Why the Nintendo NX Announcement is Already Worrying

At this point Nintendo could justifiably be considered professional contrarians. More or less every decision made by the company goes against the grain of popular opinion, with their revelation that the Nintendo NX will be released in March 2017 being no exception. 

The NX, the company’s next home console, was expected to launch in the final quarter of this year in time for the holiday season. However, in today’s announcement the company revealed that the console would actually launch at the tail-end of next year’s first quarter, with the first batch of information pertaining to it scheduled to be announced later this year. The company also revealed that they wouldn’t be bringing the NX to E3 2016, nor would they have any playable games on the expo’s show floor aside from the new The Legend of Zelda, which has had its release date pushed back to next year in order to coincide with the launch of the new console, with it now set to appear on both the Wii U and NX. Each of these decisions is questionable, but when you put them all together and factor in the poor sales of the company’s last console, Nintendo’s logic here is difficult to navigate.

Nintendo’s decision to abstain from the marketing methods employed by its peers during the Wii U’s life cycle has failed. The company’s reliance upon its Nintendo Direct broadcasts over the ostentatious events hosted by the likes of Sony and Microsoft may have been an admirable move, but it has inevitably ensured that the Wii U has received less coverage and interest as a result. This hasn’t been helped by the Wii U’s lack of releases, which likely played a big part in Nintendo deciding to remove itself from the annual lineup of E3 press conferences, but this doesn’t help explain the company’s decision to leave the NX at home for this year’s event.

No matter how Nintendo presents the NX, it will not receive as much coverage as an E3 presentation would, yet in a statement to investors the company has revealed that the upcoming console will be absent from this year’s event. This makes little sense. Even though Sony and Microsoft hosted their own individual launch events for the PS4 and the Xbox One, both companies still brought their hardware to E3 as it presents the best opportunity to promote it to consumers. Regardless of whether Nintendo hosts its own swanky press conference at the end of this year, or – gulp – decides to debut the NX in a Nintendo Direct broadcast, it will not receive as much coverage or attention as it would if it was unveiled at E3. 

LegendofZeldaWiiUOpenworld

Nintendo’s focus for this year’s E3 will instead by placed upon The Legend of Zelda, the company has confirmed, with a playable demo of the Wii U version of the game appearing on the show floor at the expo. This, again, is a questionable move. With TLoZ being the only notable Wii U release for the duration of this year, pushing its release out of 2016 effectively ensures that the console is dead in the water in 2016. Aside from Star Fox Zero, which has received a middling critical response, there are no big-name exclusive games releasing for the console this year. Pushing Zelda‘s launch into 2017 all but guarantees that Nintendo will continue to have a poor year financially, even if they eventually do decide to lower the console’s price. If you haven’t been inspired to pick up a Wii U at this stage in the console’s life cycle, then with the absence of an exclusive TLoZ game this year, there’s no reason for you to do so in 2016.

This would have therefore made Q4 2016 the ideal time to launch the NX, but it was not to be. While a March 2017 launch date isn’t exactly favorable given that the holiday season is considered the most opportune time for a new console release, if a console isn’t finished, then it isn’t finished. However, this delayed release date and Nintendo’s lack of presence at E3 does leave the door wide open for both Sony and Microsoft, who are both touted to launch their own improved versions of their PS4 and Xbox One consoles by the end of the year. While the impact these rumored consoles could have on the market is uncertain, Nintendo is running another risk by allowing both companies to showcase these systems at E3 unimpeded. With Nintendo not using the platform of E3 to unveil the console, they’re relying upon their own individual announcement to gain enough traction to convince consumers to hold onto their money through the holiday season and into March, and to abstain from purchasing the expected upgrades of the PS4 and Xbox One. Considering their shift towards an understated approach to marketing throughout the Wii U’s lifetime, expectations aren’t exactly high when it comes to how they’ll decide to officially reveal the NX.

Ideally, the NX will be a great success for Nintendo, and the company will bounce back from the poor performance of the Wii U, but those who have reservations about these announcements are justified in their reasoning. Nintendo has a lot to do if it wants to re-insert itself as a strong competitor in the home console market, and such a questionable strategy when it comes to the unveiling of their next system is bound to raise more than a few eyebrows. Hopefully, those of us who are doubting their methods will be proven wrong.