Move Over Kids, Nintendo’s Switching It’s Demo

If you even remotely follow the video game industry, then you’ll know of this week’s major announcement from Nintendo: the successor to its ill-performing Wii U console, which has been referred to as the NX while in development, now has an official name and trailer. Ladies and gentleman, prepare to feast your eyes on the latest creation of Japanese innovation: the Nintendo Switch.

Comparing the Switch’s launch video to some of the commercials for Nintendo’s first console, the Nintendo Entertainment System, it’s clear the Switch is after a completely different target market. No longer are video games for kids (and Trix doesn’t look like it either); video games, or at least the idea of buying a console system to play them, have become a product of nostalgia. Commercials from the 80’s and 90’s eras had children (i.e. white boys) as the focus, while the Switch focuses on the young adult- one seemingly without children. Gone are the days of creepy CGI characters, weird aerobics and bodybuilders, and robot playmates. This new gamer is older, lives in a nicely HGTV-styled house/apartment, and has friends who somehow invite her to a rooftop party when she stares out the window. Maybe I’m going about this whole ‘making friends’ thing wrong.

Man, I sure hope there’s some friends starting at my open window right now!

Modern Nintendo commercials are always refreshing to watch thanks to their focus on diversity. Note the Switch’s launch video with women (note the plural) playing games with friends and on eSports teams to XBOX One’s, where the one woman in the commercial is not a gamer, but a movie watcher who apparently needs protection from Spock. Great.

Children these days don’t need a NES or a Sega Genesis, all they need is mom’s smartphone. Thousands and thousands of games are now at our fingertips, so parents are less tempted to go buy Junior a $250+ system when an iPhone does the same thing just fine. Of course, games with simple repeatable game play like Candy Crush don’t play in the same ball park as the over 300 hours of game play needed to beat Skyrim. But if both shut the kid up for a while, parents can’t tell the difference.

So it looks like Nintendo will try the mature enough to have disposable income but young enough to have a love of gaming age range for the Switch AKA probably older-ish Millennials, seeing as my currently college-aged cohort will be crippled with student debt for the foreseeable years and the old-old Millennials are already doing that whole suburban white picket fence with kids thing. And honestly, it’s probably for the best that this thing isn’t being marketing to kids at the moment. With all those interchangeable parts sliding on and off the console, they’re prone to be lost and broken by children who don’t know how to be careful.

Another interesting component of the launch video is its eSports focus. eSports, a massively growing industry, is the place to be right now. Nintendo’s had a spotty history with eSports tournaments in the past when they’ve tried to get the popular fighting title Super Smash Bros. pulled from the EVO 2013 tournament. But with more and more media companies investing in the sport, its a great time for Nintendo to make a move to become respected and used in eSports tournaments. This is exactly where its target market is- not necessarily playing a game for a large audience; the target market is the audience. In order to get the recognition and omnipresence in needs in this area, it’ll be a lot of hard work for Nintendo. Video game culture, especially eSports, thrives on authenticity and can sniff out dishonestly overnight. eSports fans have typically been ingrained in video games since children, so seeing a console brand of their childhood getting involved with eSports would be a massive event.

I first touched base on this nostalgia angle trend with Pokémon and their Super Bowl commercial a few months ago. And while, yes, Pokémon is played on Nintendo consoles, the franchise has split ownership between Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures, so it’s hard to say which company decided on the end product, or if it was a collaboration of the three.

But the Switch is completely Nintendo, and the company desperately needs this console to go well. Sales for the current console, the Wii U, haven’t been so hot. The Wii U has only sold about 13 million units from it’s launch four years ago to this past June. In comparison, the Wii (yup, different console, you wonder why they’ve had marketing problems?) sold more than 100 million in its six years.

Wii. (Nintendo)
Wii U. It’s hard to tell the difference, right? (Nintendo)

The Wii U’s failure to anchor in the marketplace has been analyzed for years now. As someone who tries to stay updated in the constantly changing video game industry, I’ve read my fair share of articles about how the Wii U will destroy Nintendo, or how it already has destroyed Nintendo. Consumer awareness of the new system really hurt- people simply didn’t realize that there was a new console on the market. Who could blame them? Both systems were similar in design and name. Many initially thought the Wii U’s GamePad was just an accessory for the Wii. Nintendo seems to have this similar design, similar name problem a lot lately. Check out the evolution of its handheld console names of the past twelve years: Nintendo DS, Nintendo DS Lite, Nintendo DSi, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo 2DS, New Nintendo 3DS.

Yeah. That’s not confusing.

And certainly aspects of the Wii U’s commercial failure has played a factor in altering something the company said they would never do- phone apps. While I also think the plunge into app development is also due in part to President Satoru Iwata’s death, as he was a strong force against the company creating phone games with title characters like Mario and Link. (By the way- Super Mario Run launches next year for iOS and Android). It’s not like Nintendo’s completely ostracizing younger demos from experiencing Mario; they’ve simply realized that each market must be reached on a different platform. With the Switch, Nintendo has wiped the slate clean in multiple ways: its now older target demo, its stance on eSports, and the complete upheaval of its ‘Wii’ design. March is going to be an interesting month. Let’s-a go.



11 thoughts on “Move Over Kids, Nintendo’s Switching It’s Demo

  1. anhutt says:

    Nintendo is making some big moves here! I think it’s crazy that many people are missing this. Great writing here to pick this new idea up and tell people Nintendo are trying to reach anyway!


  2. Jess Dambach says:

    It has never come to my attention before but you are very correct on the lack of marketing skills Nintendo has had in the past decade. It is quite sad, for I’m sure Nintendo always has something revolutionary coming through them. As we can quite clearly see in their newest promo video. They did a phenomenal job with this new device, which I personally find revolutionary and just so beautiful and awesome. Nintendo has not been competing in the way they can until hopefully now! For millennials it will be much easier to convert again, however Nintendo has been letting us down in the past decade so they have some brand healing to do for older players. It is very true, I had no idea that Nintendo has come out with so many different types of devices and I fall victim into thinking that their new devices were not devices at all but only add ons with other devices they had. I know Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Wii, Nintendo DS and GameCube. In all of those I think they did a much better job of differentiating the devices, I hope they will continue to get up to date into the marketing world of videos and using platforms to inform and educate their potential players.


    1. Sara says:

      Thanks Jess! What I think one of the most interesting things about Nintendo is exactly what you said- I feel like most of our generation recognizes the N64, GameCube, Wii and DS, but past that… not too much brand recognition for the newer consoles. And yeah! One great thing Nintendo does to keep in contact with fans are videos called ‘Nintendo Direct’- announcement videos for new games and other things that are released on YouTube for fans’ direct consumption. You should check them out!


  3. Tanner Silver says:

    I haven’t owned a Nintendo console since the original Wii when I was a kid. That was right when I was starting to grow out of most of my childlike tendencies and interests as well. So it is easy to see why I never got any of their newer consoles after the fact. However, I am pretty interested in the Switch. They were very smart with their targeting this round because I will likely have the money to be able to try it out now that I am graduating soon because I will actually have the money. All in all, good job Nintendo.


    1. Sara says:

      Thanks for reading! Yeah, the Wii is the last home console I’ve owned as well. I did get a 3DS because it has one of -if not the- best video game libraries. And exactly! It’ll probably be easier for Nintendo to target people with money who are able to spend it on themselves instead of children, who then have to convince the parents!


    1. Sara says:

      Thanks for reading, Tim! Actually, Nintendo doesn’t have much to do with Pokémon- they don’t even profit from it. They do own a stake in The Pokémon Company, who owns the franchise. That company licensed out Pokémon to Niantic for the app’s development. Many people thought that, to the point that Nintendo had to send a letter out to shareholders to clarify that they aren’t involved with Pokémon Go. I think their stock dipped shortly after, but hopefully the Switch will bring it back up! Thanks!


  4. Sara Choi says:

    I saw the commercial for this and I thought it was interesting how the commercial only had adults and no kids in it. This new development is more targeted towards Millennials, which is definitely switching up Nintendo’s game in the business. And I totally agree with you that it’s probably not the best for them to be targeting towards kids at this time.
    This was a really great read! And I’m definitely interested to see how this will turn out.


    1. Sara says:

      Thanks for reading, Sara! And yeah, it’s interesting to look at Nintendo’s launch videos over the years- the Wii has a huge family focus in theirs, which then translated to the console’s success with the casual crowd. And like the Switch, the Wii U actually didn’t have a child focus in their launch video, but as the months went on, you can see the commercials becoming more geared towards children. I’m curious to see if the Switch will get the same fate. But like I said with smartphones, there might not even be a market there anymore. One things for sure: we’re in for a fun ride!


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