E3 2014: Is Nintendo’s All Digital Event Format The Future?

Nintendo came to E3 2014 with the lowest of expectations between the three major console makers and then blew it up with an entertaining digital event focused on the Wii U instead of the traditional stage press conference. This led Forbes contributor Erik Kain to declare that the all digital strategy is the “future of E3.” Is it though or did Nintendo just manage to hit all the right notes for the first time in a few years?

The digital event from Nintendo opened with a Robot Chicken skit that pokeed fun at game journalists and Nintendo characters. This was followed by the most entertaining executive fight ever between Nintendo President Saturo Iwata and Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime. The result was the most entertaining two minute opening to any E3 presentation that I can recall.

The Nintendo Direct for E3 2013 was the same digital streaming format but opened with Iwata standing by himself in a boardroom speaking directly to the camera. No offense to Mr. Iwata, but that was about as exciting as buttering toast. The format continued throughout the entire 43 minute run of the Nintendo Direct switching between Iwata talking about Wii U and Nintendo 3DS game announcements to showing videos of the actual games.

Nintendo truly shook things up this year by getting the actual developers involved to talk about their games and products as well as show them. As a bonus, what was introduced at E3 2014 was much more compelling than what was shown at E3 2013. Bringing Miis to Super Smash Bros. and explaining how the Amiibo toy figures would work with the fighting game and other titles was something to get excited about. It was cool to see Captain Toad get his own game. Splatoon may be the surprise shooter of the conference and the gaming community as whole was blown away by what was shown for The Legend of Zelda for the Wii U. Many of these games are coming out this year.

Nintendo’s Treehouse livestream continued that momentum by giving viewers a more in-depth look at the games and the developers behind them. These livestreams were easily the most watch livestreams each day they went live at E3. Microsoft and Sony had livestreams as well as individual developers through multiple channels. The difference was that the buzz created from Nintendo’s Digital Event carried over to the Treehouse livestream.

The general reaction to the E3 2013 Nintendo Direct which featured Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, a remake of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and several games that wouldn’t be out until the following year or later was, “meh.”

Kain is correct that Nintendo’s digital strategy allows for a much more controlled event where presenter mistakes and stumbles can be ironed out, awkward pauses are absent and unfortunate crowd reaction shots are not present. However, gamers were ready to anoint Sony with sainthood following their E3 2013 stage presentation where the PS4 was introduced and there was lots of games to get excited. Meanwhile, Nintendo was largely written off and it showed in the Wii U’s poor sales performance through the end of the year.

In short, it doesn’t matter if Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo do a stage presentation with a livestream or an all digital event at E3. The formula for success is to make the presentation, no matter the format, entertaining and filled with compelling content that gamers and journalists can get excited about. On that front, Nintendo performed a complete 180 degree turn around from the three prior E3 conferences. Just watch the events below from this year and last to see the dramatic difference and let us know what you think.

Nintendo E3 2014 Digital Event