It has been almost four years since Nintendo first started airing its Nintendo Directs, which promised to bring news on upcoming games– direct– to gamers. This year also marked the third consecutive year in which Nintendo decided to forgo a traditional E3 presentation in favor of this new method of delivering news. The design of these pre-recorded videos has developed over time, yet, ultimately, the question remains as to how successful they have actually been, and whether they are better than the traditional methods still used by the other major publishers and console manufacturers.
The idea behind Nintendo Direct was to provide information to fans on a more regular basis in a format that Nintendo could control. Back in 2013, for example, when Nintendo first decided not to hold an E3 press conference, it justified the move by stating that with digital events, “No matter where you are in the world, you’ll be fully informed. We look forward to continuing to provide you with Nintendo news and content in ways you haven’t before experienced.”
The videos (with the exception of certain global editions) provide tailored information to specific regions, alongside more universal coverage. While it has sometimes led to frustrating situations between regions (for example, finding out that America won’t be getting the regular New 3DS), it has in many ways helped personalize the news. Europe, America, and Japan are all regularly catered for, and I was surprised to learn that even South Korea has been getting its own region-specific broadcasts! As someone living in the UK, I was always elated to hear about a new game coming to my console, only to find out at a later stage that it wouldn’t be coming to Europe for months, if at all. This new method of presenting news has helped clarify such issues and delivers a message that Nintendo cares about its community on a global scale.
In relation to Nintendo Directs, Mr. Iwata himself explained how Nintendo “have been paying special attention to the fact that different people demand different types of information from us.” Certainly, when watching the broadcasts, it is clear that Nintendo has been trying to take a different route with the presentations.
Take the recent Nintendo Digital Event, for example. While we were given plenty of information and trailers about upcoming games, this was all presented in a witty, entertaining style that has become typical of Nintendo as of late. Instead of being told about how Bowser and Donkey Kong will be featured in the latest Skylanders game, we were shown two senior industry figures sitting down with the toys and discussing it. The Muppet-style opening, meanwhile, which saw Iwata, Miyamoto, and Reggie slowly turn into the cast of Star Fox, was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in recent months.
Alongside new information on games, viewers are also regularly treated to segments that delve into various aspects behind the development of games. Prior to Nintendo Directs, the only place where it would be possible to find such information (like Miyamoto’s inspiration behind the Star Fox Zero logo) would be the Iwata Asks feature, where Mr. Iwata interviews various developers.
However, as much as I love hearing these sorts of stories, I can’t help but think that Nintendo hasn’t quite figured out how best to use them in their broadcasts. Again, to use this E3 as an example, the story behind the creation of the Yarn Yoshi Amiibo was certainly cute (something which no one can deny), yet, we had already seen a behind the scenes look at Yoshi’s Woolly World last year. We were also shown off the woolly Amiibo in another Direct back in April. For me, this highlights just how important the actual content is, regardless of the format– this is what people take away from it, after all. As informative as the Yoshi Amiibo segment was, I just don’t think it was something that should have taken up 10 percent of the E3 event.
Having Nintendo Directs interspersed throughout the year certainly gives Nintendo more room to showcase these sorts of stories. They are interesting, no doubt, and also provide insight into the development of our favorite franchises. The type of viewer who is likely watching Nintendo Directs may not actually want that sort of information, though, or at least may not want it at the expense of new game footage. The beauty with Iwata Asks, after all, is that they are very much supplemental interviews.
It has been good then, for this reason, that Nintendo has been regularly releasing these throughout the year. We have seen a huge variety in terms of what each presentation entails, from game specific “mini Directs” to platform specific ones, all the way up to the grand sweeping E3 Digital Events. I think the main problem that many people had with this year’s E3 presentation was not the fact that it included these sorts of stories and cute intersperses, like the Mario power-ups (which amazingly turned out to be a feature of Super Mario Maker!), it was that they were expecting a presentation of E3 proportions from Nintendo.
Despite this, though, Nintendo Directs have, in my opinion, been a success for the company overall. Back in 2012, the broadcasts were reportedly attracting around one million viewers, and this has almost certainly increased since then. Nintendo has managed to establish a tone and style which continues to separate it from the other publishers out there, delivering regular presentations in an entertaining manner. The decision to use this format also seems to have had a ripple effect on how it interacts with gamers, with interactive Nintendo Treehouse sessions at E3 now a regular occurrence.
Will Nintendo ever revert back to traditional on-stage presentations? Despite the success of Nintendo Directs, it seems clear that there is a time and place for them and the content that they deliver. While Nintendo has shown that this can and should be the preferred medium at times (even at E3), I still have a feeling that there will be a time in the future when the company will deliver a traditional performance again. Even though fans have come to embrace Nintendo Direct as the de facto medium for Nintendo news, an on-stage presentation would surely herald major announcements and would be hugely anticipated as a result.
Until then, I am more than happy to continue tuning into regular Nintendo Directs– although, it remains to be seen how Nintendo plans to outdo turning its senior executives into Star Fox muppets!