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Nintendo Shows Up At PAX

by Rick Powers - August 28, 2006, 7:56 am EDT
Total comments: 11

But without Wii, does anyone care?

PAX is “in the can", as they say, and if you’re wondering why we didn’t talk much about it, it’s because there isn’t all that much to say. Nintendo showed off about nine games for the Nintendo DS, including the fantastically quirky Elite Beat Agents, and the Lemmings-esque Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2, but the Wii was nowhere to be found.

I’m sure that Nintendo will put out a press release talking about how successful a show it was for them, but the truth of the matter is that there was an underlying sense of frustration, for the gamers, for the press, and even a bit from Nintendo’s staff themselves. Nintendo had a golden opportunity to steal the show from even Penny Arcade themselves, and the company squandered it.

Before you write this off as sour grapes from someone disappointed that he didn’t get to play with Wii, hear me out. Microsoft and Ubisoft had the largest presences at the show, but the longest lines went to America’s Army (who had a training simulator running), and Red Octane, who showed off the amazing Guitar Hero II. Ubisoft had video of some Wii titles on their giant projection screen, and when watching them, I heard several people mention that it looked interesting, and that they wished they could have tried them.

What I’m talking about is “mindshare". Nintendo had an opportunity to basically outclass an entire game expo, and put the machine into the hands of the people that are the most vocal supporters of gaming. Instead, the crowd response was tepid, and people were more interested in playing with their own DS systems (numbering roughly 20:1 over the PSP). These were Nintendo fans, through and through, and Nintendo had a chance to really engage the crowd and, quite frankly, they blew it.

Why are they doing this? We’d all like to think that there’s a plan in place somewhere, and if it’s anywhere, it must be in the impenetrable vault that is NCL, Nintendo’s Japanese parent company. Supposedly they are holding off on any public displays until September, probably just trying to manage the flow of information. Perhaps that’s the plan itself, to make the company look like bumbling incompetents so that they will surprise everyone. That’s probably why there are rumors floating around that Nintendo is intentionally hiding the graphical prowess of the machine so their competitors won’t be able to react.

The fact is, Wii is a great machine, and they don’t need to have people making up stories to get the buzz going about the machine. Let it stand on its merits, and it’s enough. Much of the discussion heard around PAX revolved around the “Wii60"; the idea that people will buy an Xbox 360 first and get the Wii as a secondary machine. The same sort of thing was heard at E3 as well. What’s great is that Wii as a secondary machine to either the Xbox 360 or to the Sony PS3 makes Nintendo the winner, since everyone will have one.

But the last reason is all the more frustrating. PAX will grow by more than double next year, moving from a 70,000 sq. ft. venue, to a 170,000 sq. ft. venue … the largest game show in North America. A strong Nintendo showing this year would have put the focus completely on them for next year, when the Wii is finally in people’s homes, and all this would be happening in Nintendo’s own backyard of Seattle. Instead, all of the talk was about how great the Xbox 360 is, and how badly Sony’s PS3 might fail, but Nintendo was hardly even a blip on the radar.

Hopefully Nintendo is taking a long-term approach to marketing and community management with Wii, but in doing so they’re missing the biggest factor, which is that word-of-mouth has momentum, and it needs time to really get going. Starting that word-of-mouth this weekend would have carried them into the launch and well into next year.


MarioAugust 28, 2006

Uh they already have a ton of word of mouth going for Wii right now, who cares that they didn't have playable Wiis at some public expo only people who already know about Wii have heard of.


These were Nintendo fans, through and through, and Nintendo had a chance to really engage the crowd and, quite frankly, they blew it.

DS is still Nintendo.

UltimatePartyBearAugust 28, 2006

I think it remains to be seen how large an impact PAX will have on the industry's marketing trends. I do believe Nintendo missed an easy chance to build some hype, but it seems like Nintendo has a plan for that in place already. I think Nintendo only has a presence at PAX because it's not much effort. They already have the E3 preview builds to use, not to mention components of the booth such as those cool DS displays.

I wonder how the change in E3 will affect PAX? I don't mean that PAX will become anything like E3. I mean that I got the impression a lot of the stuff big videogame publishers showed off at PAX was stuff they had already put together for E3, and without E3 to justify the work and expense, PAX may not get as good a showing in the future.

couchmonkeyAugust 28, 2006

Since Leipzig, I realized that Nintendo has entered its traditional info lockdown mode. We'll hear more info when Nintendo is ready, and not a second earlier. Foolish? Maybe. But Nintendo has done enough right that I don't think it will matter, it just drives the fans crazy.

Berto2KAugust 28, 2006

watch mid next month. should be some infos coming by then.

NinGurl69 *hugglesAugust 28, 2006

Bloody media!

Bloody Nintendo!

Nintendo could at the very least show the same Wii demos that were a big hit at E3. They can do that much without revealing any of the still secret info about launch details and the online service.

I think some of the DS demos were updated builds since E3.


Originally posted by: Mario
Uh they already have a ton of word of mouth going for Wii right now, who cares that they didn't have playable Wiis at some public expo only people who already know about Wii have heard of.

Big difference between those people having heard of the system and having played it and planning to buy one.



These were Nintendo fans, through and through, and Nintendo had a chance to really engage the crowd and, quite frankly, they blew it.

DS is still Nintendo.

It's nice that they showed the DS, but that's system's success is already solidified. Wii is still an unknown, and it's completely new, and they have many times remarked upon the difficulty of getting the system out to the people and letting them try it. Events like PAX, TGS, and Leipzig are perfect opportunities to do just that, and yet they are not being utilized.

As always, it is Microsoft who seems to be the most mature in hitting multiple venues and media outlets for pimping their products.

Nintendo, like much of the rest of the videogame industry, still seem to be in the process of learning this media game.

~Carmine M. Red

VideoGamerJAugust 28, 2006

I dont post much anymore, but I did attend PAX and i think this is extremely valid. I also went to e3 and it seemed like everything at PAX was just leftovers : / I actually did not enjoy PAX at all. It was very refreshing to see about 70-80% of the attendees with DS' but as far as the actual event goes, there were just too many people and waits for nearly everything. Even the Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament was frustrating (delays delays, overcrowded, people changing settings before matches).

Last year at PAX they at least had Twilight Princess at the show and it was pretty awesome! It's not very hard for Nintendo to pack up their showcased Wiis (or modified GameCube hardware, whatever it was at E3 06) but for some reason, the 20 minute travel just seems too hard for them I guess.

Sad times, without the biggest thing in the game industry to be absent. Sad times.

RickPowersRick Powers, Staff AlumnusAugust 29, 2006

I think the lines and waiting were mostly due to the massive influx of gamers after the announcement that E3 had been cancelled. Penny Arcade kept the pre-registrations open for another few days after that announcement just because they knew they'd get a lot of interested people wanting to go. The fact is, they simply outgrew the venue, but they outgrew it too late to do anything about it. Next year will be really interesting. All of the next-gen consoles will be out, and with more than double the square footage, they won't be turning away many exhibitors.

I guess my frustration comes from the fact that it wouldn't have taken much for Nintendo to really get people talking. Even just a demo reel would have been something, but it was as if there was no new console to talk about. Just the GameCube version of Zelda would have given Nintendo a "win". But they phoned it in.

Well, hindsight is always 20/20.

So many mistakes have been made merely because competent, hard-working, educated people have the bad luck to let their guard down for a moment and overlook something that they later look back upon with chagrin.

I think all the gaming companies are scrambling to re-engineer their PR plans with the fall of E3, with perhaps MS having the best advantage due to their not being set at-all in the old videogame ways of PR... as MTV can surely attest.

~Carmine M. Red

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