Catching up on my WSJ backlog — I’ve reduced the three-foot-high stack to a mere week’s worth — I came across this WSJ article (“New Wii Is Investor Fizzle”, July 10) and was enraged just enough to make a post. The offending material appears in the fifth and sixth paragraphs:
“The stock market’s pessimistic reaction [to the Wii U console announcement] contrasted with the frenzy Tuesday at the Electronic Entertainment Expoin Los Angeles, when Nintendo showed a prototype of the Wii U…. The line to play with the new console snaked around the exterior of Nintendo’s spacious booth at E3 … with some attendees waiting three hours.”
Why do the Wall Street Journal’s normally fastidious reporters fall for lowly booth bottleneck tricks? It’s easy enough to create a line-up at your booth if you reduce the number of stations (there were just 9 Wii U demo stations on the general floor — verify for yourself via this photo gallery) and give attendees ample time to sample the goods at each station (about five minutes per attendee was allowed when I stopped by the booth, but this was likely variable).
So here’s a little math that I learned back in OPIM 631: at five minutes per attendee across 9 stations, about 108 general attendees were able to get hands-on time with the Wii U per hour. In the first day of E3 (the above-mentioned Tuesday in the WSJ article), the exhibition floor was open just six hours. So let’s be generous and grant that maybe 700 general attendees (press, media, and VIPs excluded) were able to play with the console on Tuesday. An estimated 46,800 attendees went to E3, so approximately 1.5% of total attendees played with the Wii U on the opening day of E3. Unimpressive.
Plus, given the professional nature of most attendees, hands-on time with the new console is a matter of professional due diligence because it’d sound like you misprioritized your time at E3 if you didn’t bother to get hands on time with the one new console that was announced this year.
What’s more, anytime the line threatened to dwindle to a non-buzzyworthy length, it’d be trivial for the marketers to instruct the girls manning the stations to allow attendees another minute or two.
In other words, this setup guaranteed long lines (plus, Nintendo’s got a long history of carefully managing supply of games, consoles and E3 lines to create perception of constraint and/or popularity) so I’m disappointed in the reporters who used the mere existence of lines as evidence of the console’s success at E3.
I’m not saying anything about the quality of Nintendo’s new console or their strategy. Hell, their marketers appear to be pretty savvy in that they’re able to turn an operations constraint into product “buzz.” Rather than a comment on Nintendo’s strategy, this is more a comment on the media that keep falling for the same old tricks. Unfortunately, it’s not just the mainstream media who fail to do a little operations analysis … Joystiq fell for it too. (Many other blogs covered the “lines” for the Wii U without scratching below the surface, but I’m particularly disappointed in Joystiq, since I spent two years there.)