Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Factors of Nintendo of America's Marketing Failure (As Shown on the New Wii U Commercial)

      I was a really late bloomer as a gamer. It wouldn't be uncommon to hear about a 5-year-old obtaining all 121 stars in any 3D Mario platformer, or an 8-year-old being one of the dozens of people in line for the release of the next Call of Duty. It wasn't until I was 12, late in the N64 and PS1 lifecycle when I became relatively interested in the unity of various Nintendo franchises celebrating their fame and legacy by beating each other to a pulp. What could have given me that spontaneous moment of interest? Nothing else but this famed and cherished commercial. 

  With a clever choice in music and a hilarious live-action premise, my attention was drawn into Super Smash Bros. This commercial followed a formula: showing something that is memorable and not too vague. Following the N64, the GameCube had hits and a few misses. When a good commercial came on in promotion for a GameCube title though, it not only followed suit, but even exceeded at times compared to the N64 ads. Pikmin 2 was a great example of how Nintendo of America's marketing team can develop a gem.

    That is not to say the GameCube era is not without its dubious moments.  I remember the embarrassment I felt as a Nintendo fan when their commercial for Super Mario Sunshine went on the air. This was the second-ever legitimate 3D Mario platformer to be released since Mario 64 came out 6 years before. After countless spinoffs involving tennis, partying, golfing, sodomizing, whatever - it was Nintendo's chance to show to the world Mario has returned to full form. So how did the marketing team take that opportunity?

     The commercial only aired for about 1-2 months before Nintendo began to realize how much of a mockery they'd made their beloved franchise. I can only assume it was the case, because that commercial was quickly replaced with a simpler, and obviously lower-budget version of the ad - featuring several clips of the game accompanied with a Rastafarian commentator. That replacement isn't going to stop the original to be aired on YouTube for everyone to gander at how awesomely bad it was.

    If we are going to speak in terms of Nintendo commercials that are awesomely bad, it's only fair to bring up a very early and very monumental example of it. It was an ad that farts out "The God Damn '80s" right in your face with bad acting, stereotypical subcultures, and some mad rhymes dropped here and there, yo! The line "Your parents help you hook it up." was the icing on the cake; as if the ad could not make it more evident who they were catering towards.

    That was a commercial shown in very desperate times though - at a time where the gaming industry was prepared to lie six feet under (in a pile of E.T. cartridges). Kids were an ideal demographic for Nintendo to regain interest of a dead industry. Not only that, but to be honest, a whole lot of advertisements from the '80s looked real bad in retrospect, so there might have been a chance it was seen as remotely acceptable at the time.

    The past can only be the past, though. With the current status Nintendo is in, they made quite a transformation over the last generation. The GameCube being the slowest in sales compared to its competition motivated Nintendo to cater to a different demographic to expand their business. By now, gamers at this day and age should be familiar with the "casual market" and the Blue Ocean strategy that helped Nintendo add billions of dollars in their revenue. Nintendo's decision was to broaden the gaming market by inviting everyone in the household beyond the tots and dorks. And quite frankly, the U.S. marketing team did that very well in 2006 with the launch campaign for the Wii entitled "Wii Would Like to Play."

   The music was catchy. It showed the potential and uniqueness that made the Wii such and overwhelming success. Most of all, the ad was a blunt promotion on something revolutionary - imagine a product that's so ground-breaking that a pair of entrepreneurs are urgent enough to fly overseas and share this piece of revolution with every household... making everyone a believer. Yes, the lack of blatant satire, ambiance, or any sign of mature themes may isolate some of the "hardcore" Nintendo fans. But as the "hardcore" fans already know well enough about the system's potentials, the ad is made to give the casual audience the knowledge that the others already know.

    Leaping from 2006 to 2012, Nintendo's successor to the Wii has a different agenda in its own right compared to its predecessor. In response to the casual market's fading interest in the Wii (favoring smartphones and tablets), the company needed a way to make their approach with technological innovation exciting again. The Wii U aims to be the next step - the new revolution. Ever since the system was revealed in E3 of 2011, the hype for the Wii U was a year-and-a-half in the making. It was a long process for Nintendo to find their ground, organize their priorities, and prove to themselves why both the hardcore market and the casual market should pay just as much attention to them now as we had back in 2006.

   The system itself already shows decent potential. The hardware has vastly improved with HD capabilities, the controller is sophisticated and complex, and most importantly Nintendo is scoring promising exclusives. All they need is a commercial that can tell all and reveal all. The right kind of ad to deliver the right kind of message to the people who do not quite know what the Wii U is yet. What do we have?


    Okay... Nintendo, I loved the Wii U when I tried it in a GameStop. Rayman Legends was a blast to play. The controller was comfy and the screen looked great on it. I really wish you the best on this generation you're kicking off but... no. No!

    If Nintendo's intention is to leave the viewing audience confused, indifferent, and maybe even a little annoyed then this advert is going to work like wonders. There are three factors of this commercial that emphasize the problem of the current status of Nintendo of America's marketing team. There can only be so little time and so little budget for the company to find ways in making up for it.

      Let's look at a pattern. The Wii had a lifespan that consisted of attachments. You had the Wii Zapper, Wii Wheel, Wii Balance Board, the U Draw tablet from THQ, and the 3rd Party peripherals that had little to no purpose. If Nintendo were to announce "Wii U" and only display a controller with a screen, would you instantly confirm it as a new system?

    If I ask you to think of the words "ROAST", "BOAST", "COAST" for 5 minutes and ask you "What do you put in a toaster?" Would your immediate answer be "bread?"

    It's already enough of a mistake to insert the "Wii" name in their new system, but all that Nintendo had to do for the last year and a half was to make it clear that it was a "brand new system." That is three simple words that can be said in three simple seconds. How well has that message been delivered one year after it was announced to the world? I have to warn you, for those who know the Wii U well enough to understand that it is a brand new system and not an attachment for the Wii, this is pretty painful to watch.

   One of the primary appeals and unique approaches of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon is having a greater focus on video game coverage than any other late night talk show. If some people do not feel it is worth their time to look up gaming journalism sites, then they can still be informed with spontaneous coverage from public media like talk shows. It can work for me sometimes when they do minor coverage on cars, even though I am not fanatic enough about them to look them up on websites or magazines. But misinformation can spread like a herpes virus to the uninformed viewers, and it's up to Nintendo to deliver the clearest possible message that the Wii U is not another one of their thousands of peripherals.

   Not only does the Wii U fail to make that statement, it only causes even more confusion as it juggles a display of both the Wiimote and the Wii U Controller. The display of the Wiimote can mislead the belief that it is the exact same system as its predecessor. Not only that, there was never a clear explanation to how both the Wiimote and the Wii U controller work together for co-op play. It really would not stretch the budget limits to include a narration on what the Wii U is, and why it is different enough to pay attention to. Then again, how can a individual comprehend the spoken words of a narrator when it's drowned in grating dissonance?  

    I firmly believe that the origins of how dubstep was founded was when some beatnick was on his way out of the bathroom after throwing up an excessive intake of Colt 45 and Funyuns when he accidentally kicked and flung the the spring-loaded door stopper. The fubs and wubs from the spring's vibration can be the only thing I know that can inspire the sound that we hear in this genre that is now driven by mac books instead of coiled metal.

    I understand it is a popular genre, and many of its fans like to be very defensive about it.  It's not even the sound that makes me annoyed with the genre per-say, but it's the fact that they all sound the same. We now have a demographic where they are so attatched and so accustomed to the genre, that no electronica song is complete to them without a "drop of the bass" (which are the "fubs" and "wubs" that vibrate from the speaker to signify eubstep's distinctive sound).

    As a marketing team, it is essential to make a decent understanding to what is the most popular form of modern music in order to achieve a wide appeal to their audience. McDonalds can maintain their legacy of appealing to people with bad taste, so it makes sense for them to play Nicki Minaj along with their commercials at this current age. Obtaining rights to play a 30 second sample of a Skrillex track can definitely garnish attention to a wide audience with familiarity when advertising a new system, if only doing so wouldn't be so expensive. Why pay tens of thousands of dollars for the most popular from of Dubstep when you can cut the budget by obtaining a watered down take on it? I mean it... the version of dubstep that's displayed in the Wii U commercial sounds like it was done on the fly by a kid who was payed 15 dollars and a months supply of Super Mario gummies to fiddle around with his MacBook.

    It's not just grating - it's insulting to the viewers. The use of this half-assed music is supposed to intrigue us and wow us as it pairs with the excess of paid actors and minimal display of what great games are available? Ah... that reminds me of the final factor.

    There is already an impressive launch line-up to look forward to with the Wii U. For starters, Rayman Legends will have beautiful 2D animation, smooth well-paced platforming gameplay, and creative use of controller's tablet and motion sensor for an immerse co-op mode. ZombiU (Seriously Ubisoft, you think the title is still fine as it is?) is getting widespread praise from various gaming journalism sites for its intense atmosphere and innovative survival horror gameplay. Don't even get me started on how much of a cultural phenomena zombies are as it continues to rise with the success of the Walking Dead series on AMC and the headline news on the aftermath of "bath salt" inhaling. Another aspect for consumers to really get excited for is the debut of popular 3rd party titles on a Nintendo system; franchises that have sold millions of the Xbox 360/PS3 like Batman: Arkham CityAssassin's Creed III, and Mass Effect 3. None of these game that I have mentioned in this paragraph are featured or even mentioned in the Wii U ad.

    Only four games were displayed in the commercial, along with the Netflix application. Those four games are Lego City Undercover, Nintendoland, New Super Mario Bros. U, and Sing Dance Party. These are the four games that Nintendo expects them to be the driving sell point. It seems very hard to promote the idea that a casual gamer would have no regrets forking over 300-350 dollars for a system that is not completely multimedia like the iPhone or iPad. Granted, Apple hardware devices are more overpriced for what they're worth, but unfortunately they are already viewed and used as a universal necessity that feature accessible games for 1/50th of the price of an average   game. It's hard to expect a casual audience to be reeled back to Nintendo with a confusing system when they have the simplest system they're already adapted to.

    But hey, it's not like the audience could be more confused than they already are with the lack of details about the system, right? This is where I would like to bring up one game that gave me the most concern - New Super Mario Bros. U. It was inevitable that Nintendo would make a new installment to a franchise that has sold tens of millions of copies. I know it's going to be a great platformer with excellent level design and fun co-op. Hell, I remember saying those exact same words back in 2009 when New Super Mario Bros. Wii was announced, and then a really concerning question pops in to my mind. How will the uninformed audience watching the commercial recognize that the Mario game that's being displayed is NOT the 2009 game updated with touchscreen features?

    Nintendo has an opportunity to exemplify why the leap from Wii to Wii U will provide a vast improvement on all aspects with the new installments of their beloved franchises. But when you compare the U version with the Wii version of New Super Mario Bros, can a game with the same style, same gameplay, and almost the SAME MIDI MUSIC give the audience the right idea that the Wii U controller is not a peripheral that can be installed on old Wii games? Even if some of the audience manages to recognize that it's a new game, is it still new enough and different enough to justify a 60 dollar price tag?

    What's wrong with Nintendo of America's marketing is simply poor judgement. Nintendo needs to know give their audience the right idea about their products. Just how much has improved technology-wise? What's fun to play on it? How much can I do with the system? Most importantly, why is it worth any of my damn time? Not all details are mandatory in order to provide enough info to the audience, but saying some is a lot better than not saying a single word at all. Take the UK TV advert for instance:

   Sure, the announcer sounds like a blumbering doofus, but it's still a voice - a voice that functions as the announcer of the face that it's a "Brand New Console" with a "Brand New Controller." That's already a vast improvement. With the removal of amateurishly music, and the extra time to display what kind of games are playable (the reference to "zombies" should already be a strong selling point, a great opportunity missed by Nintendo of America) I would only have a weaker economy in the UK to blame if popularity isn't as strong there as it may potentially be here. Since I am jotting down plans to buy the system anyway very soon, I hope it doesn't mean that I am only contributing against my argument.

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