Nintendo is gearing up to kick off 2017 with a bang, unveiling the Switch in detail on 12th / 13th January, in the process ensuring that early-year momentum and attention goes its way. With a March release and so little officially known about it, that seems like a smart way to go.
Oddly, however, Nintendo has ditched a longstanding policy and opted to broadcast its simultaneous stream at a time mostly convenient for Japan, and far less so for regions like Europe and North America. Tellingly, that's a nice 1pm broadcast in Nintendo's homeland, which will also allow investors a couple of hours to react in the Tokyo stock exchange.
What time is the Nintendo Switch presentation?
North America: 8pm PST / 9pm MST / 10pm CST / 11pm EST - UK/Ire: 4am GMT - Europe: 5am CET / 6am EET - Asia/Oceania: 1pm JST / 12pm AWST / 3pm AEDT
We were surprised when we saw these times, frankly; as has already been revealed by attendees that simply can't help themselves, media events are taking place in multiple high-profile locations on 13th January, but that shouldn't have necessarily had a big influence on the broadcast time; unless, of course, the focus is primarily on Japan.
Nintendo is entitled to do as it pleases and target the Japanese market, of course, that is the company's right. Yet the selected times are still rather odd; for the past couple of years Nintendo has generally tried to accommodate a global audience with its synchronised Direct broadcasts, for example. It's never possible to satisfy everyone who has work, school and so on, but events have typically been timed so that they fall in the morning in North America / early-to-mid afternoon in Europe / evening in Japan. In terms of maximising the global audience, a lot of these timings have been a sensible compromise.
Stepping away from offering that accommodating stance, on a working night no less, is a strange move by Nintendo for what is a vital presentation. Leaks and rumours aside, the company has said very little about the system since the initial teaser trailer, and deliberately so. The marketing strategy was evidently to give the world a taste before going big in the New Year, and it's a solid idea; after all, it's inevitable that a majority of the tens of millions that have seen the original trailer haven't been following every detail of leaks and speculation. Yet now a key presentation is at an awkward time for a number of potentially interested observers.
Let's consider some negatives and then positives. On the negative side, Nintendo is damaging its chances of getting significant mainstream media (not specialist media like gaming sites) coverage of the live broadcast. Whenever major tech companies have presentations they often get live blogs and hosted streams on a diverse range of media sites - Apple and Google get this sort of coverage, and Sony and Microsoft did when they hosted their major conferences for unveiling the PS4 and Xbox One back in 2013. It's a way for half-interested observers to see what the fuss is about, but with the odd hours for the West a lot of media (especially in Europe) simply won't bother.
Counter to that, though, it can be argued that this isn't a big deal. Nintendo may cater the live presentation to dedicated followers, such as this writer who'll be live-blogging it at 4am ahead of a flight at about 6.30am. There's a case to be made for that approach, offering detail to the hardcore fans and tackling the wider public in a different way.
Reaching a wider audience will have to come in the 24 hours and days after the 'presentation'. Media coverage of the reveals will be expected on 13th January, and Nintendo will no doubt produce bite-sized videos to condense the key selling points into smaller chunks - a two minute concept demo, a sizzle reel of games, trailers for major launch releases and so on. It's with these videos, updates to official websites and social media posts that Nintendo will hope to pick up traffic and, of course, interest. Then various media will be hands-on shortly after the presentation, so naturally impressions articles will appear extensively online.
The frustrating thing, we'd suggest, is that Nintendo could have done all of these things while delivering its presentation more successfully to a global audience. As it is, the timing of the broadcast means a large part of the world will quite literally be asleep when Nintendo shows off extensive Switch details.
No matter how you cut it, and no matter how strong the rest of the big N's strategy is likely to be in promoting Switch, that seems like an odd mis-step.