Login | Signup

Nintendo Direct - Disappointing Fans Since 2011

Chris Hyde
3DS, Nintendo, Nintendo Direct, Wii U

Nintendo Direct - Disappointing Fans Since 2011

Take your minds back 28 months to a time before Nintendo Direct existed. It was a time before Rihanna was number 1 with "We Found Love" (yes I looked that up), it was a different time. Before Iwata, Miyamato and the gang would get together infront of clean white backgrounds to update us on the latest goings on at Nintendo Towers. But before November 2011, we didn't have the fun, unique updates that are symbolic of the quirky nature of Nintendo. Little were we to know back then that these Nintendo Directs would also provide regular disappointment to those that watched them.

But why is it always this way? Well, for a few reasons really, and not all of them are down to Ninty themselves. Let's take a look.

The Audience

Firstly we have to consider the purpose of the Nintendo Direct itself. Obviously they are there to provide key information about Nintendo's new software, hardware and to a lesser extent, their strategies.  But who to? Whilst Nintendo's presentations are available to the entire region they are aimed at simultaneously, it would be naive to think that everyone knows about them, let alone tunes in.

Fundamentally the people who are aware and watch Nintendo Directs are going to be those working in the industry, aspiring to be in it, or already have a distinct interest in all things Nintendo. Which means right from the off, Nintendo have a fairly tough audience to please. And not least because the perception of the big N in recent years has been waning. Just ask Matt what he thinks of the Wii U, give him the soap box, stand back, and you'll see what I mean. But ironically this perception doesn't mean the audience wants Nintendo to fail, in fact it wants the complete opposite, and this heaps the pressure on any announcements of any kind. Because we as a group turn up full of hope and expectation of that big story, that new strategy that is going to revert the fortunes of one of the pillars of the gaming community.

Nintendo Direct - Disappointing Fans Since 2011

But what's even worse for Nintendo, is the knowledgeable nature of their audience - they know a lot about Ninty and the industry in general - they are aware of the possibilities, the competition and the current climate. As such it's likely they all have their own opinions on Nintendo and more crucially their own theory on what can turn around the company. Indeed with recent results being so poor, particularly on Wii U, many journalists and gamers alike have pitched in their two cents. And they're all gonna be tuning in for that next Direct when it gets announced, to see how right or wrong they were.

It puts Iwata in the unenviable position of trying to solve the company's problems - or at least do enough to convince the rest of us that things are changing for the better - in a 30-40 minute presentation, something that is downright impossible. As such the viewers are left feeling deflated - despite some sometimes pretty exciting announcements or updates. For example during Thursday night's Direct we finally got a release date for Mario Kart 8 on Wii U. Is this great news? Of course it is. Do I think this is going to turn the Wii U's fortunes around? No. Because as fun as I'm sure that game will be, there are just too many obstacles to people buying Nintendo's new console right now, and no new tidbits of information on games, no matter how big are going to convince people to take the plunge, especially given the competition, fan base, price, lack of awareness and other barriers.

So if Nintendo Directs are for showcasing updates on the upcoming titles, but the audience of those Directs needs something different, then one of two things needs to change, either the content or the audience. And I'm pretty sure that if Nintendo was sitting on the content their audience wants, i.e. the answer to it's problems, it wouldn't hesitate to shout them from the rooftops, therefore we're going to have to question the target audience of Nintendo Directs themselves. The question isn't simply who watches Nintendo Directs, but who should or could watch them?

Nintendo Direct - Disappointing Fans Since 2011

The simple answer is, the people who should be watching are those that aren't at the moment. With Nintendo in a situation where it needs to convince people of it's relevance in the current console market, as well as for people to part with their cash, Nintendo Directs would be better served as a method of reaching out to potential new customers. It would need an overhaul of the delivery of the Direct - less assumption of prior knowledge of Nintendo Directs or games, more promotion of current line up, highlighting differentiation to competitors etc to make it credible. It would also need to be marketed (yep, step up Nintendo Marketing Department, earn your crust) correctly so that people outside of the usual audience were aware of it and actively wanted to tune in. But if done correctly, it would transform the Nintendo Directs that could be so much more powerful for the company in it's turnaround plan.

Also with one fell swoop, this notion of disappointment is dealt with too. With the audience more geared towards the Directs being a fact-finding exercise, news is simply that, news.  The expectation is removed, because these newcomers either know very little or expect little from Nintendo, and the only way is up. Ultimately this new audience will decide with their feet and wallets on whether it was enough to tempt them from their preconceptions about Nintendo, or lack thereof.

The Presenter

So problem solved right? It was all to do with audience being wrong. Well no, in reality there's also a fair chunk of the blame for the Nintendo Direct disappointment factor that needs to be put firmly at Ninty's door.

The first issue is one we touched on a little earlier - audience hype. Now initially it may seem unfair to blame Nintendo for the hype that it's audience creates on it's own. But, let's think about what generates hype for a moment. Sure part of it is the knowledgeable audience, and their wishing of Nintendo to do well that we discussed earlier, but there's also more to it. Hype and expectation is also based on both historic performance as well as the feelers and teasers that Nintendo put out themselves prior to these announcements.

From a historic performance perspective, Nintendo has a lot more than most, having spent 25 years in the industry. And it would be remiss of even the most ardent naysayer of the Big N to say there haven't been a few special moments over the years. The first video trailer reveal of Twilight Princess at E3 2004, or Super Smash Bros Melee three years before both sent audiences crazy. They gave the audiences what they wanted and much, much more. And people remember those amazing reveals, and it sets future expectations higher because they know what the company is capable of.

And whilst it may seem unfair to criticise Nintendo again for unfair expectations, there has to be some context here also. Nintendo as a company are well aware of this hype and expectation, they know people are going to be excited for their news. But even given this, Ninty seem to still be unable to differentiate between it's big and small announcements - particularly in their Nintendo Directs. The simple presentations become essentially glorified lists of updates, with minimal pacing or crescendos to the big reveal. And Nintendo do themselves no favours either as when they do divert focus and excitement to particular news, there seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. The drip-feed of the character roster in the latest Smash Bros game is a prime example of the gap between Nintendo's lofty belief that people will hang off their every word and the reality that people just can't get excited about a single character reveal in a roster of many - no matter how new and different they are. And it is ironic that the biggest news for Nintendo about Mario Kart 8 in it's latest Direct was around playable Koopaling characters, when what everyone else was focusing on was the release date.

This feeling of being out of touch with what constitutes news, and what should be given hype is alarming, especially given that Nintendo - and their failing Wii U machine - can't afford to get this wrong for much longer. Sure I'm not suggesting that the small updates aren't important, sometimes there's no other way of communicating lesser news than in the way Nintendo currently do in their Directs. My issue is the fact that I'm not convinced that they are aware of what constitutes big news, nor how to showcase it as well.

Nintendo Direct - Disappointing Fans Since 2011

And what's more alarming is that Nintendo could also be unwittingly doing more harm than good with these Directs when you consider their failing Wii U vs their successful 3DS. Having to juggle both in (most) Direct updates poses a problem for Nintendo. They need to provide for the majority of fans / industry who are behind their 3DS, with software to get excited about and maintain momentum and share in the handheld market. Therefore Nintendo Directs need to have a strong 3DS presence. Unfortunately it's a presence that will always be stealing air time from the Wii U - arguably a console that needs more things to shout about. What ends up happening as a result is a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom for Nintendo's new console. Because if they can't demonstrate new and exciting stuff for it, then why else should people believe in it? If Nintendo's Direct focus more on the 3DS than the Wii U, then so will everybody else, and the final nail in the coffin for the Wii U is hammered in with a resounding thud.


So where does that leave us? Well, it means Nintendo's decision to use Nintendo Directs means they are delivering uninspiring updates that serve those in the know, or those who have already bought into Nintendo's machines. As such these presentations become little more than tarted up bullet point lists, a more glamorous investor call if you will. And as with all investor calls, the expectations are high, and are usually not all met, and that awkward feeling of disappointment sets in when they're over.

Nintendo Direct - Disappointing Fans Since 2011

But what's the solution? Well a rethink about how to deliver messages would be a start. Clarity and disparity between different types of news and announcements would help, and would also manage expectations of the audience. There also needs to be an adjustment on who Nintendo serves this information to aside from the industry and the converted. It needs to figure out how to reach gamers who have become disillusioned with Nintendo, or people who aren't aware what they offer. And to do that is going to require a lot of synergy with their Marketing Department. That could be TV, it could be social media, it could be lots of things, but Nintendo need to refine their communication strategy for the different messages and audiences they should be catering to. Then they can focus on how these strategies can incorporate the two different situations their two consoles are in.

Then Nintendo Directs (and indeed any different communication channels that Nintendo choose to use to tailor their messaging) would not only become more beneficial to Nintendo, but everyone would be clearer on what to expect, and you'd get a lot less people feeling disappointment afterwards. Who knows you may even get some smiles, some anticipation and some opinions changing for the better.

Oh and that super-cool, top-secret idea that you've been working on for the past 3 years Nintendo? Revealing that would help too.

Add a comment11 comments
stevenjameshyde  Feb. 17, 2014 at 15:36

For me, the other big thing that needs to change is their presentations at big industry events. At this year's E3 they need gameplay trailers, hands-on demos and release dates for X, Bayonetta 2, New Zelda, etc. Like it or not, it's those events that get the mainstream press coverage, and Nintendo need to bring their A game

Too often over the past few years, Nintendo have either literally not turned up, or turned up with a truck full of tech demos, vapourware and far-off promises. The last time I can remember them generating serious amounts of column inches was the shambolic Wii U reveal

imdurc  Feb. 17, 2014 at 16:44

The problem with these kind of articles is the "pissing in the wind" factor. I.E. Because of comments I've seen on Dealspwn before, you're basically preaching to the choir. So, this means nothing in the grand scheme of things.

If this is a serious commentary on things, then share it with Nintendo. At least then, you may actually be allowing for the possibility of being heard.

Interestingly enough, Nintendo have been using questionnaires to gauge what people think, recently. I haven't seen that being reported on any news site. Why? I think that's more important than having the same articles over and over.

Misinformation about Nintendo is also rife. Take the comment above from Stevenjameshyde. He clearly didn't know about the fully playable bayonetta 2 e3 demo. Not to mention, a certain Mario Kart 8 three-track demo. He also doesn't mention the UK roadshows from last year where Nintendo showed off upcoming games. And finally, while those demos were at e3, Nintendo sent a selection of demos to Gamestop stores in the States for people to play.

If there's anything that the various media outlets have shown when discussing the Wii U, it's that they don't care about the games, really. They care more about power, prestige and being embarrassed to even approach the Wii U as a current-gen console. Somewhere along the line, people forgot what playing a good game meant. It's the reason people gravitate towards the constant influx of FPS shooters, 3rd person cover shooters, the Fifas, etc. of this world. Of course, the irony is not lost on me here as, Nintendo do put out their fair share of same-ish Mario adventures.

To all media outlets, change the flippin' record already. Start talking about the games again. It's been so long since I've seen any real game discussion. The continuous retreads that these Nintendo business strategy articles take, is quite frankly, old news. Or perhaps, these articles are made to draw in people that enjoy doom and gloom Nintendo stuff? I'm not sure. But what I am sure of, is that old news is boring news.

stevenjameshyde  Feb. 17, 2014 at 17:03

He clearly didn't know about the fully playable bayonetta 2 e3 demo. Not to mention, a certain Mario Kart 8 three-track demo

The point I was trying to make was that a playable demo alone doesn't make mainstream headlines. A playable demo and a solid commitment of "it'll be out before Christmas, here's the detail of the new bundle it will be included in, etc" might. A drip feed does no-one any favours - use the big stage to make a big impact

JonLester  Feb. 17, 2014 at 17:23

Another cracking article, Chris. Agree wholeheartedly, and like stevenjameshyde, I've always thought that Nintendo Direct broadcasts should have been used to supplement traditional press conferences and events, not replace them. They only reach an audience that already follow gaming news - not Nintendo's essential yet sleeping Wii audience.


@imdurc: "To all media outlets, change the flippin' record already. Start talking about the games again. It's been so long since I've seen any real game discussion."

Okay. In all honesty, and speaking for myself, I think you're right.

I touched upon this in our New Year's podcast and Wii U buyer's guide, but speaking personally, there's a case to be made that we're slightly losing the plot. Over the last few months (if not years), gamers and pundits have shifted towards discussing sales figures, marketing strategies, graphical performance and publicity campaigns in more detail than ever before.

There's absolutely a place for these discussions, they are important and interesting, but ultimately it's the games that should be front and centre, and the way playing them make us feel. We're gamers and game writers, not analysts.

After all, I've been evangelising the 3DS and PC indie scene because of the quality and joy aptly provided by the games themselves - even if it's not reflected in flashy marketing or sales. The Wii U oughtn't be any different, except that it is.

Problem is that the Wii U's games pipeline is still thin on the ground. We'd love nothing more than to shout about the games from the rooftops, but the long gaps between major releases unfortunately means that we have to focus on other things and call it how we see it, in between enthusiastically waxing lyrical about Wind Waker HD, TW101, SM3DW and Pikmin 3 etc. I'd love a platform to leap into this feet first, and will do so as soon as I can (with more articles like this, perhaps).

/topic hijack

Last edited by JonLester, Feb. 17, 2014 at 22:05
adr0ck  Feb. 17, 2014 at 18:02

does anyone actually play video games anymore or just spend their time on the internet discussing sales figures of video games etc

MattGardner  Feb. 17, 2014 at 21:03

If the record seems to have been stuck for the past few years perhaps it's because Nintendo haven't done much apart from sticking their heads in the sand and failing to move swiftly enough to commission games to salvage their ailing console, built upon tech that is neither particularly innovative nor attractive.

There are a number of reasons for a perceived lack of games discussion:

1. We can't review games we don't have. Out of pretty much everyone -- publishers, developers, indies etc. -- Nintendo are perhaps the least forthcoming with us regarding coverage opportunities. This has a direct impact on what we can and can't cover.

2. There are very few Wii U games to evangelise. And what games exist could hardly be described as important, certainly not when placed in the context of Nintendo's own legacy.

3. No one cares. And that's not just the media, that goes for consumers too. The Wii U is confusing and alienating and unfocused and commands a small audience, all of which breeds apathy.

I'd love nothing more than to be able to shout from the rooftops about the Wii U. But I don't have one and I see nothing as yet to make me want to buy one. And we've discussed the reasons for that time and time again on the Game Buzz, looking specifically at the games themselves. Hell, at the end of last year, we actually advised people that the Wii U was the best Christmas prospect because of its games lineup!

So, I'm not sure what you mean by "talking about the games". We've done plenty of talking about games. But most of the noteworthy games Nintendo showcased in the recent ND were the same ones we've seen many times before in previous NDs and already previewed.

Yukes  Feb. 17, 2014 at 21:32

Although I partially agree with imdurc, Nintendo's plight is worthy of discussion in my opinion because...well, it's Nintendo, and they're royally screwing things up at the moment. I think the Dealspwn guys get that and these articles do make for interesting reading.

I think you've made a very good point though Chris about the lack of showmanship that the Nintendo Directs have, and the baffling lack of prioritisation.

I'd have 20-30 seconds showing gameplay and name for each of the "lesser" titles, that may pique the interest of some but aren't the heavy-hitters. And then I'd have the distinctive traffic lights with that start chiming we all know, followed by a close-up of a track set against a gorgeously colourful backdrop, as all of the racers thunder over the camera. This would then be followed by some direct gameplay footage showing some of the new power ups and soaring verticality of the tracks for long enough for people to see what's going on. Then make a big song and dance about the release date.

Just as your viewers are salivating at the Mario Kart prospect, have a mysterious figure almost hidden in shower be shown from his feet upwards. He's unfamiliar, but from behind him another figure, hidden from view, draws a sword with a winged hilt, as a breeze sweeps across and ruffles that pointed green hat. That fades to dark with a golden glow lighting up letters that read "The Legend's nemesis arises" or something, with the triforce revealed to be the source of the golden light. That's it for the new Zelda. It tells us nearly nothing about the new game, which is obviously still deep in development, but it partially reveals the villain and will get fans extremely excited.

Where's the showmanship Nintendo! Now where are those questionnaires that imdurc speaks of. Or maybe I should ask for a job :P

imdurc  Feb. 18, 2014 at 03:08

I find the Dealspwn members' responses here to be quite interesting. JonL agrees with my motion to focus on games, while MattG does not. Moreover, it's very interesting that JonL dissects the ideas that have led to, "...discussing sales figures, marketing strategies, graphical performance and publicity campaigns," rather than focussing on the gaming side of things.
On the other side of things, Matt argues that Wii U game discussion is not possible, because, "No one cares. And that's not just the media, that goes for consumers too." To be frank, I find this opinion to be incredibly distasteful coming from a gaming journalist. Especially when we have heard of people thinking the Wii U is an add-on for the Wii - Not to mention marketing blunders.

Gaming is one of the few things to really capture me this last 5 years and I could never see myself damning a system in the way that Matt does, here. One only needs to visit the WiiU section on Reddit and discover some great discussion on the console, good and bad. I could focus on the bad aspects of Nintendo's handling of the console, sure. But after 15 months of shelf life and countless articles on that very subject, how many times can this be brought up without the subject becoming stale? Unfortunately, this is exactly the line that many gaming sites, including Dealspwn, have taken. And let's face it, what hasn't been said already? Marketing issues, lack of games, the name, no 3rd party games, etc. etc. Right! So, what's new, then?

Just to return to my original plea for discussion of the games, I'd also see this as an opportunity to discuss other things, e.g. Does a major title release have to be the only focus for a Wii U article? Alternatively, I would argue that, instead of regurgitating what every other media outlet focusses on, why not be original in your articles for this console? Put a different spin on things. I've seen a lot of talk on forums about the indie titles appearing on Wii U. Some are going to be exclusive to the Wii U! Perhaps this would make for an interesting slant on the Wii U scene? I'd certainly be more enthralled to see something new and seemingly unsaid.

Finally, I believe focussing on the same things every other gaming media site does, means nothing, in the grand scheme of things. Don't take what I'm saying as a negative slant. I visit and enjoy Dealspwn for many different articles. I just wish for more from Dealspwn than the, "me too" type attitude to the Wii U.
My friend has just bought a Wii U without listening to either myself or the negativity surrounding the console. That's quite amazing. And when I tell him of the kind of things he can do with the Gamepad, he smiles. People enjoy games and that goes for any system. Even the Wii U.

ChrisHyde  Feb. 18, 2014 at 10:17

Righty ho - let me wade in here.

I actually think we could be getting rather sidetracked here. imdurc, it's ironic that you deplore the constant similar conversations about the Wii U, and it's plight, yet you've turned a discussion into something completely different into just that.

You've literally created what you resent.

This wasn't an article about the failure of the Wii U. At all. This was a discussion about how Nintendo can improve their Nintendo Directs. How they can reach more people, how they can manage people's expectations, how they can turn heads. Sure the biggest benefactor from any such improvements will be the Wii U, given that's the failing console (you can say what you like, but people aren't buying it however much I love mine and it's games).

It's important to remember that gaming discussion doesn't begin and end with games, but should extend to other areas. As much as we deplore sales figures - they do directly influence gaming popularity, investment and future projects, so it impacts their industry we all know and love.

I love talking about the games - you try getting me to shut up about the N64 and how amazing it was - but here at Dealspwn we do try and also look at things from different angles, and this piece on Nintendo Directs, is different from a lot of what I have seen on other sites.

Feedback on what you guys want to see more of though is always appreciated as we strive to improve the content of the site.

Anarchist  Feb. 18, 2014 at 10:29

I find the Dealspwn members' responses here to be quite interesting.

You obviously have some passion for the Wii U, and I can't fault you for that. However, my mum has a great saying, that fits in perfectly with this discussion.

If one person tells you that you're a dog - he's a lunatic.
If one hundred people tell you that you're a dog - they're wrong.
If one million people tell you that you're a dog - you're a dog.

The Wii U is a dog.

There is a very valid reason why the Wii U constantly gets a thorough media bashing over the same points over and over again. Because its completely justified. The day Nintendo start doing something different, will be the day they start being discussed in different ways.

Until them, we'll continue to get the same 'Bland, year on year reiterations/remakes, no new IP, underpowered, etc etc' conversations.

It was only a couple of months ago that they themselves admitted to all of this, and claimed they would be making some fairly dramatic changes which were welcomed by all. But what has happened since then?


MattGardner  Feb. 18, 2014 at 10:50

I was too defensive in my earlier response, and for that I apologise. I wear a number of hats -- writer, gamer, editor, disgruntled Nintendo fan -- and that post was a sort of conflation of all of them.

As a writer, I can't and won't apologise for my opinions on the Wii U. However, like most opinions, they're not written in stone and are subject to change (probably when Mario Kart 8, Smash Bros., and X emerge).

More generally, there's little in your original post that I disagree with. You only have to look at the rise of Michael Pachter, and the coverage analyst and NPD reports to see how obsessed we've all become with stats and figures. We actually banned Pac**er's name from this site in an effort to avoid too much of a focus on that side of things. And I wasn't disagreeing with your motion to focus on games or saying that such discussion wasn't possible. Of course it is, we've done loads of it here before and we'll continue encouraging that.

As an editor, it's important to note that of the five writers here, only two have Wii Us, and they're given the freedom to write about whatever they want. We don't tend to bandwagon jump here at Dealspwn, but neither are we contrarian just for the sake of it.

There is, however, a point to be made about positive and negative mindsets when approaching coverage. To be honest, we're all guilty of almost gleeful carrion coverage on occasion (hi Microsoft c. May 2013!), and the balance needs to be addressed there. To that point, feedback and comments are, to echo Chris' point above, invaluable.

Last edited by MattGardner, Feb. 18, 2014 at 10:54

Email Address:

You don't need an account to comment. Just enter your email address. We'll keep it private.