii fit, just do that nintendo and you'll destroy sony and microsoft on the expo.



Obvious78 said:

Now why am I thinking that Nintendo will be dropping the ball again like last year E3?



datamonkey said:

While Nintendo Direct has improved the company's communication with their fans, I feel Nintendo kept way too much secrecy for far too long leading up to the Wii U launch.

It seems developers as well as consumers knew what was going on until the damn console launched and in my opinion that was a bad move. They should have been shouting from the rooftops. That approach is partly to blame for poor sales this far.



LordJumpMad said:

Sounds like Wii U Music is gonna be big this year.
I'm sure its what Nintendo been working on, ever since the Wii U came out.



WaveGhoul said:

Hopefully Cathy Dunnaway will make a suprise appearance and demonstrate Wii Sports U. pukes in mr.bucket*



Emaan said:

I absolutely have loved the Nintendo Directs. They've been a great way of getting the news out, and really keep the hype going for new releases.

Nonetheless, I can't wait until June for E3 this year.



Retomplay said:

I personally like e3 more. it's because of the hype. it's live. it has audience, you can hear the reaction. and it's summer. direct is good though but e3 is my favorite. and not only that, because it's live. after the presentation regie stops by gametrailers live, with geoff keighly. and a after interview with maybe more information. maybe some twitter questions. there.



AlexSora89 said:

As I said pretty much elsewhere, I can't wait for news about any portable Smash Bros. game, may it be the new one or "3D Classics: Super Smash Bros. Melee".



MAN1AC said:

There's a lot of great games to look forward to. It should be a great E3 for Nintendo this year.



Henmii said:

I am old-fashioned: I prefer a E3 full of surprises over many small Nintendo directs!

But Nintendo thinks otherwise! Many things have already been revealed, so I don't expect many surprises at E3! The only surprises will be how some games will look (like the new Mario kart, new 3D Mario and Super smash brothers), what kind of direction the new 3D Mario will take, the Retro studio's project, and hopefully a truly new 3DS Zelda (though I expect to see it at the GDC). The rest basically has been revealed!

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