Nintendo has never really “got” E3, and that’s fine. Opting to stay away from the traditional press conferences the past few years in favor of hosting its own Digital Events, the company has never been one for caving in to the idea that they should be directly compared with their peers by launching into some hyperbolic press event, in which they reel off industry buzzwords and engage in a giant dick-swinging contest with Microsoft and Sony. I am fine with them maintaining their distance from this, because Nintendo isn’t much like Sony nor Microsoft and I rather like it that way.
With that being said, regardless of whether or not Nintendo really believes E3 is a valuable platform to showcase its upcoming games, it’s still an important industry event. It’s a great way for developers and publishers to pummel their games into the public consciousness, and it’s often a very accurate way of determining where a company is headed within the next year or so. With that being said, it seems that the direction Nintendo headed in is “Nowhere in Particular.”
I’m a Wii U owner and I like the console. I get that sales have been lackluster but, and I’ve said this so many times I feel like it should be my epitaph when I eventually croak it, it’s got a small selection of truly classic games. At E3, Nintendo has all but confirmed that they aren’t as enamored with the Wii U as I am. During the conference, which kicked off with an underwhelming look at a new Star Fox game, we didn’t get to see much of anything, really, apart from another look at Yoshi’s Wooly World, a game that I’ve seen so much footage of that I feel like I’ve already played and completed it, and an odd Animal Crossing/Mario Party hybrid that was met with complete indifference. No new IPs, no returning series as Metroid, no The Legend of Zelda gameplay footage. It was a dire display for Wii U owners.
Frankly, Nintendo doesn’t have much of anything in store for the Wii U following the release of Star Fox and The Legend of Zelda. This is likely due to their upcoming console, tentatively titled the NX, which they briefly referred to during the Digital Event and must surely be just on the horizon, with it now being pegged for a late 2016 release. I’ve seen people defending Nintendo’s decision to swiftly plunge the Wii U into irrelevancy during their Digital Event by saying that this is somehow an obvious course of action given the NX’s existence, suggesting that Wii U owners should somehow be fine with Nintendo giving up on a console they only released in November 2012, because a new console is just around the corner and apparently they should buy that when it comes out despite them having dropped the Wii U like a bad habit.
But Nintendo is a company that has maintained its position in the video game industry for so many years because of consumer loyalty. We’ve been playing their games since we were kids, and they’ve provided us with some of the very best this medium has to offer. For them to distance themselves from the Wii U only two years following its launch and release another console betrays the reliability we’ve come to expect from them, but the harsh truth of the matter is that they gave up on the Wii U far before this year’s E3 reared its head.
Ignoring the initial promise of what the touchscreen Gamepad could bring to the controller, Nintendo opted to either completely ignore it or relegate it to performing perfunctory tasks in the vast majority of its games, almost immediately giving up on what they once pegged as a game-changing experience. As such, the Wii U was more or less doomed from the start. This stands to harm the reliability of the company, and as such shakes that consumer loyalty somewhat. Now, that loyalty has remained intact in spite of their treatment of the Wii U as a console due to the fantastic games they continue to pump out, but with a showing like the one at this year’s E3, people are starting to question that loyalty when they’ve invested hundreds of dollars in a console that the company failed to get off the ground.
In my opinion, Nintendo needed to put on a strong showing for the Wii U and remind us of why they’ve remained relevant for over three decades in this industry. This needed to be their reminder that, while they may have flubbed the Wii U, they were still loyal to fans of their games and they were going to give Wii U owners a strong catalog of games to enjoy before the console met its untimely demise. But they didn’t. Instead, they’re looking to head into the launch of the NX with no momentum. People are justifying their poor E3 presentation by saying that they’re saving themselves for the NX, but why should we take the risk on that new console after what has happened with the Wii U and how little Nintendo has supported it? Why should we trust that, if the launch sales of the NX mimic those of its predecessor, we won’t find ourselves in a similar position with the console a couple of years down the line?
The truth is that if any other company flubbed a console as much as Nintendo has with the Wii U, we’d be questioning their future and the concept of purchasing their next console wouldn’t even compute. But we all know that Nintendo will not go away because, simply put, they are video games; they’re the company we grew up with and made the industry what it is today. With the Wii U looking set to be all but dead come mid-2016, let’s just hope that Nintendo remembers that the reason we’ve remained so loyal to them is because they’ve given us good reason to be, and whatever they do with the NX, they won’t treat it with the same ambivalence as they have the Wii U.