For the first time since the annual industry conference started in 1995, Nintendo will not be holding a major press conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) this year, instead "working to establish a new presentation style for E3."
Nintendo announced the surprising change in its promotional plans via an investor presentation by Nintendo President Satoru Iwata overnight. Rather than holding a major E3 press event to appeal to different audiences around the world, Iwata says Nintendo is "planning to host a few smaller events that are specifically focused on our software lineup for the US market" for this year's show, one for American distributors and another for the Western press. Iwata also cryptically mentioned that Nintendo is "continuing to investigate ways to deliver information about our games directly to our home audience around the time of E3," suggesting that it might be planning some sort of video presentation directly to consumers via the Web (or the Wii U) during the show.
Considered in a vacuum bereft of context, this news might come as a welcome change from the typical media barrage assured from a keynote speech at E3.
In reality, however, Nintendo is ceding the spotlight to its competitors as they both unveil — and begin to earnestly push — their latest hardware and software products.
Nintendo introduced the Wii U last year under the veiled guise of a next generation device. In reality, however, the Wii U is little more than a gimmick-riddled piece of hardware hampered by outmoded technologies.
And yet, the Wii U is at a point of relative nascence and much of its narrative has yet to be told. Accordingly, it's baffling that the company would choose to sacrifice even a whiff of attention at such a critical moment.
Nintendo ought to be striking confidence into its audience. Crippling as its financial performance might be, the company simply will not find any semblance of resurgence through measured silence.
Virtually everyone I know — geek or otherwise — has a deep-seated affection for Nintendo. People genuinely want the firm to succeed, if only for the survival of some of gaming's most beloved franchises. But Nintendo has hampered its console efforts with a half-baked Wii U, whilst the 3DS poses a waning value proposition for modern smartphone-equipped customers.
If the company would step out in front of its audience — amidst the largest industry trade show and greatest volume of competition — and articulate a message of excitement and confidence, however, they might enjoy some much-needed positive praise. They might not have many new things to show, but they'd be garnering mindshare (e.g., Sony held a reveal for the PlayStation 4 only to reveal nothing, but at least we're all still talking about it).
Instead, Nintendo've ostensibly chosen to avoid any potential embarrassment by sitting on the sidelines. At best, it's a tactical retreat. At worst, it's pure cowardice.
I continue to root for Nintendo, but I cannot help but think stepping out of the spotlight in such a manner is a decision that will prove to be truly damaging for its continued performance.