One can never get used to the “Nintendo shock.” It seems that every generation — several times each generation, in fact — there come news from Nintendo that confuse us and challenge everything we thought we knew about the gaming giant. This has once again been the case in the past few days.
First, there is the news of Nintendo Co. Ltd. Chief Executive Officer, Satoru Iwata, stepping also into the role of CEO for Nintendo of America.
Secondly, there is the complete renewal of the Board of Directors:
At the financial announcement of yesterday, we also announced the changes in the members of our board of directors. More specifically, our plans are for the four directors, including Mr. Mori and Mr. Hatano who are currently the representative directors, to retire when their term of office expires at the end of the Annual General Meeting of Shareholders this year, and for the five new directors to take office, as well as the promotion of one existing director.
We are not changing our overall business strategy, but already 11 years have passed since the current management structure was established in 2002. The planned changes this time aim to realize a generational change of our management structure. When these changes become effective, the average age of the board of directors will become 6.7 years younger than today.
Thirdly, the announcement that Nintendo won’t be attending E3 this year, at least not in the same way they had done before.
That last bit of news has been particularly shocking: debate and speculation have lit up message forums like a Christmas tree on fire — and truly, E3 and all news surrounding it are nothing if not Christmas for us gaming enthusiasts.
Many people, in effect, seem to think that Nintendo has gone completely bonkers. Why would they choose to skip showing their games, undoubtedly many of which are heavy hitters, when they need all their big guns to compete with Microsoft and Sony’s new systems? Why would they, after keeping their fans dry without any news on their new titles, choose to also not give us that info during the one event we all thought we could rely on? Adam Sessler even called Nintendo out for “sticking their head in the sand.” The general agreement seems to be that Nintendo has lost sight of the importance of E3, and that they overestimate the importance of their own Nintendo Direct events — the argument there being that Nintendo Direct events are watched by people that are already Nintendo fans to begin with, making them ineffective.
I agreed initially, but then I hit onto something that made me consider that, maybe, it’s we who don’t understand the real unimportance of E3, and underestimate the importance of Nintendo Direct events.
Think about this question: does it make a difference to the press whether Nintendo announces their new games and services during E3, or during some kid’s Bar Mitzvah? I don’t think it does. I think that, even if Nintendo made all their announcements in some back alley in Detroit, the press would make sure to have all these news up on their front page first thing in the morning. In fact, I have personally witnessed many times now the race to be the first to bring the news to sites like N4G and Reddit, even as the Nintendo Direct is still only entering second gear. Truly, Nintendo has the press by the balls, and no matter where or how Nintendo chooses to unveil their games and features, there will always be a flood of news pieces and editorials around every bit of info coming out of Nintendo’s mouth. The millions of gamers that visit gaming media sites such as this one (Did I say millions? I meant billions.) will get their flood of Nintendo news exactly the same no matter the circumstances behind the actual news.
What truly matters, then, is timing, and timing is exactly what Nintendo has changed this time around.
Let me tell you about our dilemma when working as a news site. On our front page, we have a total of 18 spots for news pieces, and it already requires the reader to scroll down considerably. If we actually covered the entire industry in this site, that would mean that we have a total of 18 spots to divide between the many different console manufacturers and their games and features. Come E3, it would be a nightmare to effectively manage our space, and in fact a lot of bias would go into accommodating the news we thought were worthy of being at the front. For Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft, however, this means that they have to compete for the front page space of websites like us. At the end of the day, we would likely choose to display somewhere around 6 news from each console manufacturer. This probably means 2 news about the consoles themselves, and 4 news about the games. A lot of games and console features wouldn’t make it to our front page simply by being less relevant than the others, and even if Nintendo unveiled a very interesting new peripheral for the Wii U, it could end up losing front page space against news of the Xbox 720 being an “always online” console.
If you are Nintendo, then, wouldn’t it make sense to avoid competing for front page headlines against such heavy hitters as entire new consoles are? Wouldn’t it make sense for them to modify the timing of their reveals so that they can guarantee getting a larger pie of the front page share during some other day? We already know that with every Nintendo Direct comes a flood of Nintendo news in many websites’ front page, so why wouldn’t it make sense for them to extend this strategy to the time periods preceding and surrounding E3, instead of E3 itself? Now that we have news about what they plan to do at E3, isn’t that exactly what they said they are doing?
I think it is. They said they will reveal more games in between here and E3 in more Nintendo Direct videos, each one guaranteeing a flood of front page headlines. They said they will have at least another one right before E3, once again guaranteeing they get a full front page of headlines before the competitors get a chance to catch up. As soon as E3 ends, in addition, they are likely to have another short Nintendo Direct regarding other low-key games and features, once again guaranteeing some good front-page spots in mainstream gaming sites.
It is all very simple in the end: Nintendo has the press by the balls — in other words, they have the privilege of being able to announce whatever they want whenever they want, and having a guaranteed full front page of headlines in mainstream gaming sites (except when they have to compete for it with Microsoft and Sony on the same days, such as E3). This gives them freedom in how they reveal their games and features, and in turn it means they can offer the content to us in ways that we can appreciate more — though they have to show a great level of care for that.
We are indeed getting the content in a very convenient, and most importantly, suspenseful manner. As enthusiasts, they are keeping us talking from checkpoint to checkpoint, so to speak, and we Nintendo fans certainly love to talk and talk.
Ultimately, what are we losing, besides the pride of being a contender in the grueling E3 brawl?