Did anyone else get the impression that Nintendo’s big media day was kind of like one of those meaningless photo ops that politicians do these days just because they “have to?” (bear with me, I’ve been sunning it in the Outer Banks for the past week and I’m playing Infendo catch up today).
One longtime mainstream journalist who I spoke to was really disappointed in the lineup. Many of the enthusiast press members felt the same way — I’m sure you’ll read similar impressions coming from some of them later tonight.
There were more just like that one, but don’t bother reading them. It certainly wasn’t intentional, but every blog I read about the event read like it was cut and pasted from the previous blog entry I read. “Nintendo didn’t give us what we think we deserved. Waagh waagh waagh.” And so on. The whining was as far-reaching as it was intense. Luckily, savvy blogger Blake Snow kept a level head about him and Infendo did not delve into the world of self-aggrandizing and entitlement that gripped the blogosphere last week.
Last week was again a prime example of the gaming press taking general, vague information from Nintendo and making a mountain out of a molehill. Exhbit A, see the Wii’s price tag. “Under $250” quickly became $199 (and less) not because of Nintendo, but because a handful of vocal people took what they believed would be the best price and started saying it would make or break the new system.
Now we have this delectable press release from Nintendo arriving on the mainstream media’s doorsteps promising what? Not much really, but just enough to get them there with laptops open and minds as closed as they have been about Nintendo for a while now. And what better way to get a “mainstream” media that has become slightly biased toward the hardcore sect over the years to a Nintendo show, right? What better way than to take a page from the Art of War and issue to the press a series of vague promises of some first party IP hands-on time. The same vague promises that will surely balloon into the gossip and rampant unchecked speculation that has, in my opinion (and mine alone), polluted the mainstream gaming media for some time now. With one masterful stroke, Nintendo was able to promote the casual titles that the media would not have been caught dead covering if they knew entire truth about the media event beforehand. Does anyone really think the gaming press, as it exists today, would have showed up otherwise?
This is the same media that now criticizes Nintendo for its secrecy and “media blackouts”; and how Sony is now making a comeback that will overtake Mario and Company if they don’t start talking to the mainstream press. Rubbish. Blackouts don’t hurt Nintendo, they hurt the media. They lessen the role of this elite hardcore media and the influence it plays in dictating the direction of gaming. The proof is in the execution; in what’s already come to pass over the past six months. Instead of hyping their product through the traditional channels (Gamespot, GamePro, IGN), Nintendo chose to let the people who would be buying the product do the talking. When your product virtually sells itself, and with the people playing it serving as the salesman, the gaming press, such as it is, takes the second seat.
But this isn’t to say the mainstream media is going to just dry up and disappear. That’s crazy talk. As the industry takes notice of Wii sales and begins to shift resources (this is already happening), so too will the media outlets that cover the industry. I imagine review scores and commentary will begin to shift in the coming year to reflect not only the wild success of Nintendo, but of the casual gamer genre overall (Halo 3 will still get all 10’s, however). This is not to say casual games = only kiddie/family/puzzle fare. I imagine that the most successful developers out there will manage to combine each of those components into very robust titles that appeal to large swaths of the gaming community.
But back to the media and its perpetual bellyaching last week… If they don’t shift resources and get an attitude adjustment, they go away. Simple as that. Nintendo is getting too big and influential right now for them to simply bitch and moan about their style or press conference game plan and expect to get away with it. That might not sound fair, but in the end this is all a big business, not a hand holding seminar.
And from the looks of last week’s bitching and moaning, that “going away” period could begin very soon.