Nintendo’s move to delay the Nintendo NX into March next year may have angered a lot of fans who were waiting for the new console this year, especially in light of the poor lineup that the Wii U has had over the last few months, but it was a sensible decision, especially once Nintendo revealed that their reason for the delay was to ensure the NX would hit the ground running with a compelling lineup of games. After all, the NX is the platform that Nintendo are staking the next decade of their profitability on- in the context of that picture, one missed holiday season hardly matters, but a bungled launch and a failed platform could potentially sink the company.
So no, the delay makes sense. As much as it disappointed me, I had to concede to seeing the logic and sensibility of the decision. What, however, did not make any sense to me was Nintendo’s subsequent announcement that they would not be debuting the NX at E3– that they would instead sit E3 out this year, and wait for later in 2016 to reveal the NX on their own terms, on their own time.
As bad decisions go, this one probably ranks pretty high up there- E3 is, diminished importance in recent years and all, still a pretty major media event. Mainstream media and outlets, places like MSNBC, CNN, BBC, and the like, all cover E3, exposing products announced and showcased there to an audience that otherwise does not keep up with gaming news. A good showing at E3, then, can lead to major mass market success for yourproduct, firmly putting it in the big league- just ask Bethesda, whose Fallout 4 became their most successful game in history, thanks to a stellar debut at E3. Skipping out on E3, in this context, makes no sense.
"E3 is, diminished importance in recent years and all, still a pretty major media event. Mainstream media and outlets, places like MSNBC, CNN, BBC, and the like, all cover E3, exposing products announced and showcased there to an audience that otherwise does not keep up with gaming news."
It makes even less sense for Nintendo– the company’s Wii U has been a major flop, and the console has been a slow slide into steady irrelevance. This is not about whether or not the Wii U is a good games platform – it is, for my money, it is still the bets gaming console this generation so far – it is about the fact that most people either don’t know about the Wii U, or they don’t care. Repeated poor messaging on Nintendo’s part, marketing that failed to penetrate into the mainstream, and a complete and total lack of third party support – more thorough than any other major system in history, including even the Sega Saturn and the PS Vita have suffered – have caused the Wii U to lose mindshare and cachet with the general and gaming public. Most people are simply not aware of the Wii U’s existence- and those that are treat it as a joke (when mainstream shows like South Park and The Big Bang Theory will dedicate entire episodes to the PS4 and Xbox One, but only mention the Wii U as a throwaway joke, you come to realize that Nintendo has a bit of a perception issue on its hands here).
So yes, for Nintendo, this is a terrible idea- especially since none of these problems are permanent, and they could easily recover from them with a strong showing at E3 that made a hell of an impression. Now, they could always have a strong showing later, at their own show or Direct, too, no one is denying that- but right now, at E3, all eyes would be on them. People would be paying attention. More people paying attention means more people potentially converted to the cause, in turn meaning potentially higher sales right off the bat. But no, for whatever reason, Nintendo have decided to completely sit out E3 this year, not even pretending to have their ‘digital events’ or Directs, as they have for the last few years, instead just focusing on one game that doesn’t launch until next year, and will anyway be catered more towards the NX- the console that Nintendo won’t talk about. It’s baffling.
"When mainstream shows like South Park and The Big Bang Theory will dedicate entire episodes to the PS4 and Xbox One, but only mention the Wii U as a throwaway joke, you come to realize that Nintendo has a bit of a perception issue on its hands here."
It may be baffling and even damaging for Nintendo- but for Sony, this absence represents a major opening that could allow them to further solidify the PlayStation 4’s insane momentum. You see, at this point, it is all but confirmed that Sony plan to unveil a mid life revision to the PlayStation 4- the PlayStation 4K, which will be a sort of New Nintendo 3DS-esque bump to the console, upping its specs to allow for a higher end gaming experience. The PS4K has not yet been announced- but it is evident at this point that Sony may be planning to take the wraps off of it at E3.
Now, the PS4K represents a bit of a hard sell to most people, even if it is a sensible and forward thinking move– after all, how do you explain to the 40 million PS4 owners that their $400 consoles are technically ‘outdated’ less than three years after they first bought them? In context of a brand new console unveil at E3, were Nintendo to debut the NX there, it would have become even harder, as all attention would have inevitably shifted to whatever Nintendo was peddling, leaving the PS4K with not much press, or worse, bad press, in comparison to the inevitable excitement that accompanies the reveal of a new console (a friendly reminder that even the Wii U and PS Vita had a lot of good press right after they were first revealed to the world). In this context, Sony’s move would be seen as a half hearted half step, and worse still, maybe even anti-consumer, as the focus would then have been on the unnecessary console upgrade that failed to respect the tens of millions of PS4 owners worldwide already.
The PS4K reveal needs to be a very careful balancing act- Sony needs to simultaneously sell this upgrade as a necessary and desirable one, while at the same time also making sure that they don’t inevitably make current PS4 owners feel as though their machines are obsolete. It’s going to be a difficult juggling act, and Sony needs to get its messaging down- something that may have been hard to do with the threat of an NX reveal. With the threat of the NX reveal, for example, Sony may have been tempted to push the upgraded specs of the PS4K more, which would presumably make it equal, or superior, to the NX- but then they would, by implicit extension, make the PS4 effectively obsolete, leading to resentment, negativity, and backlash from the millions who already own the machine. Sony could also have chosen to not focus on the upgraded specs much to avoid that, but then they would risk the PS4K looking like yesterdays’s news, undesirable, next to a shiny new console.
"Without having to worry about a new console reveal potentially making them look bad, Sony don’t have to be on the defensive- they can instead focus on what they want to say, without any other external consideration, instead of worrying about what they should say to get a leg up on the competition."
But Nintendo not being at E3 changes that- Sony get the stage all to themselves. They do not have to worry about the rug being swept from under them, because there is no new console that the PS4K will be compared to. Instead, it will be viewed as its own thing, and how it is perceived will depend entirely on how Sony manages to sculpt its messaging of the thing. Without having to worry about a new console reveal potentially making them look bad, Sony don’t have to be on the defensive- they can instead focus on what they want to say, without any other external consideration, instead of worrying about what they should say to get a leg up on the competition. This significantly makes their job easier.
Don’t get me wrong- the PS4K reveal could still go terribly wrong. Sony may still bungle the messaging, or focus on all the wrong aspects, or end up alienating both, the crowd looking for new tech, and the demographic of current PS4 owners, in a desperate and misguided attempt to appeal to both. The PS4K reveal could still be a backfire of epic proportions. But if it is, it will come down to Sony’s own mishandling of it. With the NX (currently) out of the picture, Sony’s job is easier- still difficult, but not as difficult as it would have been otherwise. If the PS4K reveal goes wrong now, they will have no one to blame but themselves- since external factors don’t come into play anymore, at least none that we know of.
To be very clear, then, the ball is all in Sony’s court now, and there’s no one on the other side who could dish out a bad serve and make Sony fumble. If they do mess up now, it’ll be because of their own poor serve. If Sony do poorly with the PS4K reveal now, it will be because they fundamentally failed to market the PS4K right to people with their messaging. With the NX gone out of the picture, however, the chances of that are significantly reduced.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.