Posted by: Alex J. Lopez
A few thoughts about Nintendo’s E3 performance this year:
–If Nintendo’s mission was to introduce a games lineup that could duplicate the system-saving lineup that changed the fate of the 3DS early on, they followed the formula pretty much exactly. The games that launched after the 3DS launch window that quickly rose to million-sellers and turned things around for 3DS (along with the price cut) were Super Mario 3DLand, MarioKart 7, and Legend of Zelda remake, Ocarina of Time. For Wii U they showed Super Mario 3DWorld, MarioKart 8, and another Legend of Zelda remake, The Wind Waker. While this lineup felt a little stale to those of us that buy every Nintendo game, these are the proven system-moving franchises that Wii U needs right now, to increase the install base and get third parties back on board.
–The games media has reacted surprisingly positive regarding Nintendo this E3. Word from internet writers who attended is that Nintendo handled the “limited to media” software showcase event very well, and that journalists got unprecedented access to Reggie, Miyamoto, Aonuma, Sakurai, and tons of other developers who are making first-party Nintendo exclusives for Wii U. In addition to the mingling, they also had better access to playable demos without having to stand in the usual long lines when all E3 attendees are allowed in Nintendo’s booth. Nintendo did a great job managing the games press, who may have felt snubbed with Nintendo’s new emphasis on communicating directly with fans as opposed to doing it through them.
–As far as the Nintendo Direct strategy and Nintendo’s decision to forgo a traditional press conference, I feel a little neutral about it in the short term, but see the benefits of where they are going long term. Over the past year or so, Nintendo fans have benefitted from “mini E3’s” every 60-90 days or so as opposed to one E3 in the summer and the one fall press conference they usually do to prepare for the holiday season. While over time this is a good thing, all that communication made it difficult for them to save a lot of surprises for E3 2013. We heard about a new 3D Mario game and MarioKart coming to Wii U back in January’s Nintendo Direct. Would it have been better for them not to have mentioned it and saved the surprise? Who knows. But I do think it’s clear that Nintendo has done a good job of managing the change in direction they’re pursuing with respect to communicating directly with consumers as opposed to doing it through the sometimes cloudy and misleading lens of a games press that admittedly doesn’t “get” them. Microsoft could learn a few things about effectively changing paradigms from Nintendo.
–The unveiling of the game that Retro Studios has been working on felt a little anticlimactic when Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was shown. That’s not to say it won’t be a great game or that it won’t sell well, but the announcement offered none of the sizzle one would expect from the game that Reggie described as “the big surprise game this E3”. This is mainly due to the recent release of Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D for 3DS (and Donkey Kong Country Returns for Wii in 2011), making it feel like the franchise is a bit overdone at this point. It’s curious that they would launch a DK Country game in the final year of Wii and then again in the first year of Wii U–that time could have better been used on something completely new. Retro fans were expecting a new franchise, or perhaps sequels to franchises we haven’t seen recently like Metroid Prime or Starfox. At this point though, it’s clear that Nintendo’s move last year to combine handheld and console studios as well as the need to produce quality evergreen titles fast, has resulted in some reusing of game engines and assets. That’s how you end up with the three (arguably) biggest games coming to Wii U (Super Mario 3DWorld, MarioKart 8, and DK Country Tropical Freeze) having very similar games that are already on store shelves for 3DS.
–My favorite quote from E3 this year comes from none other than Shigeru Miyamoto himself, possibly the last person I would have expected to weigh in on the controversy surrounding Microsoft’s move to end game ownership with their “gaming as a service” approach on Xbox One. It comes from an interview he did with ComputerAndVideogames.com, where he was asked what Nintendo’s stance was on preowned games:
“..from our perspective you want to create a game that people will want to keep and keep playing for a long time. That’s the approach that we always take and that’s the best way to avoid used games.”
I don’t know about you, but that makes me a lot more comfortable about my investment in Nintendo’s platforms this generation, especially in light of where things are clearly heading with mobile and now with Xbox One.
–I don’t think Nintendo did anything here to convince anyone who doesn’t already own a Wii U to pick one up instead of a competing console. For whatever reason, for better or worse, Nintendo passed on being the “one console to rule them all” this generation. I think as far as niche consumers (and that’s what we game enthusiasts are, a niche) are concerned, Nintendo would be happy with most of us owning a Wii U whether we own another console or not. They clearly have limitations on the number of quality first-party titles they can produce, and don’t seem to mind us sharing our time and money with the competition. But they have shown over time that they can be very profitable in a multi-console market–in the best of times as they did with Wii, and in the worst of times as they did with N64 and GameCube. They’ve only had one unprofitable year in their long history, despite slow starts with 3DS and Wii U they are in a far better financial state than Sony’s Playstation division or Xbox’s Entertainment division. Nintendo isn’t going anywhere.
But as for Sony and Microsoft, it’s clear PS4 came away with the best showing of E3 2013–like last year, they stuck to showing great games and it paid off with excitement from both consumers and the games press. They were also smart to seize the opportunity to position themselves at a lower price point than Xbox One and without all of the controversial limitations and restrictions of their more expensive competitor.
Sony is used to losing money–they may as well try something new and lose money up front for a smart investment down the road.
As for Microsoft, I think there are only two roads for Xbox One: they either fade to the last place console position that PS3 held last gen or they will fade into irrelevance altogether like Microsoft’s Surface tablet and Windows Phone. With the exception of the Halo franchise, Xbox doesn’t have the strong franchises to carry it through rough times, and even that game can be replaced by the dozens of AAA first person shooters that are coming for PS4, PC, and even Wii U. And to make matters worse, they effectively killed off their 360 business by announcing that any digital games you may have bought on 360 will not be supported on Xbox One. Xbox 360 won’t have the long lifespan that PS3 will continue to enjoy, despite their “new” model.
Thoughts or comments? Find me on Google+ at AlexJLopezwmr or at AlexJLopezMW on Twitter.