The Nintendo Critic is a section we\’re launching where we try and point where Nintendo has fallen short. We like to think of the difference between being a Nintendo fanboy and a \”Nintendo Enthusiast\” is that an enthusiast isn\’t blinded to harsh realities for all his positive feelings towards a game or company he admires. Mark Loughlin is the author of this piece, and, as always, he is our goto geek for all our business and marketing questions.
The Nintendo Critic: Wii U – Marketing Gone Wrong
The Wii U is a gorgeous little piece of tech with incredible amounts of potential but something has gone awry. The general consumer doesn’t understand it. Now, there are several things in my mind that compound this issue but it all centralizes around marketing– Nintendo\’s marketing decisions and direction. As I will talk about a few times this is from my own experiences working in one of the UK’s top retailers.
The name \”Wii U\”
We can discuss the name until the cows come home as is evidenced by looking back upon the terabytes of forum discussion on the Revolution/Wii name change. Ultimately the name Wii U can be viewed in 2 ways- either as a continuation of a legacy and brand name, or as a gateway to confusion and disillusion by the blue ocean consumer. The name of the console could have been named completely different than the previous console, the Wii, as Nintendo have always done this except (for the most part) within the handheld market. At least this way it would have been clear cut to the consumer that ‘This is a new system’. The marketing team could have even spun the point to the rest of the higher-ups that although this Wii U isn’t as clear cut as Nintendo hoped, maybe, and I do mean maybe, Wii 2 would have been clearer as this has been employed in gaming through the Playstation market since its inception as well as other technology products (iPad, Samsung Galaxy S phones etc). This has just been evidenced to me as lately as today, I had a colleague ask me “Can I not just buy the controller?” This was among many other confused questions including if it was a handheld portable like the DS and how is it different to the Wii.
Marketing = Communicating a Message to the Consumer
This just leads me into how Nintendo are informing their consumer base. First of all, I don’t think it’s that big a deal because it would all work out in the end but today as it stands unless you’re a gamer or very tech savvy there is a good chance you don’t know anything about how the Wii U works, its purpose, or how you use it. The adverts show a new way to play, how you use the controller, and at the very end a console alongside the controller that is very reminiscent of the Wii. Maybe a campaign leading with the slogan in the same essence of “A new console for a new future” would help educate the consumer that this is an entirely new system. The Mall tours throughout the UK (well partially, Nintendo UK always seem to ignore Northern Ireland and as a passionate Irish fan this has always irked me) are a good means as to get the controller into the hands of those who will have to buy it for their kids. But these events need to enforce that this is an ‘At-home system, with a new console’ because people can see the new controller, they have it in their hands but the unseen elements need to be addressed, like whether or not it is a handheld or tablet. In this day and age, it\’s a common occurrence to be walking around with tablet that can play games in your hands.
Now I said that there is still a way this could all work out and this would be owing to the point that the general consumer would not be going crazy over the system until Christmas 2013, and by then there will be upwards of 6 million units in the marketplace– these would have been on most part bought up by the hardcore Nintendo consumer, who buys their systems at launch (*cough* *cough*), and they would be the likely informant to everyone around them. This is how the problem will be solved: we, the traditional gamers, will be frustratingly pulling our hair out trying to explain to everyone that ‘NO, no you cannot just use the handheld, you have to use it in proximity to the console in your house, and no I do not mean the Wii, you have to get the new system, WiiU’.
This isn’t safe enough for a Nintendo that holds a lot in the balance over the success of the Wii U. Their planning should have been better, they should have foreseen potential problems with the Wii U, no matter how unlikely the occurrence and developed a strategic plan to tackle the issue. Rather than take a number of steps in the early months of the lifespan that seem to compound the issues, making them a tight web of misunderstanding inside a confused consumer that needs slow and steady coaching to unravel.
We went from a marketing slogan of, \”Would you like to play?\” to \”How will U play next?\” without making it apparent that to continue playing you need to upgrade, a term that has been embedded in peoples’ minds due to the nature of the mobile phone market that instantly tells them what is going on and what they need to do. Instead of a clever catch-phrase, Nintendo should have been devising a slogan that instantly communicates the gaming concept of their new system.
Let\’s hope that despite these missteps and lack of precautions, Nintendo can still right the ship and steer it into clear waters.