Nintendo has been creating systems for over 3 decades now. In that space of time, the company become an entertainment juggernaut that’s known and loved by millions all over the world. With a myriad of original intellectual properties, Nintendo has made a name for themselves in households far and wide. Can the same be said for all of their home consoles, though?
When Nintendo brought their first home console, the Famicom, to the West, it underwent a bit of a redesign. Not only was the system’s exterior different than its Japanese counterpart, but it even dawned a whole new name: the Nintendo Entertainment System. 3 small words, but such a powerful meaning behind them.
That name signified that this was the console you needed to own to get the ‘Nintendo’ experience. With a name of that grandeur, it’s no wonder why families all over just started shortening it to ‘the Nintendo’. Hearing the phrase: “We have a Nintendo”, was quite common back then. Fast forward to now, and the same can’t really be said. Nintendo is still making systems, but they’ve drifted a little from that powerful name. Perhaps it’s time to return?
Some brands have become so powerful that people start identifying entire types of things as just one brand. For instance, many use the term ‘iPad’ to describe most of the tablets that they see. If you happen to look on a few online stores, like eBay for instance, the category that’s dedicated to tablets is actually named “iPads and Tablet”. An iPad is a tablet, but because it’s such a popular brand, it has pretty much become the default casual-term to describe them as a whole.
Back in the 90s, saying that you had ‘a Nintendo’ was a pretty big deal. Saying it could have arguably even counted as having bragging rights. It only makes sense though—Nintendo were the ones who saved gaming as we know it. After Atari laid waste to the industry, Nintendo stepped in and pretty much built it back up from the foundation. As a result, they were able to place themselves on top of it all. Just like how there were ‘Disney’ movies (versus just ‘movies’), and ‘Michael Jackson’ songs (versus just ‘a song’), there were Nintendo games on Nintendo systems.
Everyone knew that you couldn’t play the likes of Mario, Zelda, or Metroid on anything but a Nintendo system. You bought it just gain access to those titles, and then some. Of course the same is true now, but it seems that Nintendo doesn’t really ‘click’ with the general public anymore.
Now had I said something like that back in 2006-2010, I probably would have gotten some appropriate death stares. Like the NES and SNES before it, the Wii became a worldwide phenomenon, however, it managed to go ahead and surpass the success of those two veteran systems. I’ve visited many friends in different parts of the world, and many times I’ve spotted the console. While things definitely worked out for Nintendo with that system, there was an underlying problem that many might not even realize. Mr. Kimishima, the current president of Nintendo, made an interesting statement: (Speaking of the Wii U’s lack of success) — “[I said] not that it wouldn’t sell, but that it would be more difficult because of the install base of the Wii itself.”
Since the Wii was such a great success, then it only seemed logical that Nintendo designed the Wii U around the same concepts, straight down to the continuation of the name. Unfortunately, the market that ate the Wii up was frivolous. The “Wii” name should have sold the Wii U just by recognition.
Don’t focus on the fact that there were several other things called “Wii [Insert name]”. That brand recognition didn’t trigger a lot of people simply because the consumers were never truly invested, and Kimishima realized this. He understood that despite the Wii’s install base being large, not many saw it as a Nintendo console, or even a part of a specific console generation. Many Wii owners simply saw it as ‘the box that plays Wii Sports, Wii Fit and Just Dance’.
When the NES and SNES reigned supreme, people knew ‘Nintendo’ as a super-brand, so why wasn’t it the same with the Wii as revealed by the Wii U? Well, the crowds were different. During the NES and SNES eras, it’s hard to say that the ‘casual’ market was truly a thing.
Gaming is already a very young entertainment medium, and back then, it was in its true infancy. At that point, consoles and video games were being marketed to just about everyone, so that made things somewhat easier. Now that gaming has become so mainstream, there are acquired tastes. The Wii went off onto its own path, and ended up creating a real casual market, but those consumers soon found other things to be entertained by.
It’s certainly true that Nintendo is more than likely never going to spark interest in that market again, so now it needs to work on getting its brand back out into the public eye. The company already stated that this is what it intends to do by means of its new mobile titles, but by adding its name to the title of their next system, they can further enhance that effect. The Nintendo 64 was the last home console to completely carry the ‘Nintendo’ name. While the GameCube, Wii and Wii U are all officially named with “Nintendo” at the forefront, most don’t refer to them with their full titles.
Microsoft and Sony don’t casually feature their names at the front of their systems either, but they have established brands with those names. Even if the average Joe doesn’t realize that Xbox belongs to Microsoft or that PlayStation belongs to Sony, at least they can identify those specific names. Nintendo started off with continuity, but overtime veered off, starting with the Nintendo 64. Perhaps now is the perfect time to establish the ‘Nintendo’ brand, as they transition to a new generation in a hope to rekindle interest in their business. We had the Nintendo Entertainment System, and then things got bigger and better with the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. So maybe the “NX” can be the “eXtreme Nintendo Entertainment System”? “Nintendo Next”? Whatever the name, just make sure ‘Nintendo’ is in the title!