According to various members of the gaming media, Nintendo will be under strict orders from the Japanese government – no member of its company will be able to discuss any “forward-looking” details during most of the Game Developer’s conference. Personally, I think that’s a load of crap.
At first sight, this announcement means that Nintendo won’t be able to mention new information about any currently unreleased games, including Wii Zelda, Phantom Hourglass, the new Metroid, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and unannounced projects… But since when has Nintendo let a little thing like a “federal gag order” get in the way of any announcements they had in the works?
Here’s my theory on the whole affair, and why you should expect a ton of information about the ever-elusive Wii Zelda on Thursday…
The Game Developers Conference used to be treated as a second-class conference – companies would make minor announcements that would whet the lips of fans. Then, in May, they would release official trailers for new games and show them at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Nintendo was especially notorious for using the GDC like this. Last year, they used the conference to announce that you could get Sega games on the Virtual Console that was under development at the time. The year before that, they jumped onto the Sony bandwagon and actually announced that their new system, codenamed “Revolution”, would be backwards-compatible with Gamecube games. All of this information was just a drip in the media dam, and Nintendo would always wait until E3 to turn the floodgates open.
However, things have change. E3 has relinquished its place as the King of Gaming Conferences. Nowadays, you can only get in with an official invitation, which cut the number of anticipated attendees from 70,000 down to less than 10% of that number! The “new and improved” E3 has vowed to concentrate only on business, leaving big gaming companies out in the cold. Where could they go to announce their new games and build up hype about their landmark projects?
Unsurprisingly, a lot of expos were more than happy to start billing themselves as the successor to the E3 crown. The Penny Arcade Expo and Game Developers Conference are the two most notorious front runners; both announced that they were doubling the size of their conferences once the news about E3 came out.
The GDC and PAX both seemingly have the same goal – to give fans and developers a chance to interact and have a good time. One presents itself in a bit more subdued manner and tries to maintain at least an air of professionalism (and the hefty price tag that goes with it), while the other is known for being the Bacchanalian orgy of the gaming world – balls are flying everywhere! *ba-dum pshhh!*. Besides this, both conferences take place at opposite times of the year and really offer no direct competition to each other. Thus, both conferences have been able to grab onto the E3 spotlight and use it to expand to epic proportions. The GDC, which falls earlier in the year than PAX, will be the first to reap the benefits of E3’s fall. Companies and fans will be flocking to San Francisco this week and will be expecting to hear gasp-worthy news from all of the major gaming companies.
“But wait,” you must be thinking, “It’s great that the GDC is a lot more important than it was last year, but that doesn’t get rid of a federally-mandated gag order.” True, it doesn’t. Thankfully, the Japanese government should get rid of the gag order before one of the key Zelda developers, Eiji Aonuma, gives his speech on the history and future of the Zelda franchise.
The Japanese government instituted a gag order on Nintendo because they are issuing a secondary offering of almost 2% of their total stocks. For those who aren’t too keen on the stock market lingo, this means that Nintendo’s releasing more stocks into the market so that people can buy them up. Normally this sort of action would dramatically decrease the value of the stock. When more stocks are added to the market, they become easier to get. The law of supply and demand explains why the price then drops significantly.
Most people would assume that this would be a bad thing for everyone involved. Investors would lose money when the stock price went down, Nintendo would lose money because nobody would want to buy the new stock, and the gamers would lose out because their game supplier would be doing poorly, financially-speaking.
That’s why most countries enact gag orders against any companies that are releasing more stock to the public. The stock exchange sets the price of the new stock that is going to be released days before it goes on the market, so companies would make key announcements that would artificially inflate or deflate their company’s value and rip off investors. However, once the price of the new stock is set, companies are free to make whatever significant announcements they want. Many companies will immediately announce a new product or an expansion project after a secondary offering’s price is set, because it will immediately increase the worth of their company at the same time that new stocks will hit the market at a newly-discounted price. Nintendo gets rid of its stock holdings, the investors get reliable stocks at a significant discount, and gamers are happy because both of the other parties just got wonderful deals.
It just so happens that Nintendo’s secondary offering stock price is going to be set based upon data obtained on March 5th-March 8th in Japan. Considering this, Ol’ Nintendo should be more than free to discuss whatever they want after the price of their stocks is set in Tokyo late on the 8th or early on the 9th…
…And it just so happens that Eiji Aonuma’s 60 minute lecture on the history and future of the Zelda franchise has been moved from the early morning of March 8th to 5:30pm of the same day. This is not only long into the 9th in Japan, but most people at the conference in California will actually be awake and will have popped the tylenols that they’ll need to get over their serious hangovers.
Phantom Hourglass seems like it will be a great game, but I don’t think it’d be worth this much hulabaloo. The only thing that would fit with all of this is some sort of huge announcement about the new Wii Zelda!
Whether we’ll get a video or a release schedule (or both) is entirely unknown, but all signs, in my opinion, are pointing to something huge.