It’s been a while since Nintendo’s presented a proper conference at E3 — since 2012, in fact. After providing two conferences that fans felt were underwhelming, which were both intended to serve as the biggest opportunities to showcase the then-new Wii U, Nintendo felt it was better for their capabilities and position in the worldwide gaming market to have a more subdued showcase in subsequent years. The move was met with mostly derision when news of the decision was announced, to the point that many thought it marked the beginning of the end of Nintendo as a console manufacturer. The first showcase in 2013 was rough thanks to serious streaming issues, but the 2014 presentation was good enough to convince those who watched it that it was a perfectly good alternative going forward.
The last few years have shown how forgoing a conference has become the new normal for Nintendo. Heck, they even skipped a live event last year despite having a new console they could have unveiled in Nintendo Switch, then still codenamed as “Nintendo NX.” In fact, they didn’t have a proper presentation at all, and simply opted for Treehouse showcases for their upcoming games, with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild being by far the largest attraction. It was clear that not enough Switch software was ready to show, and the amount of remaining Wii U software was minimal.
Despite the chances being low, some fans were hoping Nintendo would break their newfound tradition and host another conference again this year. After all, they’re bound to have a slew of new Switch software to show to the public. The lineup will include already-announced titles like Super Mario Odyssey, Splatoon 2, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and Fire Emblem Warriors, which should receive release dates or timeframes (outside Splatoon 2, which is coming on July 21st), alongside new announcements. The Switch console itself has been a success out the gate, and it’s still difficult to find one in stock at stores despite it launching outside the Christmas season. Given its popularity and their lineup, Nintendo could put on a normal conference on par with Microsoft’s or Sony’s.
They’re aren’t, though. Nintendo confirmed they’ll be airing a digital presentation that will start at noon eastern, the same time they’ve previously aired, which will be followed by Treehouse presentations for their lineup of titles for the remainder of the convention. The presentation will include games releasing for Switch later this year, and some due to arrive in early 2018, along with remaining 3DS games.
The preliminary details of the presentation disappointed some in the gaming audience, mainly those who like presentations with a series of gargantuan game unveils on par with Sony’s E3 2015 conference. That preference is fine, but some of us would rather not have a conference headlined by games that, to this day, still don’t have release timeframes. (Those are Final Fantasy VII: Remake and Shenmue III, if you’re keeping score.) Nintendo is also accustomed to showing games releasing in the near future, despite some exceptions (the Nintendo Direct of January 2013 being the biggest one), so this fits their standards perfectly fine.
What’s noteworthy is how this is the first time in a while where the conditions are perfect for Nintendo to throw a live press conference on the grandest gaming stage. That they aren’t taking the opportunity shows how they no longer value them. But they also abandoned them because of how easy they can go awry, like January’s live Switch presentation from Japan. Plenty of upcoming projects were shown and announced on the show from first and third-party partners, but its pacing left much to be desired. It’s far easier to control the flow of a presentation that’s mostly assembled beforehand, and Nintendo has found that to be far more to their liking. Unless you need to have big crowds cheering for most announcements, this is a fine alternative.
Besides, they can use these digital events for fun gimmicks that wouldn’t fly in a live presentation, like segments using puppets or dolls. The lack of a proper presentation meant we missed out on this last year, but hopefully the reception towards these segments was good enough that they’ll provide something similarly goofy this year. That their plans weren’t announced with an accompanying comedic video this year is discouraging, but hopefully they’re saving all that energy for the main course.
Over the next few weeks, we should hear and potentially see more about their intended presentation setup, and perhaps they have enough games coming to Switch that they’ll upload a mini Direct shortly before E3. Nintendo’s usually good about keeping secrets, so for their sake and those who enjoy being surprised, let’s hope nothing significant leaks in the next month.