After a 16-year hiatus, Nintendo returns to CES in January

For 16 years, Nintendo has been one of the most notably absent companies at the Consumer Electronics Show, the world’s biggest trade show that houses the latest and greatest in consumer technology.

In two months, though, the video game company will finally return to the show floor.

Because CES is focused on all consumer electronics – everything from car stereos to 3D TVs to video cameras – its gaming presence has historically been muted. After all, there are game-specific trade shows with much more fanfare.

However, Sony and Microsoft have used the show as a big platform for their gaming products over the last several years, sometimes launching new gadgets or technology there.

But both of those companies have other reasons to be at CES because they’re giant corporations with multiple spokes in the CE wheel. Nintendo only does games, and as such for the last decade and a half it hasn’t seen value in the show.

So with the list of exhibitors now available, Nintendo’s name comes up as something of a surprise.

Of course, the timing is right for the company, given that the 3DS is planned for an early 2011 launch. That means shows like the Game Developers Conference or the Electronic Entertainment Expo would be too late to showcase it. Nintendo needs to pump up its presence in the market, and CES is the most widely attended event of its kind on the entire planet.

It’s more than just the 3DS, though. Event organizers likely encouraged Nintendo to attend, as they have been focused on creating more attention to gaming this year. The show will have a “Gaming Showcase” for Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, as well as a bunch of content providers and tech companies on the back-end, including Dreamworks, DC Comics, and AMD.

The 2011 CES runs from January 6 to 9 in Las Vegas.