Nintendo's E3 Lineup - Zelda E3 2014

Review: Nintendo’s E3 Lineup and the Five Points That Matter

If E3 is about exceeding expectations, how did Nintendo’s E3 lineup fair?  CONSULGAMER’s series of evaluations on E3 will not write discuss the status quo – the known entities and sequels. Instead, we’ll cover what each company had to do make a real splash at the show.

Investors didn’t think Nintendo showed enough at E3 – the company’s stock is down 1.99% from the start of their E3 Digital Event (the Nikkei 225 index was flat over the same period). Still, the stock didn’t plummet, suggesting Nintendo performed roughly as expected during the show.

Here’s what Nintendo had to do – or what people wanted them to do – to make a splash at E3:

1. Convince Dedicated Nintendo Fans to Buy Wii U

The Need:

Nintendo’s brands have a significant number of fans, but thus far, the bulk of them have not been persuaded to purchase a Wii U console. Nintendo’s core branded franchises are capable of selling 20-30 million units, yet thus far, only 6.7 million consumers own a Wii U (as of 3/31/14). This number is just a fraction of the 35 million consumers who bought the Wii’s Mario Kart Wii or the 29 million consumers who purchased Wii’s New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

Can Nintendo get its loyal fans off the fence and drive purchases of their new system? A strong E3 lineup was the key to success.

Verdict: Success

Nintendo succeeded at E3 by showing a catalog of new games for the system for 2014 and 2015 that will excite their core fans.

The system will have new experiences starring the company’s biggest characters – from an open world The Legend of Zelda to Mario Maker, a level-editing and sharing take on the Mario universe.

Nintendo's E3 lineup - Zelda E3 2014
The open world environment of The Legend of Zelda for Wii U presents a new experience unique to the game’s past decade of titles.

The latest Super Smash Bros. was the company’s biggest hit, and the company’s marketing team deserves credit for hosting a tournament at the Nokia Theater and debuting a playable version at Best Buy stores across the United States. Core Nintendo fans are excited, and this title will be the Wii U’s system-seller this holiday.

Nintendo’s E3 lineup included other big franchises, with Bayonetta 2, Hyrule Warriors, Xenoblade Chronicles: X and a new Star Fox all on display in some form. Nintendo, the “creator” of the side-scroller, has two more for the genre on the way: the stitched world of Yoshi’s Woolly World and the claymation experience of Kirby and the Rainbow Curse.

Nintendo’s biggest fans who still don’t have a Wii U now have few reasons to hold back. With the right marketing strategy, Wii U could eventually sell a little over twelve million consoles by leveraging the company’s core franchises. The strategy worked on GameCube, another challenged Nintendo console, which sold 21.74 million consoles worldwide despite limited third-party support by relying on existing Nintendo franchises.

2. Unveil a Mainstream Game to get Casual Gamers on the Wii U Bandwagon

The Need:

After breaking the mainstream with Wii Sports on the Nintendo Wii and selling 83 million units of the game, there was hope that Nintendo would unveil a similar game at this year’s E3 to convince the world why every person should own a Wii U. Nintendo has a history of breaking into the mainstream with unique casual games, with properties like Wii Fit, Wii Sports, Brain Age and Nintendogs succeeding in attracting non-gamers to Nintendo consoles.

The Verdict: Fail

Nintendo fell flat on breaking into the mainstream at this year’s E3.

Despite the mainstream attention given to the new Smash Bros – the game is not a casual success story. On the original Wii, the game only sold 12 million units, nearly half of Wii Play, Wii Fit and Wii Fit Plus.

Best Selling Wii Games (Prior-Gen)

Global Units Sold (In Millions)

Wii Sports 82.54
Mario Kart Wii 35.53
Wii Sports Resort 32.58
New Super Mario Bros. Wii 28.65
Wii Play 28.02
Wii Fit 22.67
Wii Fit Plus 21.03
Super Mairo Galaxy 12.22
Super Smash Bros. Brawl 12.14

Nintendo’s focus on core games and not new Wii U experiences reveals the company’s final strategy with Wii U – focus on the core customer to drive the highest revenue per user, instead of aim for mainstream success. The company seems to have thrown in the towel at creating compelling new games for mainstream audiences.

3. Launch a significant new business with NFC Nintendo toys

It’s still too early to make a strong verdict on amiibo, a new toyline Nintendo premiered at E3 that will let players import and export game character profiles into games. The first game to support the toy line will be Super Smash Bros., and players can use their toys to bring their customized and leveled up character to play on other Wii U’s.

Nintendo's E3 Lineup - Amiibo
The amiibo product line begins with Super Smash Bros – and the company plans on making one figure for every playable character.

Nintendo will clearly have trouble with the toy line – the Wii U has too small an install base to get significant attach rate of the toys, and retailers will be wary of the shelf space taken up by a library of toys for a very niche audience segment.

The toys will be supported across a range of Nintendo games, although each toy will be tailored to a specific game for the bulk of functionality.

4. Nintendo’s Next Console

Some were expecting a new Nintendo console to debut at E3. CONSULGAMER didn’t think that was the case, but the theory was a strong hardware debut could help Nintendo to catch up to Xbox One and PlayStation 4, or at minimum, define a new market for the company.

No hardware was shown, and based on the slate of Wii U software planned for 2014 and 2015, a hardware announcement for the rest of the year is unlikely.

5. A Reinvigorated 3DS

The 3DS is a healthy platform for Nintendo, but its performance pales compared to the company’s prior platforms, and third-party support is limited. Nintendo could’ve highlighted a series of must-have software, but the show floor and the company’s digital E3 programs were minimal on the new platform.

A Pokemon remake is anchoring Nintendo’s 3DS lineup this year, elevating the franchise to an annual schedule that may risk franchise burnout among consumers.

Clearly Nintendo wanted to focus E3 this year on building momentum for Wii U, but with such muted promotion of the 3DS, the company will need Nintendo Direct events and other surprises planned later in the year to regain 3DS momentum.

Conclusion: No Home Runs, but No Disasters

Nintendo ensured a healthy 2014 by providing enough content to convince the company’s fans to purchase a Wii U, but did not show anything unique enough to attract more casual consumers.

A recent look on Amazon shows the company’s efforts worked – Wii U games appear to be selling strong this week, suggesting a reinvigorated platform. Mario Kart 8 is the #1 seller among all of Amazon, and several catalog titles for Wii U like the store’s 31st best seller Super Mario 3D World are also selling well.

Still, Nintendo showed little to suggest massive mainstream success for the company, which defines Wii U as at best another GameCube for the company. It’s worth noting that Splatoon may become a successful new multiplayer franchise for the youth market, but its unlikely to attract the audience that made Wii Fit, Wii Sports and Wii Play such big sellers.

Last, the knockout potential of Nintendo’s NFC toys, and the future growth of the 3DS are still in question after this E3, and CONSULGAMER will look for additional dialogue from the company as 2014 progresses.

While Nintendo may have given up on mirroring Wii’s success, it’s clear their fans will have a lot of high quality games in the coming years.

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