Nintendo has made a few surprising announcements along with its annual financial reports, but the news that The Legend of Zelda on Wii U will be the only playable Nintendo game at E3 is perhaps the most stunning of them all. After previously dropping conventional stage-based conferences already and adopting the popular Digital Event + Treehouse streaming format for the LA event, Nintendo is evidently now keen to switch up the formula again and put all the focus on this game and its IP's anniversary.
Of course, Nintendo may potentially have a video presentation with a broader focus on some other games around the time of the show, but the company's statement that "NX will not make an appearance at the upcoming E3 video game trade show" and will be "unveiled later this year" ahead of its March 2017 arrival is crystal clear - the June show is sticking with this generation and putting its eggs in Link's basket, despite the fact the Wii U version (and obviously the NX iteration) aren't coming until 2017.
It's bold and controversial, and has sparked a heated debate within the Nintendo Life team. Below you have the views of site editor Thomas Whitehead, editorial director Damien McFerran, operations director Darren Calvert, managing director Anthony Dickens and YouTube man Alex Olney. At the end you'll find polls and, of course, a chance to air your views in the comments.
While I'll happily assess the merits and logic of the NX release window in a balanced way, I'm going to be blunt on this E3 decision. My personal view is that it's madness, a bizarre decision and one that could do the company damage in terms of its public perception with eager gamers.
It's worth acknowledging that platform holders and major publishers have been sharing unhappiness about E3 for a while, with the likes of EA trying to create its own events to distract from the LA showcase. It must be a pain for these companies, as E3 is like a black hole that sucks in reveals and press attention, forcing otherwise powerful corporations to adjust their plans to ensure they have demos, unveilings and a PR blitz to make the most of the occasion.
While companies may resist it, though, gamers evidently love it. It's a time of year when the industry goes into overdrive and we see new games, consoles and exciting things. The buzz can be electric (or toxic if the reveals fall flat) and it's a significant event. In my view Nintendo needed NX and a host of games for the new system, Wii U and 3DS to be on show, bombarding us with exciting content. I believe this is required because, frankly, Nintendo is lagging behind its rivals in the battle for publicity and the public's mindshare.
Yet not only will there be no NX, which is crazy, but the new Legend of Zelda on Wii U (not the NX version, obviously) will be the only playable game - this gives mainstream media an excuse to largely ignore Nintendo at the event. I've seen the argument that maybe NX isn't ready, but let's get real - it'll be ready enough that something could have been done, and while the new system is due in March 2017 the new Zelda is just due in the broad 2017 window. To be clear, if NX isn't at the stage where it can be demonstrated by June this year, then Nintendo has serious problems if it's planning to manufacture hardware and promote a big launch (with enticing games) early next year.
I also disagree with the idea that E3 is too far ahead of the NX launch to start building hype. Frankly, such is the state of Nintendo's current standing with a number of gamers that it can't start generating hype soon enough.
I don't understand this E3 decision and I think it's a shocker. Nintendo is showing up to the most influential gaming show in the world with one game on a system estimated to sell less than one million units in the coming year. Absolute insanity.
While it's true that Nintendo hasn't been approaching E3 in the same way as its rivals for a few years now, I think that the decision to withhold NX and only focus on a single game is a massive, massive mistake.
Say what you will about E3's relevance, the show is still the most effective way of building hype and connecting with dedicated gamers - the same gamers who influence other buyers and help spread the word of upcoming hardware and software. Not showing off NX could prove to be a disastrous move, and I'm not convinced that Nintendo is doing this totally off its own back - perhaps hardware or software problems have forced the company's hand here.
Every major hardware release in the past decade has had some kind of pre-release exposure at E3. Getting new consoles in front of attendees and industry types is a vital move when it comes to gathering support and generating anticipation. While the internet has indeed removed barriers and allowed people from anywhere in the world to "get in" on the E3 experience, the show is still a vital part of the gaming landscape; it's where the influencers go to get the latest news on the titles and consoles they will be shouting about for the next 12 months. The interest generated by E3 is evidenced by the fact that in terms of traffic, it's the biggest event in Nintendo Life's calendar.
While some have pointed out that tech companies like Apple, Samsung and HTC do things differently by announcing new devices and releasing them almost instantly, I don't think such an approach is compatible with the games industry at all. Smartphones and tablets are not games consoles - they tap into an existing ecosystem which means that the moment a new one is released, it has access to countless apps and games already. A smartphone and tablet is also doing the same things that its forerunners have done, from a technical perspective at least. NX is a new platform which needs new software support and new investment - unless Nintendo is planning on adopting a yearly update cycle and keeping the same OS for years to come, then the approach won't work. You also have to remember that smartphones and tablets don't rely on "brand new" software to sell them, either. By withholding info on the console until close to release, there's no time for Nintendo or third parties to hype up the machine's games - the games which will ultimately "sell" the machine to players.
Focusing on Zelda at E3 might sound like a bold move on paper, but to me it merely proves that Nintendo has planned badly and the cupboard is bare. The company has little to show on Wii U and 3DS and is refusing to show any NX games, and the end result is a showing which could prove to be so ineffectual it might as well not happen at all. Zelda is certainly a game which deserves to have a lot of attention focused on it, but even the most dedicated fan will admit that basing your entire E3 schedule around a single release is likely to be overkill.
Ironically - when you consider that it is refusing to show off NX - Nintendo faces the very real risk of showing too much of Zelda, and that could potentially impact interest in the game, a game which many have been waiting impatiently for since E3 2014. I know that it might sound like a good idea in principle, allowing Nintendo to "immerse" players in the title, but to me personally, I think it's a bad move - as is ignoring E3's potential as the first stop for the NX hype train.
Nintendo has been dancing to its own tune for a number of years now as far as its approach to E3 goes. With Sony's PlayStation, Microsoft's Xbox and other major publishers' massive marketing budgets it is understandable that Nintendo does not want to go toe-to-toe with them. It has suited them to speak directly to consumers via the slickly produced digital events, then hand it over to the Treehouse team to show off the games in great detail afterwards in livestreams.
Now that it has been confirmed that NX will not be making an appearance at E3 this year, let's be honest, it doesn't make much sense for Nintendo to waste resources and try to make a massive impression. They'll just want to put a brave face on things and show that they are not dropping the Wii U and the 3DS like a hot potato just yet.
Of course as one of the major platform holders, it wouldn't do for Nintendo to completely walk away from E3. Rather they will be there on their own terms. So focusing only on the new Zelda game seems sensible. It's a bold move for sure, but it goes to show what confidence Nintendo must have in the upcoming title. Now that has been confirmed as a simultaneous launch for both NX and Wii U at some point in 2017, having this as the sole focus of Nintendo's E3 efforts makes even more sense. It appeases Wii U owners who might feel a bit abandoned, yet it also should excite potential NX owners who have skipped the Wii U generation.
I think it's a sensible move on Nintendo's part to minimise their E3 activities this year. If they make a big fuss about what is a lacklustre lineup for 2016, they will be ridiculed by the media and the public in general on social media anyway. By taking this approach they can focus on the good times for next year instead.
Okay, so obviously E3 is the traditional home of console reveals but we've seen Nintendo move away from this style of approach over the past few years. On the one hand it's a surprise that they aren't using the show as their opportunity to reveal the details of NX but on the other, for me, it makes some sense to reveal those details away from the noise of E3 and more importantly on a better timeline for the device's release.
Consumers don't like waiting 12 months between announcement and delivery, they've been spoilt by Apple's "and it's available to order RIGHT NOW [drop mic]" approach. So for me the ideal timeline is 3-6 months between the big reveal and launch, get those pre-orders in and shipped and condense the hype.
As for Zelda being the only game at the show, I'm assuming it won't be the only game they show in terms of a Nintendo Direct style broadcast - there must be at least a couple more big(ish) games coming to Wii U and 3DS, surely?!
So those are our thoughts, let us know what you think in the polls and comments below.