Nintendo and the Press at E3 2013


Last year before the Wii U’s launch I did a blog asking if Nintendo Direct really was the right way for Nintendo to get the word out about their products. I’m still not sure about that, but Nintendo seems to be going all the way with their own approaches to PR compared to Sony and Microsoft at this year’s E3. I can maybe understand where they’re going but I’m not sure it’ll work.

If you haven’t heard, Nintendo isn’t doing a major televised press conference at E3 this year. Instead they’re going to do an event behind closed doors for retailers only, they’re going to open up their demos to the press before E3 at large opens, and there will be multiple Nintendo Directs between now and E3.

I think this move is actually kind of funny given the reception to most of Nintendo’s recent press conferences. From what I’ve seen, almost every Nintendo press conference since around 2007 has been derided by forum-dwelling gamers. The problem is that a lot of core gamers took a while to realize that the conferences weren’t entirely for them.

At these conferences Nintendo faced the task of putting on one show for three audiences. They had to show fancy game footage and big announcements for the core consumers watching, prove their business was doing well financially to retailers, and show off products that would entice the mass audience when the mainstream press reports them. Usually, one or more groups would leave disappointed.

I think what Nintendo is trying to do is laser focus each “event” for a specific audience. The behind-closed doors thing is obviously for people interested in Nintendo financially. Nintendo Direct has gotten an overall positive reception from core gamers. What I’m unsure about is how Nintendo plans to handle the press.

Letting the press focus exclusively on Wii U and 3DS games before E3 proper opens its doors looks like a smart move on paper. It’s an invite-only thing so I hope for Nintendo’s sake that mainstream outlets like USA Today are on that list. People like watching press conferences for the spectacle, but their most practical use is that they are one of the only gaming events each year that get’s any attention from the mainstream press. Nintendo needs to make sure those same people are at their pre-E3 demo presentations.

I believe one of the main problems with the Wii U right now is that way too many people don’t even know Nintendo launched a new console last November. E3 2013 is probably their best chance to correct that marketing mistake.

The main reason people seem to be upset about Nintendo’s move (like Adam Sessler) is because it looks like a retreat from Sony and Microsoft. I think this is just another attempt by Nintendo to divorce itself from the arena of loud spectacle and pretty pictures. They’re not trying to scream louder than Sony or Microsoft. They may never have really been good at that. On the other hand, going with a new strategy does present a serious risk.


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