Last week the Microsoft press conference included Peter Molyneux' big reveal of Fable: Journeys, and the gameplay shown had many worrying that the future of Kinect was to be host solely to on-rails shooters and bouncy dancing titles. As Dawdle reported, that led to a slightly desperate video of Molyneux next to the signatures of a couple dozen journalists--something of an honor-bound whiteboard contract professing 'It is NOT on-rails!' Just goes to prove that when all you have is a few moments in front of the world, what you don't show is far more important that what you do.
Lionhead isn't the only head being scratched post-E3, however. An even bigger cloud of confusion covered the WiiU launch, as could be seen in full internet-filtered glory via the #WiiU tag. 'Is the WiiU a console or a handheld?' 'Is it just a controller I can buy?' 'What's new about it?' Nintendo's conference was so focused on the "experiences" that it didn't effectively convey what the device actually was, or even what combination of new purchases and old hardware might constitute owning one. Sadly, this little stumble might explain the dip in stock prices that Iwata commented on immediately post-reveal.
Even as someone who'll support Nintendo's bizarre marketing tactics most of the time, I have to agree with their president when he admits the console reveal could've gone more smoothly: "We haven't made any kind of blunder, but I should have shown a single picture of the new console, then started talking about the controller."
Iwata continued, "The console is not drastically different, and Wii U is about the controller. The console itself will be almost invisible." He's right--in principle. If you stand in front of a group of artists and show them a new type of paintbrush, you shouldn't have to show the box the paint comes in for them to be excited. But to the gaming press, knowing the the hows and whys of the latest technology is definitively more important than just a smiling reassurance that one new controller will shift the entire sphere of gaming.
Another example of the problem with gamers' focus comes across in today's shocking reveal that the WiiU "will have 50% more processing power compared to the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360." What a head-turner! Also, completely uncorroborated by anyone who's seen the system--the above quote comes from a single analyst at Sterne Agee, a tech consulting firm, presumably after speaking with developers. Even after admitting, "this is yet to be confirmed by Nintendo," the quote from a company no one's heard of still manages to make headlines in the gaming press. Not just for the sake of rousting excitement--but just because this is the kind of news gamers crave.
Last Tuesday was a watershed moment for Nintendo, and opinions have since poured out of the internet like so much boiling pitch. Even some of the most professional of journalists can't resist feeding the cycle: in Geoff Keighley's interview of Reggie Fils-Aime immediately after the console reveal, discussion about the new controller or about Nintendo's mass appeal took a backseat to Keighley's relentless questions about price points, hardware specs, and which studio within Nintendo had created the 5-second "Zelda HD" mockup. The disconnect during the interview was palpable, and it left gamers with not a whit more information about the new device or its functions.
So while Nintendo dropped the ball on explaining exactly what the WiiU experience is during the course of the conference, the fact that core gamers are ravenous in their demand for numbers, dates, and title announcements almost makes one wonder if they really are targeting the wrong audience. While the folks who read the Times are fine with seeing nonspecific shuriken & reversi demos, those who pore over RSS feeds and GamePro might have preferred Nintendo to wait until they could show actual games rather than "experiences."
If there's one thing gamers love, it's a flag to rally behind.