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The Direct Approach: Nintendo's Newfangled Method of Communication

by Tom Malina - April 20, 2013, 4:28 am PDT
Total comments: 11

So secretive for so many years, Nintendo is finally starting to open up to its fans through the Direct broadcasts.

Video game hype is fun. Sure, it's an illogical cycle of feverish excitement that probably does the games in question no favours in terms of expectations, but nevertheless, it's fun to get hyped up about something, discuss it endlessly with like-minded people, and wonder just how it might capture your imagination.

With regard to Nintendo's history, hype cycles were most prevalent on the Nintendo 64, a system that was, on the one hand, famous for several groundbreaking, genre-defining titles, while on the other hand, infamous for droughts and high-profile delays. 

Perhaps it was in response to the N64's time in the market, then, that in the next decade, the company began to keep its projects much closer to the chest. Since its final Space World event in 2001 shortly before the launch of the GameCube, Nintendo tended to remain very quiet all year save for E3, even as competitors embraced social networking and other modern technologies to talk about their games.

The annual E3 press conference took on a whole new culture of anticipation, simply because it was basically the only time Nintendo would bring its unknown upcoming titles out of lockup. But there were times during the life of the GameCube and the Wii where the lack of information was a source of immense frustration.

What do I have to look forward to? When will this release drought end? What exactly are all Nintendo's first-party studios doing, if they are even doing anything at all? These are the sort of questions people would often ask as Nintendo spent much of the 2000s dealing in secrecy.

However, on October 21, 2011, this started to change. On this day, Nintendo hosted for the first time a live web broadcast under the name of "Nintendo Direct." This debut presentation was fairly low-key, but still, it was nice to hear about these 3DS games in greater detail. 

Then a couple of months later, we had another Nintendo Direct, with more about third-party software. Then another came just before E3, unveiling the system features of the new Wii U. And then another, and another, and so on, until we reach the present day. About a year and a half after that first show, we have been able to enjoy 15 individual Nintendo Direct broadcasts, and in the wake of the most recent one, they really feel like they are getting better and better each time.

It's weird to think that the same company spent more than a decade prior being so elusive. Now we have the respective presidents of Nintendo's major regional divisions speaking straight to the fans, providing regular updates on both internal and external projects, in a format that is arguably much more suitable than the grandeur that is the E3 media briefings.

Nintendo Direct is fast-paced, dense, and highly informative; moreover, we are seeing a greater number of new game announcements. After Wednesday, how can you not feel good about your Nintendo 3DS? And with all of that out of the way, doesn't that pave a nice path for the Wii U to take the limelight at this year's E3?

That's not to say that these Direct broadcasts are perfect. The scriptwriting and the attempts at humour would often sound peculiar from somebody who speaks English natively, much less the NCL head, Satoru Iwata. Also, some of the teasers seem a bit disingenuous with the rest, especially those that aren't really ready to be demonstrated (Wind Waker HD concept renders, anybody?).

Having said that, I, for one, am really happy with this new era of Nintendo communication. Finally, I can look forward to a first-party info blowout more than one time per year, and it's just nice to know that, behind all the smoke and mirrors, there's always something going on at my favourite developer in gaming.

Talkback

Wasn't there a Nintendo Direct in October of 2011? The date October 21 rings a bell..

Good article, though.

Killer_Man_JaroTom Malina, Associate Editor (Europe)April 20, 2013

February 2012 was the earliest Nintendo Direct archived on Nintendo's website, so I assume that was the first one.

RazorkidApril 20, 2013

I agree completely. As a person who despises announcements of games 2-4 years into the future for the long term and an info dump once a year at E3, Nintendo directs have become my own personal E3 with each iteration without the need to wait a year or few for said announcements to come to fruition.

Outside of NWR, I never visit gaming enthusiast sites for Nintendo news because of the often negative connotation said news is presented. With ND, I get the announcements straight from the president's mouth with no fanfare or zany "isn't that cool!" marketing speak from which I can induce my own hype or disappointment based on my own impressions and not through the filter of a middle man.

I hope the other console makers take a page from Nintendo on this one and make their announcements similarly although I doubt they'll be able to match the charm of Mr. Iwata.

azekeApril 20, 2013

Quote from: Razorkid

I hope the other console makers take a page from Nintendo on this one and make their announcements similarly although I doubt they'll be able to match the charm of Mr. Iwata.

Other console makers or any other publisher for that matter don't really have as many releases within a year as Nintendo.

Like how many releases Sony or Microsoft do in a year, even including digital? Five, six, ten?

Of course they could mix it up with third party stuff, but third parties on other systems are big ass indepedent companies who can do their own big marketing by themselves.

house3136April 20, 2013

Cue the complaining about how Nintendo didn’t show anything “new” at E3. “But we already knew about Pokémon, Mario & Luigi, and Zelda… what else?”

It would be hard to find someone who doesn’t like the Nintendo Direct format. Using it in conjunction with events, where the press can give hands on impressions of the game announcements, gives an added dimension to the enthusiast at home. 

However, Nintendo Direct only reaches gamers who are in the know about the games anyway. I only hope ND is used in concurrence with vigorous advertising campaigns to reach the larger audience that isn’t aware.

I like the Nintendo Directs and just want to say thank God for NWR. I was browsing YouTube for coverage of the recent event, and Machinima was literally bragging about how they don’t play Nintendo games or consoles; but I guess that’s the audience they cater to.

broodwarsApril 20, 2013

Quote from: Razorkid

I hope the other console makers take a page from Nintendo on this one and make their announcements similarly although I doubt they'll be able to match the charm of Mr. Iwata.

They already do. Sony has the PlayStation Blog, which is updated almost every day with news from the world of PlayStation.  They also advertise the PSN Store heavily there, something Nintendo doesn't actually do with the eShop.  They also have a weekly podcast that covers all the news and upcoming releases.  Sure, they don't announce new titles very often there (if ever), but Sony's been on the ball with that Blog for far longer than these Nintendo Directs have been going on.

Microsoft also has a similar, if lesser, system with the weekly Major Nelson podcasts.

Evan_BApril 20, 2013

The but main difference between Nintendo Directs and those features, broodwars, is that Nintendo Directs come out of the blue, and already have a penchant for showing off new, exciting material. Therefore, when they appear, there's a bit more hype than those other presentations.

Leo13April 22, 2013

I wish they'd advertise them on my 3DS and Wii U when I boot up and then let me stream the Full Nintendo Direct on my 3DS and Wii U!

azekeApril 22, 2013

Quote from: Leo13

I wish they'd advertise them on my 3DS and Wii U when I boot up and then let me stream the Full Nintendo Direct on my 3DS and Wii U!

Nintendo Directs can be watched on Wii U.

That's how i watched the last one, live.

RazorkidApril 22, 2013

Quote from: azeke

Quote from: Leo13

I wish they'd advertise them on my 3DS and Wii U when I boot up and then let me stream the Full Nintendo Direct on my 3DS and Wii U!

Nintendo Directs can be watched on Wii U.

That's how i watched the last one, live.

Same thing on 3DS. The directs are advertised in a way on the eShop of both systems as they are usually put up on the front page (WiiU)/within first few panels (3DS) after the direct is over along with relevant videos and trailers for games (this is more so on 3DS). I've watched every ND this year so far on my WiiU game pad through the eShop.

azekeApril 22, 2013

Quote from: Razorkid

Same thing on 3DS. The directs are advertised in a way on the eShop of both systems as they are usually put up on the front page (WiiU)/within first few panels (3DS) after the direct is over along with relevant videos and trailers for games (this is more so on 3DS). I've watched every ND this year so far on my WiiU game pad through the eShop.

That too, but i meant that you can watch Directs on Wii U browser.

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