Hey, guys. It’s Brandon. And I guess this is officially my rant/reaction column. Hi. Hello.
The reactions to this are all over the board, but the most interesting perspective is the one coming from some of the more significant game journalists and publications– namely that Nintendo is dropping the ball in a major, major way. Sessler’s chimed in, Game Informer agrees, and many others are now voicing their displeasure and concern over this sudden change of plans.
I usually reserve my opinions for the podcast itself (and I’m sure we’ll touch upon it in next week’s show), but this is one unexpected headline that I feel warrants a more immediate response. Because rare is the case that I feel like I have something to say to Adam Sessler.
I love E3. I never miss E3. As an annual event, I consider it to be better than Christmas. I take those first few days off from work to catch all the conferences from the comfort of home because I know that I’d be pretty worthless in the workplace, otherwise, frantically refreshing blogs and sneaking into press kit FTP’s just to admire the new art assets. And the most enjoyable part of the entire week is the press conferences. There is nothing I enjoy more than watching top-tier corporate knuckleheads swagger out onstage and smile with terrified eyes at an audience made almost exclusively of scrutinizing professionals, fingers poised over portable keypads to tap out an enthusiast death sentence. It’s better than any comedy show in the world because it’s real and it’s live and it’s always, for better or worse, a brazen spectacle.
And, upon reflection, I think the number one reason I so enjoy those public displays, whether they end in confetti or tears, is because they’re completely unnecessary.
Let’s make a comparison. Are you ready for a comparison? I’m ready for a comparison.
Every year the major television networks hold an upfront event where they invite their present and potential sponsors to be wowed with a lavish stage show that trots out show talent and boasts an exciting new lineup through the impending fiscal year and then, usually, ends in mountains of cocaine being sniffed off of someone’s chest in a dimly-lit room to the sound of heavy bass thumps.
Not to get too inside-baseball, but I work for Adult Swim.com. [ROBOT UNICORN ATTACK 2, OUT NOW, FREE FOR iPHONE & iPAD!] As such, I was made aware that the Cartoon Network strategy for this year’s upfront was to deliberately avoid a big, flashy event and, instead, take a road trip to visit each and every one of our major sponsors directly. A bus was rented, a plan was mapped, and a ragtag group of smiling sales reps ticked off fifteen cities one-by-one.
And it was a massive success. (That’s as much detail as I’m able to go into, unfortunately.)
The important takeaway is that the direct attention paid to each individual company and sponsor was unanimously received with enthusiasm and praise. Each presentation was laser-focused to the specific people in each room, whereas the typical upfront of any other network tries to address and impress everyone in a single, concentrated blast of lights and sounds and celebrities and glitter-saturated shit.
Now, back to Nintendo: based on the announcements from last night’s investor’s meeting, what are they doing at/around this year’s E3?
- They’re inviting retail representatives to a focused, closed-door stage presentation, ensuring that the stores and chains that will eventually be selling their products are impressed and invested in what they have to offer for the next fiscal year.
- They’ll have a show floor presence at E3 2013 where game journalists (and everyone else who typically squeezes their way in) can get some hands-on impressions with the ample catalogue of software that is or has yet to be announced across their two platforms.
- They’ll be streaming, to literally anyone/everyone with a screen and an internet connection, a series of Nintendo Directs between now and June that will be reported on and repeated and paraphrased and analyzed and exhaustively covered from every corner of the enthusiast press.
Far as I figure, that’s three (Nintendo) direct bullseyes, folks.
The non-enthusiast perception of the Wii U as a controller add-on to the Wii isn’t something they can fix through a 90-minute stage presentation. That ship sailed in 2011 the very second that the console was officially named. Putting a band-aid on that boo-boo is going to require a massive marketing campaign, one that spans magazine ads and television commercials and movie theater pre-rolls and literally anything else that they can use to get their revised message in front of American middle-class eyeballs.
Do people really, truly think that a livestreamed press conference is somehow going to reach anyone outside of the fully-aware, already-invested core “gamer” demographic? Do they think these casual, confused moms and dads and uncles and aunts and whoever else are stopping their jobs in the middle of a June weekday to watch Iwata or Reggie live-demo the latest dancing game in front of a stunned audience?
They catch these news bites– if they’re even interested at all– through the same avenues we do; namely, the countless blogs and sites and publications and magazines that regurgitate any and every headline that will possibly get them more traffic or subscriptions. Like, for instance, a new Mario Kart announcement, regardless of the game’s initial announcement venue.
It occurs to me, reading some of these responses from the enthusiast press, that perhaps these journalists have been to so many consecutive E3′s that they’ve forgotten (or just never known) what a modern E3 feels like for the vast majority of us who are locked out of the Los Angeles Convention Center; namely, sitting in front of a computer and watching the big three (plus two) try as hard as they can to be stage performers and entertainers while chat logs and liveblogs and forums tear them to pieces to the delight of everyone. It’s not impressive or important, it’s a parade of CG trailers and live demos punctuated by awkward men trying for all the world to not sweat right through their t-shirt/blazer combo.
If that’s what you’re truly afraid of losing from Nintendo here, fear not. We’ll still get the animated .gifs and the image macros and the forced memes and all the “fun” stuff that follows any and every timed E3 announcement. In fact, we may get MORE of those as Nintendo reps are saying there will be several Nintendo Directs between now and the week of June 10th.
Luckily, there are no rules for any of this anymore– this is especially true as we shift into a new console generation. So, you know, maybe this isn’t a disaster for them. Maybe, just maybe, they’re tired of embarrassing themselves and catching shit for trying to play ball with the more athletic and “popular” kids. They’re no good at baseball, they’re moving on to Calvinball. And, luckily, they’re pretty good at making shit up as they go along.
Anyway, that’s it from me until next’s week’s show. What do you think, am I way off-base? Should Nintendo fight on Sony/Microsoft’s terms to maintain a comfortable third place? Am I a sucker for finally succumbing to the reactionary article format? So many new questions!