Critical Hit | Where is the Wii U Marketing? Nintendo's Confusing Approach

By Jorge Ba-oh 05.04.2013 11

Critical Hit | Where is the Wii U Marketing? Nintendo
What is Nintendo Wii U? It's a question that even the avid game player has asked since the company's latest home console touched down in Europe last November.  The system is pure Nintendo at its core: it plays Super Mario Bros, adds a new layer of immersion yet keeps the game control simple and accessible. The Wii U and Nintendo 3DS are why the fans keep coming back for more, but Nintendo can't solely rely on reputation and Super Mario Bros alone to succeed in this vicious market.

I wasn't too thrilled with Nintendo's approach to marketing the Wii U when it first landed in European shores last November, but now we've slipped outside the launch period, has the situation changed at all? The company's approach to pushing the new hardware has certainly been dismal, at best.

Image for Critical Hit | Where is the Wii U Marketing? Nintendo

The Wii U launch weeks were a success, fueling the living room with HD platforming, asymmetric gameplay and zombie outbreaks, but since the dawn of 2013 it's been unusually quiet in the Nintendo camp. Wii U sales reached a low across all the major markets, eclipsed by the increasingly popular Xbox 360, a console seven years its senior.

With the release of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate and Lego City Undercover last month, the latter making more of an impact in the UK, and steep price cuts, sales for the Nintendo Wii U have since ignited - rising by as much as 125% according to retailers. There are concerns though that by simply reducing the price and releasing more big names, it wouldn't make a significant impact as it comes down to marketing. The hardware can be affordable and have a new 3D Super Mario game but simply won't sell if potential consumers know nothing about it, and those who do might be confused about what it does. I hate to say it, but it's very much like that age old and overused saying - "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

It seems Nintendo has become complacent when it comes to marketing, a strange feat given the decades of experience and success with both the Wii and DS. The Wii was and still is a very easy concept to convey - it's a controller that's shaped like a TV remote that players use to point, wave and waggle. These actions mimic what you can do in reality: bowl a ball, aim a bow and swing a baseball bat. Coupled with right place, right time, the Wii simply sold itself to a near endless market of both hardcore and casual players wanting to give it a go.


As for the Nintendo DS, it was a far trickier idea to put across to the consumer - initially seen as a new Game Boy with two screens, one of which you could touch. How do you make it appeal to those who really haven't got a clue about video games? Through clever and targeted advertising on TV, cinema and public transport, the company pulled it off and the portable went onto being the most successful Nintendo console of all time, using more accessible software like Brain Training, Nintendogs and All-Time Classics to appeal to the masses.

Image for Critical Hit | Where is the Wii U Marketing? Nintendo

Now Nintendo in 2013 can't simply churn these adverts and sorts of games to a market that has evolved over the last five years. The success of the DS, and to an extent the Wii, has given Nintendo a bucket full of shiny gold coins but also inadvertently acted as a taster for the smartphones and tablets that consume households today. The general public is now more open to playing games; using apps and interactive software on a touch screen that makes it a challenge to rival that with dedicated hardware.


What needs to be done is better explain what the Nintendo Wii U can do for the living room environment. The original adverts, particularly those that aired in the UK, were perplexing. I wasn't the campaign's biggest fan when the advert aired during a Sunday night drama, and since then Nintendo UK came under fire for misleading consumers with mixed messages on off TV play. Across the pond, the North American Wii U advertising had better pace and a far clearer stab at the Wii U concept, but still didn't quite explain what was so different about the console.

Now several months on sales have risen fractionally with new software, but big releases can't be the sole source of new Wii U adopters. The message needs to get out there and be relevant to the demographic, not plonked aimlessly in-between airings of Loose Women or The X-Factor.  When you settle down to watch TV, your mind enters a mind-set related to the program on offer, so advertising should follow that pattern of thinking, or at least be relevant to the audience.

Image for Critical Hit | Where is the Wii U Marketing? Nintendo

When promoting the Wii U during an episode of The Walking Dead or True Blood, why not focus mainly on ZombiU and perhaps some more mature titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops II or Batman: Arkham City? Perhaps the more accessible Nintendo Land or Super Mario Bros. U during prime time comedy or Saturday Night TV could highlight the diverse selection of games on offer. There are a decent collection of Wii U releases on the market, but with practically zero marketing, only the dedicated fans seem to be tapping into the Nintendo Wii U pot.

Oddly during a football match during the Easter weekend an advert for Luigi's Mansion 2 hit the airwaves. Now there surely are a great deal of football fans who would also like a slice of the green plumber, but how about using the advertising budget on some perhaps more relevant titles? The spot could have been used to highlight the different ways of playing FIFA 13 on Wii U or Sports Connection, potentially connecting better with the types of programming on offer.

Image for Critical Hit | Where is the Wii U Marketing? Nintendo

Nintendo 3DS adverts are too few and far between and there appears to be absolutely no Wii U marketing in sight. Nintendo UK are promising retailers that more promotional incentives are coming, but after four months on the market it seems ridiculous that there isn't a single means of promoting the console to the masses. Nintendo Direct videos, email marketing and Facebook are a growing sphere of persuasion, but again it's only relevant to those who actually seek Nintendo games and products, not to the clueless shopper.

With UK electronics retail in disarray, it's made physically promoting the Wii U in the retail space a far trickier feat than Nintendo had with the original Wii and DS. With this in mind, television and magazine advertising is absolutely critical in getting the message out there, but it has to be clear and effective. Showing a hand swiping a Wii U GamePad and blabbering on about Miiverse and "off TV" play can sound completely alien to those who haven't encountered the machine before. Instead of spouting all these specific terms out there, why not take a step back in time and literally spell it out? Interesting and informing.

Image for Critical Hit | Where is the Wii U Marketing? Nintendo

A leaflet emerged during PAX East last month, comparing the original Wii to the Wii U in a series of tick boxes. Whilst it covered all the bases, the terminology used was far too specific, again becoming convoluted with terms like "Miiverse" and "off TV" play.

"Introducing the successor to the Wii, the new Wii U plays all your existing software and brand new Wii U games. Stream the latest TV and movies, surf the internet and chat to other Nintendo players using the new 6 inch GamePad tablet controller. Fun, innovative for all the family!"

Something like the above could work on paper. Not the words of a marketing guru certainly, but clearer than the confusing messages from Nintendo's marketing; much like the classic TV game-show Catchphrase, "just say what you see".

The Wii U can easily infiltrate the market, but Nintendo seem to be sitting idly by and just hoping it sells. It's a different market and a trickier product sure, but where is the hard-hitting and vibrant Nintendo from the Wii and DS days? That's the sort of marketing push that's really needed to start shifting Wii U consoles before retailers and consumers simply give up.

Reputation and Chinese whispers won't sell a system, quality games and proper advertising will.

What do you think Nintendo can do to better market the Wii U?

User Poll: Have you seen Wii U Advertising in 2013?

Yes: TV/commercials
Yes: Billboards/posters
Yes: Online
Yes: Social Networks
No: Haven't seen a thing

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Why do you people don't understand that it makes no sense to advertise the console when the system menus are running slow and lack many titles in their library? Nintendo will hype the Wii U by the end of June .

I don't think slow menus come into the equation really.

There are a good selection of games - including a new 2D Mario, Nintendo Land, Black Ops II, Need for Speed, Zombi U Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate etc, even a dedicated bundle for Ultimate. There are more refined and decent games on Wii U than the Wii had at launch, where's the advertising?

You can't just sit and wait, hoping it'll sell on word of mouth alone.

Bigger games will only come once the install base widens and publishers can see a future for hardware. At the moment, no advertising means low install rate and sales = publishers increasingly thinking that it's a lost cause, for this half of the year anyway.

There's enough games and system features Nintendo could explain and highlight in adverts, really get the system off the ground. What happened to promoting the hardware on topical shows - morning TV, shopping channels, popping in adverts on kid's TV - there's none of that.

It needs to be promoted - on TV, print, more aggressive social targeting towards those who aren't fans of Nintendo / video games.

( Edited 05.04.2013 08:34 by jb )

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

The change in personnel at Nintendo UK has definitely hurt that side of things...we've said it many times before. All the people that made Wii and DS so successful have gone.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

This is exactly right. Nintendo, get with it. I don't care if you're waiting of the next fiscal cycle, just sell some damn systems.

You wanna go here if you likes Prons. [url]

It's not just Nintendo UK - seems to be a worldwide thing, really minimal promotions - Nintendo seem to be only going for their fans at the moment, people who follow gaming websites, Twitter etc and not the masses. Something like the Wii U needs a solid campaign to get the message across, but there's a lot of confusion.

NIntendo have made some mistakes that could have helped the Wii U features wise:

- The ability to watch DVDs and BluRays on the GamePad screen would have been great.
- The ability to play ALL original Wii software on the GamePad screen would have been such a solid feature to include.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

Great article, as some may already know I studied marketing and works in marketing and I do agree with the things said in this article, who could not.But as i have said before I think Ninty are waiting to play their card. As strange as this sounds I really do think there could be an element of strategy here. For example they are holding on to some big guns still, we still havent heard as much of a peep about Pikmin 3 recently...and it seems many have forgotten about it anyway. Perhaps having a later flurry of salest might prevent it from being a modern day Dreamcast. After all that had a great start and then look what happened, a total abandonment a year after launch and a cult following in Japan.

Here are some of my key points;

  • The RRP for the Wii U will be officially under £200 by Xmas, with probably Mario Kart, a new 3D Mario, Pikmin, Rayman, along with a foray of games. Balance this against the PS4 and new 720 retailing at an est £400-£500 a piece and I am just not sure how many consumers can afford to take such a plunge so early on. Holiday season 2013 is when Nintendo really need to ramp up the ante, when they have a tonne of first party exclusives and hopefully sort out 3rd party support. 

  • Furthermore hopefully they'll have TVii launched, MiiVerse app released, the OS will be faster, the VC will be launched and hopefully more games will be Off-TV-Play. 

  • They were hoping to take an early lead with the Wii U, but in my mind (and most likely a lot of others) they simply weren't ready. I know people will come back at me and say it is common place to launch something and patch it later, but is that really the acceptable attitude to take? Look at the launch of the iPhone 5 and Apple Maps disaster....something that did them no favours whatsoever. I find it unforgivable to launch something that is so buggy on day 1 (Day 1 patch/crash) and maybe its a sign of the times for some of you to think it is acceptable but in my world (and remember my world is marketing) it is not. 

  • Consumers do react more to the negative than to the positive, and I think something you might have overlooked here is the negative press during the launch period (namely the Day 1 update) , but also the generally negativivity from games journalists. That even spread to C3 forums, so god-knows what other ones were like. This coupled with failed launches for games that were promised to launch in the launch window such as Pikmin, Wonderful 101 etc has just coupled a media storm which has put an entire negative look on the Wii U.

  • Last but not least, the retailers gave up, despite Nintendo not reducing the RRP retailers decided to overthrow this decision and actively make a loss selling the Wii U for reduced prices just to clear their stock-rooms to get stock of more in-demand items. Now for me, if i see something fall in price, i almost hesitate to buy it, because I have that feeling it will drop further. I nearly bought Resident Evil 6 for £27.99 when i saw it, but then it has continued to drop month after month and is now only £15! Tomb Raider has had an even faster fall from £40 to £25 in recent weeks and i guarentee it will fall even further. Metal Gear Rising also dropped in price from £40 to £17 in a matter of weeks. Even handful's of Wii U games dropped within a month or two after release, games like Assassins Creed, Mass Effect and Batman all saw quick price drops, But guess what...I haven't picked up any of these games, simply because i know they'll fall further. Are people thinking this with the Wii U? 
Marketing is more than some fluffy adverts, celebrity endorsements, product placement and shelf space. You are right, Nintendo need to demonstrate how their USP is going to better and increase gamers enjoyablity of a game...and quite frankly their aren't many games that really utilise the gamepad in a unique way. Nintendo land did an alright job, but do many other games really do this? The innovation of waggling remotes and touching screens has become relatively stagnated and commonplace so Nintendo are really going to have sell this to consumers as something else. I do think they have a plan and I am confident they will turn it around, and guess what, God (my pet name for JB) is right, it'll take some 'marketing' to do it!

Our member of the week

The last piece of advertisement I saw for Wii U was a TV ad for Lego City undercover... quite well done too, although it didn't insist quite enough on the unique aspects of it which could only be achieved on Wii U... It did mention how it was exclusive to the system though.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

Nintendo of America has largely lost its advertising presence over the past fifteen years, in no small part as a result of its own hubris.  NOA has long thought that its reputation for putting out quality systems that will stand the test of time and on which you can play games that will become modern classics outweighs its need to actually advertise their products.

I am someone who is largely keyed in to the gaming world, and have been since the late 80s.  That said, my experience with Nintendo has been increasingly less "in the know" until recently.  When I bought the first Nintendo DS system (the bulky silver thing), it was literally by accident.  I wandered into a Gamestop in Atlanta on what happened to be the launch date, and the guy behind the counter said, "So...would you be interested in buying the new Nintendo handheld system?  It just came out, today, and I have a stockroom filled with them, but have no pre-orders."

Now, I'm someone who has multiple consoles, and even multiples of the same consoles and handhelds (I now own seven DS systems, one of which is Japanese because of the damned region locking nonsense), but I had only briefly heard about the DS after E3, nearly six months earlier.  It was an afterthought.  There were no ads, no commercials, and no info online about the release.  It was a total fluke that I got it.

With the Wii, they introduced it with a spate of commercials featuring charming Japanese businessmen.  For Animal Crossing, they had lame 30-something single women playing the game on the phone (for some unknown reason).

But, after that...nothing.  No big advertising push for the 3DS, for which there were only a handful of "meh" games; no big advertising push for the 3DS XL; no big advertising push for the Wii U.  It's like they're not even trying, and yet, they want to complain about how their sales just aren't there?  Give me a break!

I get's expensive to do an advertising campaign; that being said, NOA and NOE need to get it together and figure it out.  Developers need time to understand the system?  Then you should've given them more time with it before you shoved it out the door too early just to hit the Christmas rush!  

Want people to buy your games?  Don't put release dates on Sunday, Monday (for which you will never meet shipping requirements), or Friday; release them on Tuesday, like everyone else in America!  Don't make buying your games difficult for consumers, and start shipping them to retailers PRIOR to the release date with enough advertising info to make it worth their while to sell your games.

Want to ensure that your console is successful at its launch?  Make certain that you have more than a handful of games available AT LAUNCH, and stop hoping that your 3rd Party developers follow through on their promised released dates.  Don't just launch a product without all of its features intact and up and running.  WiiTV, 3DS eShop, and Virtual Console?  Those are your selling points, and if you're going to release a console, you need to make certain that you have all the puzzle pieces put together and ready to roll on day one, not with some ridiculously long time between launch and an update.  Oh, and next time, make certain your software and operating system don't become a laughing stock for load times.

And while we're on the tech specs bandwagon, it's time that you update your website to be attractive, user friendly, and easy to navigate.  If someone searching your "Help" section responds to your questionnaire with, "No - this is not the answer I'm looking for," immediately provide them with a link to contact someone who cam assist them.  Drop the region-locking; start linking user accounts between consoles and make purchasing games on your website a possibility so they don't have to navigate your poorly designed, system-specific "shops."  

I know that Nintendo has the money to pay people to do these sorts of things - they WERE the face of gaming throughout the 80s and first half of the 90s - but, it's time for this company to get with the program and move into the present, whether the gerontocracy running the company likes it, or not.

But, after that...nothing.  No big advertising push for the 3DS, for which there were only a handful of "meh" games; no big advertising push for the 3DS XL; no big advertising push for the Wii U.  It's like they're not even trying, and yet, they want to complain about how their sales just aren't there?  Give me a break!

This. Exactly what I'm feeling - Nintendo seem to have given up on advertising and it shows through the sales and adoption rate. Even 3DS could be a lot better than it is with a good marketing push. They can definitely afford it, but clearly the marketing teams aren't up to scratch.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

jb said:
But, after that...nothing.  No big advertising push for the 3DS, for which there were only a handful of "meh" games; no big advertising push for the 3DS XL; no big advertising push for the Wii U.  It's like they're not even trying, and yet, they want to complain about how their sales just aren't there?  Give me a break!

This. Exactly what I'm feeling - Nintendo seem to have given up on advertising and it shows through the sales and adoption rate. Even 3DS could be a lot better than it is with a good marketing push. They can definitely afford it, but clearly the marketing teams aren't up to scratch.

Well exactly, i am not so much a 'sucker' for marketing but do value adverts and their impact on people.

The 3DS was the first Nintendo console i hadn't got on launch/launch window since the N64, (excluding remodles). Simply because i didn't like the 3D effect but also the lacking of key games for the console.

The reason i bought a Nintendo 3DS XL the other week? Simple, IGN constantly posting about Fire Emblem Awakening every day just drilled it into my head! I finally caved. 

Now don't get me wrong, i bet that was paid placement by Nintendo, IGN wouldn't have constantly posted about Fire Emblem unless there was some $$$ involved but this constant repeat and slew of articles persuaded me.

You should probably see if you could get a sweet deal like this too!

I think it's quite conclusive from observation and consensus that the Wii U wasn't ready at release. I'm guessing that's the feeling behind the corporate walls of Nintendo as well, and it's a sentiment I've heard from at least one person who worked there. Their marketing really has been poor and almost non-existent, and my guess for their current plan is something along the lines of what Flynnie said. 

They probably hoped that the "hardcore" gamers would generate their early sales, and that just didn't happen. This was probably caused by they're lack of readiness in software, lack of marketing, and overestimation of the Wii U's inherent appeal to this demographic. They truly did balls it right up, which is not that unusual for Nintendo in their launch periods, really.

So now, I doubt they're immensely proud of the software/operating system on the Wii U. Not proud enough to flaunt it. Pikmin 3 will come along, which I'm guessing they'll market quite heavily. But then the next two consoles will arrive and Nintendo, with their extra time, are probably picturing themselves to be in a strong position by then. They'll drop the price. It won't be until 2014, when the next Wii Fit, or Wii Sports arrives that they'll really start marketing heavily towards those Blue Ocean folk.

( Edited 21.04.2013 16:00 by Slydevil )

IANC said:
Dude yuor totally awesome. And i won't be killing you anytime soon.

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