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Opinion: It's not about expectations, Reggie, it's about emotions
Opinion: It's not about expectations, Reggie, it's about emotions Exclusive
June 28, 2012 | By Colin Campbell

June 28, 2012 | By Colin Campbell
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing, Exclusive

One of the great benefits of being Nintendo is the passion of its fan base -- the emotional attachment they have with the brand. Even after all these years, even after Nintendo's slavish affair with the mainstream casual gamer during the Wii years, Nintendo's loyal diehards remain a force to be reckoned with.

And so it's curious to hear Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime expressing frustration at the very people who hang on just about every word he says.

Kotaku recently interviewed Fils-Aime shortly after Nintendo's E3 conference this month: "One of the things that, on one hand, I love and, on the other hand, that troubles me tremendously about not only our fanbase but about the gaming community at large is that, whenever you share information, the perspective is, 'Thank you, but I want more.' 'Thank you, but give me more.' I mean, it is insatiable. For years this community has been asking, 'Where's Pikmin?' 'Where's Pikmin?' 'Where's Pikmin?' We give them Pikmin. And then they say, 'What else?'"

Clearly Nintendo is feeling the pressure from those of us who see a large amount of (dare we use the phrase), 'blue ocean,' between our own expectations for Wii U and Nintendo's actual delivery.

Because there is a palpable sense of disappointment, at least in the media. Sure we are being offered a 2D Mario game and there's NintendoLand using various Nintendo franchises and there's Pikmin 3. But there is no Metroid, nor Zelda nor ground-breaking Mario launch title.

What Fils-Aime doesn't seem to understand is this: For Nintendo fans, the reaction isn't about a shortfall in expectations -- it's about an inability by Nintendo to really address those all-important emotional needs.

These guys do love Nintendo, and so they are well aware that the company has a habit of under-delivering on big-ticket launch-titles, is super-conservative about its internal resources, and tends to address mass-market Wii Sports-type content before it turns to Zelda-type content.

This emotional commitment is stretched when Nintendo expects a big emotional response to a set of announcements that don't really merit any such thing.

Fils-Aime has often turned to this subject in the past, blandly praising the fans for their commitment, calling for patience. But this is perhaps the first time he has used a word like "insatiable," suggesting as it does, that nothing Nintendo does can satisfy the beast.

Nintendo could and should have "won" E3 as well as the hearts and minds of its core consumers, and those of the fence-sitters, with some fairly obvious tactical announcements following hot on the heels of some bold strategic moves. The first-party line-up for Wii U looks good, but it doesn't look good enough to get people visibly shaking with excitement.

And yet, loyalty remains. I recently wrote an editorial on this subject for IGN and was surprised at how many fans rushed to the defense of Nintendo, pointing out that the firm needs to spread its magic over the whole life of Wii U, that too many great games at launch will be a bad thing, that the titles we have seen are just fine, than-you-very much.

There was a general agreement with Fils-Aime that today's consumer is whiny and entitled. Perversely, the very fans who Fils-Aime says are insatiable, the vocal ones, are actually unbelievably reasonable. Possibly it's the media, rather than the fans, who are doing the most whining.

However, Nintendo is entering its most perilous adventure yet. Wii U is nowhere near as interesting as Wii was back in 2006 and, as yet, does not have its Wii Sports to carry the day. It will require a much greater amount of explanation to non-hardcore consumers, especially those confused by the second screen.

Nintendo fans, and core games players as a whole, need to be fully on board for word to spread. And Nintendo cannot rely on the love and loyalty of its fans forever.

[Colin Campbell writes for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @colincampbellx]

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Eric Geer
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2D Mario game, NintendoLand, Pikmin 3.

If this satiates fans, then I have missed something--
A 2D Mario is great--but we have already seen it..why not try to do something a bit more creative with Mario on that second screen? Help blocks...derp. If you want me to buy the new system--and the new controller is the selling point...then F-ING SELL IT.

NintendoLand---eat me Nintendo..this is a money grab--Minigames are fun and all...but this is not a "core game" and you know it Regginator. What a waste of time at your E3 Presentation for this--It's basically what you showed last year on the game floor, but you have reskinned it and renamed it.

As for Pikmin 3---Thank you.

Fabio Macedo
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"... it's about an inability by Nintendo to really address those all-important emotional needs"

Now seriously. "Emotional needs"? Are we really expected to take this seriously? Is Nintendo (or any other platform holder by the way) now a self-help book publisher, or a shrink-for-hire agency?

"Colin Campbell writes for IGN"

Ah, I see now.

Kris Graft
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Eh, that's not what he's saying at all. This article just made me think about when Fils-Aime first came around, and he was about "kicking ass and taking names" and all that. He and Nintendo had connected with Nintendo fans on an emotional level there, for example. The excitement about Nintendo at one time wasn't about new product announcements, it was about rallying around a company that you felt an emotional connection to.

That said, I actually like how Fils-Aime actually came out and said something that wasn't on message or from a teleprompter.

So I suppose my opinion might be a bit different from Colin's. Nintendo should use events like E3 to show a little personality instead of dry product overviews and awkward scripted exchanges between executives. Making an emotional connection with fans shouldn't really be reliant on a big new product (but it sure helps).

(Also, Colin's been a game biz journo for eons, and has been a contributor to Gama for a while now.)

Michael Rooney
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All of the needs above the bottom two tiers are emotional needs. What other needs would you expect a game company to fill?

Kris Graft
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Oh, you quoted me! I suppose my point is that even a few years ago, he put a more human face on Nintendo as a company. Changing your stance from "ass-kicker" to "nice guy" doesn't mean that you need to eliminate all personality.

But like I said up there, I actually like how in this case, he came out and basically talked like a human being (i.e. he showed some emotion).

Eric Feliu
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I don't think he is blaming anyone. He just sounds frustrated with gamers. I can see where he is coming from myself. Nintendo is definitely in the damned if they do, damned if they don't catagory. I think Reggie is starting to realise how ridiculously demanding the average core gamer is. I feel for him I really do.

Dave Smith
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if the Wii-U sells like crazy, would all these arm chair quarterbacks please STFU about how Nintendo is doing it wrong?

Bob Johnson
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Yeah, just yours. lol.

Joe Zachery
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This is the internet, and gamers so I'm sorry this is never going to happen. Nintendo is the Lebron James of gaming. Better yet the guy you love to hate even though they haven't done anything wrong. Maybe because the are the last hope for Japan. Western developers have been beating their chest commenting on how the the center of the gaming world is here now. With Nintendo being the last great Japanese company, and symbol of the old ways. You get rid of them, and you can now keep making your FPS, and QTE interactive movies. We heard this entire generation how Nintendo has abandon the western hardcore gamer. Even though there is proof of this being a lie. How about how the HD consoles treated the hardcore gamers? The 360 RROD that finally got taken care of 5 years after launch. The PS3 removal of a paid for feature, and the handling of the hack attack. All those in some cases have cost gamers money. Still no one brings that up at all even though those issue were really major issues. I guess when it comes to gamers if you provide them games. Yo can take them in the back, and do whatever you want. LOL!

Bob Johnson
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Lighten up. IT's a joke. Although you are certainly not a fan of Nintendo. That's an even better joke. lol

If you're a fan then what does that make the people that buy their systems and play their games?

Bob Johnson
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Yeah yeah yeah. You call me arrogant. But say I can't possibly know you from your posts.

You call me a troll, but want a reasonable discussion.

And you're a big NIntendo fan, but hate everything they put out, don't have their latest system, aren't buying their next one, haven't played their latest games and don't let that stop you from criticizing the games or the systems.

Bob Johnson
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You haven't bought the 3ds, but criticize it. You haven't played Kid Icarus, but criticize it. You aren't going to buy the Wii U and are criticizing it already and will do so when its launched I am sure.

Yet you are a fan!!!!!!! lol. The joke's on us all I guess. Call up Webster. Change the definition.

And again for someone that thinks you can't know someone from their posts and who wants a reasonable discussion you sure like to call others names. You like to tell them how you think they are. lol. Again the jokes on me I guess.

And for someone who criticizes others posts for not contributing anything who sure keep posting ad nauseum that you don't like Nintendo's new direction and offer next to no analysis.

Anyway it was just funny to hear you say some Nintendo critiques are from reasonable people. Not all are from haters. ... I found that hilarious coming from you because I tend to put you in the latter judging from your posts.

Bob Johnson
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100% of your "Nintendo" posts are negative. That's why I laughed when you said some Nintendo critiques are from reasonable people. Not all are from haters.

That's why I joked maybe half-joked with my reply to your post. I mean you do come across as a Nintendo hater for the reason above. Please don't point out the rare exception.

That's why I laughed even harder when you said you were a fan.

Then you had to desolve into the hypocritical nonsense of

saying I can't know you from your posts and that you want a reasonable discussion while you have no problem "describing" me or calling me a troll or saying I "target" you.

I just target nonsense. I troll nonsense. I know nonsense. lol.

Michael Rooney
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Bob, fans say negative things about things they are fans of all the time. The best fans actually are sometimes the most brutal.

Unless you think being a real fan is staring at a nude emperor and pretending his new clothes look fabulous.

Bob Johnson
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Yep. Fans don't have to blindly follow.

But I think a fan does mostly like a company's products and does buy them. If this stops then I think the being a fan part stops too.

Bob Johnson
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Reggie is right. Gamers want to know everything and want everything yesterday. And if you figure out a way to give it to them they'll want more.

The internets is insatiable.

John Caminiti
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I think the problem though is that Nintendo hasn't catered to or really supported gamers in years. They focused so much on their blue ocean strategy, that besides their main franchises, the core audience has been pushed aside in favor of the casual, which is now more or less lost to the tablet and cell phone market. .

Marc Schaerer
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The problem still is that nintendo has nothing to really sell its new 'innovative' platform.
Pikmin is nice but most that love it waited perhaps a quite bit too long to get now excited about it as it comes along with a hefty fee (first preorder places like Amazon list it at $420+ incl. taxes here in europe just for Wii U base bundle. thats pretty hefty and so far nothing was shown that would justify such costs). I count myself as one of those fans, I've no idea how many hours I spent on Pikmin 1 and 2.

In the end it will all depend on the pricing I guess.
Should they try to launch it at Wii launch prices or higher, its likely gonna fail the same way the 3DS did. 'cool new stuff' and nothing to really show it and make it appealing just won't cut it and floods of lame highprice minigames like back with the Wii launch will likely not work out this time either as we now have Android and iOS as gimmick game flood gates

They will now need to properly price such gimmick games and sell them for a reasonable fee on the online store, if this crap is gonna flood the store shelves they will for sure fight some real problems. Last time this kind of launch etc worked cause iOS and Android simply weren't there.

If they learnt something and understand whats going on with tablets and mobiles right now and make use of this understanding to price it appropriately, the Wii U could be a really fast seller and I wouldn't mind to see that happening

Joe Zachery
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In 2010 Nintendo had what you can call one of the Best E3 of all time. New games from great franchise left, and right, and then a peep at the 3DS. You know what happen gamers were still upset, and most didn't buy those games.

While E3 by some was lackluster Nintendo during a month of time has offer 2 Nintendo Direct videos. This year Nintendo has provider it's base more information. Than both Microsoft and Sony combine thanks to their Nintendo Direct Idea. So with Nintendo your always getting some kind of information. E3 is not the one and only place to share that like it use to be.

Jon Lowe
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The information they provided about the Wii U makes it even less exciting because they have no third party support to speak of so far other than games that have come out or will be coming out on other systems before the Wii U and a couple of first party games that look good. It's like the 3DS for the first 6 months at least where it had nothing special come out.

The issue is the Wii had barely any third party support and that was Nintendo's fault.

Will the Wii U suceeed? Who knows but I don't have any reason to get one from what Nintendo has shown so far.

I am sure Nintendo will do fine but they have dropped the ball more than once recently.

Luis Guimaraes
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Well I'm interested in ZombiU more than anything in the whole show.

John Caminiti
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That's probably because Zombie U was the only new and interesting thing they showed during the whole show.

Nick Putnam
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I feel the media has alot to do with how nintendo is perceived. After watching E3 I wasn't completely excited or sold on the Wii U, though am optimistic. It's pretty much doing what all their competitors are doing. Create a swish army knife console/entertainment hub.

Their defining feature is a second screen handheld tablet to interact with games in a new innovative way. Though in terms of the games they showed, they didn't seem new or interesting in anyway, just added gimmicks on previous successful titles. In the end I think the success of nintendo will come down to what their decisions are at launch time. The Price and what games will be available during launch time. I personally don't buy consoles for the console itself, I buy consoles for exciting fun games. I think it'll come down to what developers can create with the Wii U hardware, and how they can make more exciting fun games to bring to the console.

dana mcdonald
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I don't think the problem with Nintendo is that they are not coming out with enough of their bread and butter franchise games at launch. I think it is that their big name games have little or nothing to do with their new console. Why should we get excited about the Wii U if we could play it's big name titles on the Wii?
If they were releasing one of their main titles with exciting new things that are only made possible because of the new peripherals then I think they would have had a better reception.

Matthew Cooper
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When I was a kid, Nintendo had a solid Mario title ready to go with every new system at launch. And I don't mean the "launch window". I mean it came home with you the day you got the new system. NES. Game Boy. SNES. Nintendo 64. Hell, with the SNES, the game came right in the box!

Then came GameCube, and something changed. Nintendo released Luigi's Mansion instead, and ever since, there's never been a AAA Mario game launched day 1 with the release of a new system.

My question is, why? The excitement of buying a new system was enhanced by experiencing Nintendo's latest software innovation right along with it. And that feeling is gone. When I bought my 3DS, I played nothing but Pilotwings for 7 months until Super Mario 3D land was released. I'd have felt much better about that purchase if the system had been delayed to launch with Mario.

To me, the answer's simple. Don't launch a new system without your best Mario game to go with it. It's not too late. Delay the Wii-U, just as the 3DS should have been.

Bob Johnson
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I think the "when I was a kid" opening explains everything. Don't forget that today's Nintendo is just as magical to kids today as it was to you.

Matthew Cooper
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I still feel the magic, but it often takes years after launch, instead of on launch day. Basically when the quality core titles come out. I doubt 10 year old me would disagree.

Bob Johnson
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Yeah but kids are getting a NSMB game for the WiiU launch. The magic is there day one for them.

Duvelle Jones
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@ Matthew Cooper:
Also keep in mind one thing... The NES was released in North America in 1985. Quite a few things changed with the system between then and the start of the 90's, the biggest being the brand itself became MUCH large (to be honest, the fact it became a brand at all).
Which is funny, the first Super Mario Bros. was a launch title, but not a pack-in initially (coincidentally that honour happens to go to Duck Hunt, R.O.B and it's companion game Gyromite). As you memories of your first NES happen to be the same as mine (got me an NES in 1990 with the Super Mario Bros./DuckHunt pack-in), I can really only say this between launch and 1990 something changed to make Nintendo to pack in Mario. What? I could not say, I would not know being a kid of 8 at the time.

"My question is, why?"
I think that a lot of it has to do with the changing face of the brand, how Nintendo handled brands changed and Super Mario 64. Simply put the games became harder to make, requited a longer development time for all that content (which is funny only one other brand would suffer this around the same time, that would be the Legend of Zelda). For games like Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy, unless you planned out at least 3 years ahead on a console development time frame, there was little to be done to have a Mario (in the 3D Mario-64 style) game at launch.
On top of that there is the change into Nintendo rather Conservative approach to brands. Which had a lot to do with Pokemon and it HEAVY saturation that Nintendo put on the franchise. It was a move made in desperation, and frankly, it was clear by the end of the N64's life that changes would be made to keep that from happening again to other brands. And you know how protective the company is with Mario, that only really got more intense.

"To me, the answer's simple. Don't launch a new system without your best Mario game to go with it. It's not too late. Delay the Wii-U, just as the 3DS should have been. "
Ok, hold on, I want you to take a look at some numbers for me and then consider this... What honestly seems to be making more money? Because this is not in the lens of what is the best, it in the what makes the most money...
And just as a note, I am sighting Wikipedia on this, if I am wrong so are they.

Super Mario Bros.
40.24 million units sold

Super Mario Bros. 2
10 million units sold

Super Mario Bros. 3
18 million units sold

Super Mario World
49.10 million units sold

Super Mario Land
18 million units sold

Super Mario 64
11 million units sold

Mario Sunshine
5.5 million units sold

New Super Mario Bros.
18 million units sold (as of March 2009)

Super Mario Galaxy
10.68 million units sold

New Super Mario Bros. Wii
25.47 million sold

First off, let me iterate something here. This analysis is HORRIBLY flawed. If I missed something or something seems out of place, you are welcome to say so. That will likely change my findings but oh well... I would rather that than something be wrong.
Second off, this is does prove something that came unexpectedly... it's rather easy to assume that people love 2D Mario, but the numbers seem to bare that out more clearly than I expected.
Third off, Some rather interesting notes. There is also another fact that needs baring out. If you happen to see a Mario game on the same platform, the series tends to do less than the first game in that series. Nothing came close to Super Mario Bros. on the NES, the numbers of Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins and Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 seem unavailable on wiki so Super Mario Land stands out,Super Mario World on the SNES and Super Mario Galaxy both did better than their respective sequels.
Also, the Mario Games within the launch window of a new platform tend to do extremely well... Which is funny because they have not done that since Super Mario 64....

So why? It's a rather honest thing. My second point is that a 2D Mario game seems to do better than a 3D one, and honestly due to that and development costs they tend to make more out of the 2D games. As I said, that much is very clear.... Compare if you the numbers of Mario Sunshine(5.5 million units sold) with New Super Mario Bros.(18 million units sold [as of March 2009]),and Super Mario Galaxy (10.68 million units sold) with New Super Mario Bros. Wii (25.47 million sold.). Each time, the old 2D game does better and by a pretty high margin.
So honestly, what seems to be making more money? A 2D platforming Mario game. When Nintendo hears "We want more Mario!!" and then check the numbers, what game do you think that they would consider first? Sadly it's not Super Mario Galaxy... it's the "New" series.

Currently it's what makes the most money for them right now. So I can't say this is about emotions... this is clearly a matter of cold business expectations, no matter how unreasonable. For Nintendo, Sega, Capcom, Square-Enix and other companies of age in the market, those expectations are frightfully high... and growing higher by the day.

Kimo Maru
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I think Nintendo's just caught in a weird moment in time again. It's odd, looking back, how they went from the lows of the Gamecube period to their wild success with the Wii in such a relative short space of time. The audience they used to serve grew up and want something more hardcore, but I think they "believe" they want Pikmin. It's like remembering an ex - you remember all the stuff that felt good but when you see them you realize that you've grown past that period in life. Nintendo needs to figure out if they're going to change with their audience or still try to cater to kids and moms, and I don't think they can put out another 30 Zelda games.

Dave Smith
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they just amassed a huge new crowd of kids last generation. they couldnt care less about the old one.

Kimo Maru
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@Dave Smith = I think they very much care since they're losing money. Did they really amass a new generation? I'm not getting that impression at all.

John Flush
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Actually I think the Wii nailed it because all of us that grew up on NES and SNES have kids now. We got a Wii because it is the platform we want our kids to play on with the games we grew up on.

They hit a low with the GC because we, at the time were still in the "hardcore" age. The N64 worked okay and all, but I didn't bother, at the time I moved to the PC age of late teen-hood. I'm sure that changes with generations and all, but I be the huge success in the Wii could really boil down to a lot of families remembering games as a kid and wanting to share those with their kids (that and you moved around with them now, so the stigma of games are just lazy was cleaned up).

I worry though with the Wii U though. We all have our Wii's. We see it not being used much anymore, or hate motion controls again because we've learned they aren't competitive level enough, and what does the new one bring to the table? The ability to pick on the one guy with the tablet. I don't know... doesn't seem very interesting to me.

I would really like to have another local multiplayer console that has "Golden Eye" or something like that as my family grows up around me.

Can they put out Zelda for another 30 years? not if they keep it 3D because I hate them. Where is the 2D Zelda to compliment the 2D Mario?

Jonathan Jou
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Oh boy, someone agreed with me, and wrote a whole article agreeing with me!!

It's great when I get to pretend I thought of it first, when really I was stating the retrospectively obvious.

Reggie, it was easy, you had to wow the audience to make them happy. That E3 where Link pulled out a sword on horseback? That wasn't even close to a complete game, and grown men were crying. I don't think anyone was actually asking for Pikmin 3 so much as they were asking for a few seconds of footage in the sizzle reel.

Instead, you showed them games, man. Who does that? What do you mean that's what they've been clamoring for this whole time? Don't be ridiculous, they weren't asking for launch titles and dates. They were asking for trailers for games that would see years of delays and games which they praise but actually just rent and return. Eye candy. Fireworks.

Something like that. Showmanship, not substance. We're not very good at keeping our imaginations in check and you have given our imaginations very little that we like to work with.

Leon T
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I agree.

john stark
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Obviously Reggie simply wasnt satisfied with peoples reactions. Reasonable enough, since shows like E3 aim to trigger positive reactions, but there wasnt enough stuff to make us really happy and our disappointment disappointed Reggie. Tragic, isnt it ?

I hope and expect Nintendo will pull out some suprises to please us until the Wii Us release.

I believe Nintendo wants to distribute news and announcements more evenly over the course of time. So they can again and again gain our attention and so pull attention away from stuff their competitors are doing as well as keep us constantly attracted for their offerings.

E3 offers plenty of news and announcements, often more than we can handle and our limited mind might overlook and forget things we are supposed to cherish.

Everybody talks about winners and loosers in the aftermath of the show. Since Nintendo always outlines it does not compete with the likes of Sony and Microsoft, why not avoid E3 battleground to a certain level ? The same way they announced 3DS LL /XL after the show, but still gained lots of attention, maybe even more as if they would have squeezed the announcement into the E3 timeframe ?
Nintendo Direct is just the kind of weapon to achieve exactly this.

I like this approach. Its the Nintendo approach. They dont simply follow the common rules, the great consensus accepted by everyone, created by analysts, investors and the edgeless masses. Where all things become grey, Nintendo still shines in its strong red and its not ego shooter bloodred, but the colour of passion for their vision, what videogames might be to us.

Its pioneers work. Nintendo often may seem stubborn, but I see a strong vision in what they are doing. Its like they dont just create or bend the rules of a game everybody participates, but just create a new game.

John Flush
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I wonder how good of a PR move it is to call your hopeful customer base a bunch of whiners?

Matthew Downey
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I'm pretty sure Wii Sports and Wii Fit sell well because they are bundled with Wii's, not because people actively go out of their way to buy said games. If anyone has evidence to the contrary, please share it. I remember being annoyed about Reggie's argument, just because of that point. Free things sell really well, even if they are poorly made or boring.

Yiannis Koumoutzelis
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what makes amazing games not selling? there are plenty, but i mean really flop.
one of the reasons simply is: this is not what gamers wanted to play at that time.

it is about emotional needs. it is like someone making a game about the sea when everybody in their fanbase wants a game about the jungle. people want to play certain games, and along with doing that thing, you can throw into the mix any other game you feel like. nintendo fans, me included wanted to see certain games for launch. games that would make sense. metroid. f-zero. ssbm. etc. me and several others love nintendo for making games unlike the others, for breaking the norm, not for creating a new norm out of them. gamecube era was what made a huge difference for many of us. giving space to experiments like P.N.03, Beyond Good and evil, different games like wind waker and pikmin. they delivered pikmin alright. but that was all of it.

we just need to see the ole, more experimentative and original nintendo back, and they can do it with free minigames, in lalaland or paid ones, it doesn't matter, as long as they don't stuff us with mainstream mindless games till we suffocate!

Raymond Grier
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"It will require a much greater amount of explanation to non-hardcore consumers, especially those confused by the second screen. "

I don't know why people in the media keep insisting that Wii U is hard to explain and hard to understand. Let me try, they can even use it in their advertising if they want.

Wii U is everything a Wii is but with HD support, a faster processor, more memory, uses traditional Wiimotes for pointing and motion based games while its new controller is ideal for more traditional games and adds a touch screen to give the player more control of the game.

A little more verbose than I had planned but it seems to cover most features and seems easy enough to understand. I don't get the press's obsession with Wii U being hard to understand...and their obsession is hurting my stock value :(