Opinion: How Nintendo (Almost) won E3

E3, as has become custom, is almost more about what wasn’t shown than what was.

Where was Crackdown?” That was the first question I was asked by a fellow journalist shortly after Xbox’s press conference, followed swiftly by: "where was HoloLens for that matter?"

PlayStation executives spent half their time answering questions about the Neo machine it didn’t show.
On Twitter, just as the Resident Evil VII and Final Fantasy XV demos were coming to an end, gamers began asking about the remakes of Resident Evil 2 and Final Fantasy VII (which weren’t there).

And one rumour that echoed around the halls at the Los Angeles Convention Center surrounded the no-show of Red Dead Redemption 2, which – according to the gossip – was set to close PlayStation’s press conference but had been canned at the last minute.

But the one absentee everyone was talking about (to me at least) was NX. On a bus with a senior retail boss, in a cab with a PlayStation exec, down the Saddle Ranch with everybody… Nintendo’s mysterious new machine was the talk of the town.

And not just of the town, either, our most popular online story during the E3 week was some vague comment from Ubisoft about how NX might win back the Wii audience.

Should NX have been there? Had it been, then E3 2016 may have been a rare victory for Nintendo. But if it wasn’t ready, then the company was right to hold off.

The world’s media descends upon E3, and if you make an impact during that week, it can propel your product to the top of the best-seller list. But get it wrong and it can have the opposite effect. The failure of Wii U and the struggles of Xbox One can be traced right back to their first E3 appearances.

If Nintendo wasn’t ready to show NX, then it is right to wait. We want to know the specifications, how it controls, what the games are, how much it will cost… a picture of a box and a Zelda trailer would not have sufficed.

Nevertheless, this was still a strong E3 for Nintendo. Even with a poorly paced (and at times cringeworthy) livestream, the company’s single game was the most in-demand title in Los Angeles – and that’s despite it being playable on a machine that has an install base only slightly more impressive than the Sega Dreamcast.

The queue was upwards of five hours long at points, and even encircled the PlayStation stand. Such was the clamour amongst fans to play it, the booth was swarmed by attendees on the final day (watch this video to see what we mean)

The fact that even a depleted Nintendo still managed to command such attention speaks to the enduring power this company holds, and of the expectation that it can dig itself out of its current predicament.

It also shows that whenever, wherever and however Nintendo decided to show NX, the world will be watching.

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