Image: Nintendo Life

With the reveal of a new trailer for Bayonetta 3 along with a launch date announcement, Nintendo fans are looking back over the last couple of weeks with a question on their mind: Why didn't the company bundle up this news with the third-party announcements from the Nintendo Direct Mini: Partner Showcase and deliver a full-fat Nintendo Direct?

In the time since the Partner Showcase — which, let's not forget, featured some pretty impressive reveals and shadow-drops itself — we've had a Xenoblade Direct, the reveal of an entirely new Kirby game coming this summer, and the Bayonetta 3 news. We've also had reveals of a new Splatoon-themed Switch OLED, Joy-Con, and Pro Controller, and another a micro-announcement in the form of Pokémon Puzzle League coming to the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack. The latter perhaps isn't Direct-worthy on its own, unless you're the lovely Jon Cartwright (formerly of this parish), in which case it's worthy of the 'one last thing' slot.

Nintendo doubtless has other things in the works, and holding them back rather than delivering the traditional summer blow-out is part of a deliberate strategy, not simply a case of 'oh, we weren't ready so let's just do it piecemeal'. So, what does this all mean? Is this the end of Directs as we know them? Nintendo itself has said before that they're "incredibly effective" but they might not be around forever.

Let's take a look at some of the pros Joys and Cons of Nintendo Directs — from both a fan and Nintendo's perspectives — and see where we are with them. There are a couple of polls at the end too, so feel free to let us know your thoughts.

Let's start off with the most obvious argument for them...

Joy - Nintendo fans just love 'em

Shinya Takahashi
Image: Nintendo

There's nothing quite like sitting down with a cool beverage and getting yourself comfortable for 45-60 minutes of pure, unadulterated Nintendo-focused games announcements. None of those other platforms' space-based shooting bland 'em ups to sit through while you wait for the good stuff!

Just a whole bunch of games you know 100% will be coming to Switch. *clicks fingers


Con - It's impossible to please everybody

Conversely, it's a bit of a letdown when you realise that they're going to spend 15 minutes of the Direct doing a deep dive on something you're not really interested in. In a 45-minute show you're unlikely to find everything within to your specific tastes, but you're obliged to sit through it anyway.

It's rarely too tortuous thanks to the snappier nature of Directs compared to some other companies' presentations, but there could well be 20-30 minutes of titles you're just not bothered about.

If Nintendo drops the new Bayonetta trailer in isolation and you couldn't care less about Bayonetta, you don't have to sit through it as you do in a Direct, do you?

Joy - Nintendo Directs focus all the Nintendo news in one place

We don't know about you, but while a couple of the summer season presentations have been fun, they do have a tendency to be overlong and sometimes even a little dull. Or a lot dull.

It's been better this year than in 2020 when the scramble to fill the vacuum left by E3's cancellation led to everyone and their dog having their own overlapping shows, which were typically either extremely thin or unnecessarily bloated.

Nintendo Directs deliver a short, sharp injection of exactly what you're after, with little to no fluff. Sure, you're unlikely to love everything in a single Direct, but you know there's only one place to find all the how new Switch games and news. Yes, it's just after the Nintendo Direct, for all your lovely Nintendo-related content needs! /shill

Also, let's not forget the poor PR people and developers working on smaller titles who unwittingly schedule their press releases to go out at the same time Nintendo decides to randomly tweet a reveal trailer. Having a proper Direct gives smaller firms the chance to change tack and get the hell out of the way as Direct news gobbles up the column inches for 24-48 hours after the show.

Con - Nintendo Directs focus all the Nintendo news in one place

Yoshiaki Koizumi 13th Sep 2017 Direct
Image: Nintendo

However, for Nintendo it may not be the best strategy to send out multiple announcements in one go.

Say, for example, you're mildly interested in the new Kirby game. You're not a huge Kirby fan, but this one looks kind of interesting, might be worth investigat—HOLY MOLY IT'S A NEW BAYONETTA TRAILER OMG WOULD YOU LOOK AT THAT!!!!

The point being, you've been distracted from something you're tentatively interested in by something you were 99% going to buy Day One regardless. From a business sense, Nintendo has shot itself in the foot in that example.

Spread across a 45-minute Direct, it's easy to forget interesting-looking smaller games when OMG METROID PRIME 4 REVEAL steals the show and all the attention.

Without E3 to focus the industry on a single media-friendly event, it arguably behooves Nintendo to avoid lumping all its shiny new products into one presentation where things are easily lost in the frenzy of announcements. Give them some space.

Joy - Nintendo Directs are a platform for games that might get lost otherwise

On the other hand, some games really grab your attention in a Direct.

Sure, we're all on the lookout for the new BOTW2 trailer or some megaton reveal of a new Wave Race, but Directs also provide a platform for smaller releases, too. At the end of most Directs there'll be one or two games which you hadn't expected but are excited about for some reason — maybe an eye-catching art style, maybe a banging soundtrack, it could be anything.

The point is, you saw that game because it was part of the Direct you were focusing on and you might not have caught it otherwise.

Con - Nintendo Directs are a huge amount of work to produce

It might not involve a conference, but assembling all the teams, footage, gameplay, audio and everything else that goes into producing a game trailer to wow the public is a huge undertaking for teams that are already hard at work producing the game. It might be 'just' for video, but whether you're travelling to an LA showcase or not, the prep work that goes into a Direct is time-consuming and stressful for everyone involved.

Corralling dozens of first and third-party teams to deliver the assets required is tough at the best of times, and so splitting up the potential Direct-worthy announcements gives developers more breathing room, as opposed to the entire company being ready to submit in the first week of June.

Joy - The delicious moment of anticipation

Shigeru Miyamoto Nintendo Direct 23rd Sep 2021
Image: Nintendo

Surprises are overrated. Everyone knows the glorious moments of anticipation are the best part of life and there's pleasure to be had in the anticipation of a Direct announcement, and speculating what will feature when said announcement finally comes. Better than the deed, better than the memory, etc.

Seeing something shadow-dropped on Twitter and then scrambling around to find the details isn't quite the same, is it?

Con - Nintendo Directs are predictable (and leakable!)

Nintendo likes to keep you on your toes and avoid being predictable; it's in the company's DNA and it's in the company's games. Whether with hardware, software, marketing, or any other aspect of its business, it's always coming up with bespoke Nintendo-like solutions to problems. It's the cause of occasional befuddlement, but also the source of their innovative spirit and strength as a company. It all gets a little rote when you have the regular old February, June, and September Directs — something former Nintendo of America employees Kit & Krysta have discussed on their podcast in the last few months — so you can understand the company's desire to experiment and mix things up a little.

Also, leaks are a constant danger if you're planning a presentation. When you include outside organisations, the opportunities for information to escape multiply rapidly. Smaller individual reveals are also leakable, of course, but by their nature they're somewhat contained. You're not going to get any details about a brand new Donkey Kong reboot from an isolated Kirby announcement, for example.

Satoru Iwata Nintendo Direct Feb 2014
Image: Nintendo

So, those are some of the pros (damnit, joys!) and cons of Nintendo Directs as we see them, from both a fan's perspective and Nintendo's. Got any more? Let us know your thoughts in this pair of polls as well as the comments below:

Do you think Nintendo is moving away from big Nintendo Directs?
Would you be sorry to see fewer full-fat Nintendo Directs in the future?

Further reading: Soapbox: When Is The Next 'Big' Nintendo Direct? Oh, Does It Really Matter Anymore?