Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft will each be hosting press, developers and a few fans for their big press events during E3.
We are all sure to be thrilled by big announcements, possible price drops, awkward celebrity cameos and of course remasters of games we've already played.
So today we're going to ask the big question: What will it take for Nintendo to "win" E3?
A quick definition
For the purposes of this article we'll define a "win" as a press event that energizes existing fans, will help to bring in new fans and while helping the company in question improve their bottom line. If the show gets everyone talking about games and initiatives that will cause both existing and new fans to get out their wallets, that's a "win." This isn't a zero sum game, where one win means that someone else loses; it's very possible at the end of the show each company will have "won."
Nintendo in a nutshell
The Wii U hasn't sold nearly as well as Nintendo would like with third party games barely existing on the console at all. Incredible first-party games and an unexpected business in plastic figures called amiibo are leading the company to profitability. The 3DS line of systems remains the only viable non-smartphone portable gaming platform, although Nintendo will be moving into smartphone game development as well per their deal with DeNA.
Nintendo is looking pretty good
Nintendo is actually in a great position right now, even though it may not look like it at first blush. The company has announced that some kind of new hardware is on the way, and the list of games Nintendo could bring back at any moment to get people excited about the Wii U, 3DS or the upcoming NX.
We know a Starfox is on the way, and every time you sneeze and it sounds like "Zelda," the entire world of gaming perks up. Nintendo has fan and press on tap in a way that's the envy of everyone else in the industry, and since the company talks directly to fans through their Nintendo Direct videos it barely needs anyone reporting on their announcements to get the word out.
The challenge for Nintendo is going to be managing the development of its largest properties between the Wii U and the NX so fans don't lose interest in the Wii U too quickly, but the NX isn't starved for games.
Nintendo, out of the big three, has the deepest bench in this regard, so there's little to worry about here; especially if it continues to remake their biggest games for contemporary hardware. I can think of a dozen games off the top of my head that I would love to see sequels for, or would love to see remade, and that's not even digging into the deep cuts. Nintendo will be able to work this out.
Address your damned online problem
Nintendo is the last of the big three to catch onto the fact that online is kind of a big deal. Content is held on a per-device basis, and there's no way to log on and share games between devices. The 3DS and Wii U don't do much to interact. This is a solved problem on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but Nintendo still thinks that having your games locked onto a single system is OK.
Dear Nintendo: it's not OK.
Nintendo has already announced it's working on something. "Nintendo and DeNA also plan to develop an online membership service that is accessible from smart devices, PC and Nintendo systems, such as the Nintendo 3DS portable system and the Wii U home console," the companies stated. "The membership service, which is targeted to launch in the fall of 2015, will be built on DeNA's extensive experience and capabilities in online membership services."
Nintendo needs to announce something about this service, and reach feature parity with its competition. The lack of even the most basic online functionality with these systems is confounding, and Nintendo isn't in the position of being able to ignore it anymore.
The question is whether Nintendo would be able to charge money for the service, a la Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus. Those services pile on the value and free games to the point where it feels silly not to subscribe, but Nintendo protects its back catalog, as it should.
Nintendo isn't in the position of being able to ignore it anymore
It's not going to devalue the Metroid Prime Trilogy as a "free" game given away with a service when it can sell that same game for $20. Creating a for-pay online service is going to be an uphill battle for Nintendo, and it's likely the company will struggle with emulating the success of its competitor's services.
Still, the current situation can't continue; Nintendo can't just stumble along with no online offering. There doesn't need to be that many details, Nintendo doesn't have to give us a launch date, just an admission that it's being fixed would go a long way.
Amiibo are just fine, actually, how are you?
Splatoon shows that Nintendo knows how to integrate amiibo into games well these days, and you can expect each big game announcement to come with an announcement about how some cool thing that will be unlocked via these little plastic toys.
I was going to argue that Nintendo should be making more amiibo, but Michael Futter at Game Informer points out why that may not be the optimal strategy. Now I'm kind of going the other way.
Nintendo is on the road to financial recovery, and diluting Amiibo value by flooding the supply chain might as well be killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Collectors who are now buying every single figure immediately (because that's their only chance), might be more conservative if they know Shulk, Greninja, Ike, Rosalina, and Robin will be available any time they decide to buy.
Right now, Nintendo is pushing nearly all (if not the entirety) of its stock to retailers. That means that 100 percent (or close to it) of Amiibo expenses are immediately recuperated as revenue. There are no inventory-holding costs that linger as expenses.
Nintendo doesn't have an amiibo problem, Futter argues. "It's the ideal manufacturing scenario," he states.
I'm depressed that I have to set an alarm to try to grab my favorite characters, but during E3 will be reporting on the show via New York and am planning on a few treks to the World Store just to see what's in stock. I wouldn't be this interested in each character was easy to find.
Nintendo is likely going to slowly expand manufacturing to try to continue selling 100 percent of its stock while maximizing number of units sold. This sucks for fans of the toys, but if Nintendo wants to make the most money and gain the most headlines, this is the way to go. Nintendo doesn't have to do much with amiibo, the current strategy is frustrating, but ultimately fine for the bottom line.
This is going to be a great show for the big N
Until Nintendo is ready to show off new hardware or give us some hints about what NX may be, and some of us are sure it's going to be some kind of gaming service, the best bet is to flood the market with software, and Nintendo has the games to do that very effectively. Nintendo is the company that sells both the razor as well as the best blades, and the goal isn't to be #1 in the market, but to be profitable.
By announcing new games, making sure its first mobile offerings are strong, addressing the online problem and adding every more important amiibo functionality to games, it's going to get there.
Mark my words now: Nintendo is going to have a great show.
Safe prediction: Splatoon on the 3DS
Hail Mary prediction: High definition Mario Galaxy collection on Wii U