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Nintendo Shakes Up E3, Forgoes Annual Media Briefing

Nintendo Media Briefing, 2007The annual Nintendo media briefing during E3 week is, for many, the highlight of the week of industry activities in Los Angeles.  The company's top management and notable designers take the stage to announce new products, the audience at home and in the room react accordingly, and everyone has a good time.  In many ways, a company's media briefing sets the tone for the coming year.  I've been fortunate enough to attend Nintendo's annual show seven times over the years and they are a blast; for better or worse, people always talk about the Nintendo media briefing.  Unfortunately, change is coming.  Nintendo has announced it will not hold its annual briefing at E3 this year.  While the company will still be at E3 and will maintain a booth on the show floor, the big spectacle of a stage presentation has been abandoned in favor of smaller meetings with business partners behind closed doors and a series of online Nintendo Direct presentations.  Here's the official statement:

As you’ve already seen, a lot of news about Nintendo games and services that traditionally would be held until E3 is being delivered this year through Nintendo Directs, and various press events. This approach will continue between now and E3. No matter where you are in the world, you’ll be fully informed. We look forward to continuing to provide you with Nintendo news and content in ways you haven’t before experienced. Beyond the news that will be communicated through Nintendo Direct videos in the run up to E3, at the show itself we’re hosting two smaller events on Tuesday morning before the LACC opens instead of just our traditional one event. A media event and a partner presentation will both occur that morning. While the audiences will be different between the two events, both will occur on the Tuesday morning of E3 (June 11) which is the date and time period the public has come to expect for Nintendo to deliver E3 news.

 At the Nokia theater we’ll meet with business partners (retailers, publishers, analysts, etc.) from the NOA territory and discuss our plans for driving the business and providing tailored information that this group finds useful to their operations. Nintendo has done these same type of business meetings at past E3 shows, but has not in the past few years. This year we are returning to that business partner meeting format. New this year at our booth in the LACC, prior to the show opening, we’ll invite a small group of media to play our games. We will have a strong line-up of beloved franchise experiences available for immediate hands-on play. We are continuing to consider exciting new ways to bring the news of our games and information directly to the players at home during the E3 timeframe, and will have more to say about that at a later date.

This makes sense for Nintendo this year.  Without flashy new hardware to debut, the company has to compete with Sony's new PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's next Xbox for mindshare and press coverage.  No matter what Nintendo announces for the Wii U, it just can't compete with the competition holding up The Future.  Nintendo's in a hole right now as the Wii U has failed to duplicate the instant smash success of the original Wii.  The mainstream media will turn to the new products from Sony and Microsoft when reporting on the amazing new developments coming out of Los Angeles in June.  Nintendo will get a mention, sure, but a minor one.  It's just how it goes; people don't like to cover a loser, and Nintendo has some work to do to be seen as a winner again.  Microsoft is headed out of the current console generation as a proven winner.  Sony has some positive buzz thanks to the early announcement of the PS4.  Nintendo has stacks of unsold Wii U consoles and a noticeable lack of amazing games on store shelves.

When the time comes to reveal the next 3D Super Mario title and the new Super Smash Bros., the best way to get the word out is through those Nintendo Direct presentations that the Internet loves so much.  Moreover, by skipping the big live stage show, Nintendo can avoid spending money on producing it.  With profits down, saving money is a very good thing right now.  By the way, that small media presentation mentioned above in the official statement indicates that the company will open its E3 booth early to selected media members.  Plenty of publishers offer early access to proven partners, so that's nothing really out of the ordinary. 

Nintendo will have new games to show at E3 regardless.  In addition to Mario and Smash Bros., the company is also expected to show the next Mario Kart for Wii U, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team for the 3DS, new Yoshi games for both Wii U and 3DS, a remastered The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for Wii U, a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past for 3DS, Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101, Game & Wario, Wii Fit U, and plenty more.  The good stuff is coming.  It just won't be on display at a stage show intended for a worldwide audience and leading media.

I'll miss the Nintendo media briefing, but hopefully this isn't a permanent arrangement.  Perhaps next year if Nintendo's fortunes turn and Wii U sales pick up, perhaps when the company doesn't have to compete with flashy new hardware from the competition, and perhaps if the mainstream has become captivated with all things Nintendo again, we'll see a return to form.  There have been too many great moments in media briefing history to abandon the practice entirely.  However, in the end for all of the fun we have, Nintendo is a business and is out to increase revenue, and if a traditional media briefing does not move to achieve that goal, then it's understandable why it is becoming a part of the past.