E3 is the biggest event in the video game industry, annually pulling in thousands of attendees and flooding news outlets with all the latest information on upcoming games, hardware, and more slated to drop over the next year and beyond. Yet, despite its undeniably high profile, there’s no question that E3’s importance is continually coming into question more and more. For all its spectacle, glitz, and glamour, E3 isn’t the be-all, end-all way for fans to hear the latest and greatest news about their beloved video game publishers and developers. The wonder that is the Internet has demonstrated that if a major game-maker like Nintendo or Sony has something to say about its products, the world is going to hear it.
It was widely panned by fans and the media alike a few years back when Nintendo decided to eschew a traditional stage presentation in Los Angeles in favor of a digitally broadcast showcase of its E3 announcements. Outraged though these pundits were, Nintendo ended up proving their doubts wrong, as the company’s announcements were all picked up and instantaneously disseminated to fans by everyone from IGN to Kotaku; in other words, all the usual suspects of the gaming journalism world put fingers to keyboards and reported Nintendo’s news just as they would have if the company was standing on the stage of the Nokia Theater.
What Nintendo proved was that E3 as a concept was officially antiquated. E3 will surely continue to be hosted for many more years to come, but what Nintendo taught everyone was that in this modern information age, all any of the big time players of the video game industry have to do to be heard is start talking. If Reggie Fils-Aime decides tomorrow that he’s going to announce the title of the next Zelda game from a bathroom stall in a McDonald’s, there will be a hundred reporters with microphones crammed in that bathroom with him. People crave news and information. With smart devices in their hands at all hours of the day, there’s no longer a need to stand on ceremony to make grandiose reveals. Nintendo Direct broadcasts, as lively and entertaining as they are, are emblematic of this; Nintendo’s digital press conferences could look like a high school kid’s first video project, and the throngs of devotees to the company would still want to watch them. The information is what matters most.
NX not being at E3 2016 is disappointing, but it isn’t going to kill the console. Nintendo will be dropping the system in the spring of 2017; that’s basically a whole year from now. Why bother making some half-baked announcements at E3 when, in a month or two after the show, the fervor around any information dropped at the show will have already died down? It’s a 24-hour news cycle these days; people want the latest and greatest information every day on a regular basis. If Nintendo goes into E3 with a mediocre lineup of software to showcase simply because by the day of the show it didn’t have enough time to get its ducks in a row, what’s the point? It might fill that void of information that people despise so much, but it’s a perpetual need that will never go away; better to feed the beast later with something hearty and satisfying rather than provide an unpalatable morsel right now. If NX simply isn’t done baking, and its lineup of games is currently anemic because Nintendo needs more time to court developers, then by all means wait until mid-summer or early fall to finally pull the curtain back. Disappointing fans right now could be potentially much more disastrous than putting off the big reveal until a few months after E3.
Again, E3 as a platform for distributing information is nearly irrelevant. As the comic book industry learned years ago, waiting until Comic-Con in San Diego once a year to make big announcements was pointless when the Internet is ready and waiting at all hours of the day. Publishers do still drop information at Comic-Con each year, but it’s no longer viewed as the place to announce a character death or line-wide crossover. From multiple different conventions around the country to random press releases, everyone from Marvel to DC has, for many years now, embraced the fluidity and convenience of the web to connect with fans and keep them in the loop. The “when” and “where” isn’t important, it’s the information itself, it’s being heard, and that’s exactly what Nintendo is going to do with NX.
It might be sad to have to wait even longer to know what the system will be like, but in the middle of summer when fans have grown tired of hearing about games X, Y, and Z from Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo can swoop in with a fresh batch of information about NX and firmly swing the spotlight back onto itself. I’m not saying NX doesn’t have the potential to bomb; I have no clue what to expect from it, after all, and it could be a monumental disappointment. What I do know, however, is that Nintendo won’t do itself a disservice by waiting beyond the hallowed time frame of E3 to start rolling out information about the upcoming console, and that fans shouldn’t needlessly work themselves into a tizzy over that, either. Sit back and put your feet up; NX might be better if we give it the time it needs to properly solidify and come into its own.