Is Nintendo Marketing the Switch to the Wrong Audience?

The Nintendo Switch releases on March 3rd, less than three weeks from now. There’s hype, speculation, premature predictions of the console’s failure, and tons of confirmed launch games lists floating around. However, that’s not what’s concerning me most right now. I’m concerned about Nintendo’s marketing.

What’s wrong with Nintendo’s marketing, you might ask? Take a look at their first official trailer below, and then come back to me. Are you done…? Good. Now let me pose a question. Did you see any children in that trailer, any at all? No, you didn’t? Neither did I. But, I’ll tell you what I did see. I saw a bunch of millennials joyously playing with their shiny new Nintendo Switch consoles in the most unrealistic settings.

Now, of courses, this is just one trailer. If you’ve seen the Nintendo Switch Super Bowl commercial, then you’re aware that there were a few kids sprinkled throughout that one. But I digress. There are way too many millennials in sight.

The Wii U will ultimately have sold around 14 million units after it’s retired by Nintendo later this year. In comparison to the Wii (101.63 million units) and even the GameCube (21.74 million units), those numbers are abysmal. Looking at those sales numbers, we can conclude that the Wii U was a complete and utter flop. It was a massive failure with a capital F, and that’s putting it nicely.

Now the question we have to ask ourselves is: what caused the Wii U to fail? Tons of people have tried to answer that question, but no one has been able to arrive at a definitive answer. From working in retail, I can say without a shadow of a doubt: marketing was a huge factor.

Initially, no one understood what the Wii U was. Quite frankly, some still don’t understand. Time and time again, I was asked, “So, is this a new controller for the Wii?”

As recently as this past December, I was asked why Mario Kart 8 wouldn’t operate on a customer’s Wii. My response was, “Because it’s for the Wii U.” The customer then proceeded to ask me, “What is the Wii U?” This led to an in-depth description of exactly what the Wii U is, which games work for the console, what the controller does, and why it would be such a great asset for the customer. Needless to say, they were impressed, but they had already purchased their kids a PlayStation 4.

Situations like the one I just described are exactly why the Wii U failed. In the words of the 80s-rapper-turned-beloved-actor Will Smith, “Parents just don’t understand.” Adults who aren’t interested in video games will see a Nintendo Switch commercial and think to themselves, “Oh, that’s nice,” and never give the console a second thought. Millennials, like the ones depicted in the above trailer, tend to be a lot more interested in new technology as opposed to the Generation X customer that I encountered. The problem is that tons of millennials are no longer interested in Nintendo products.

Most millennials want flash, 1080p graphics with 60fps, and games with enough blood and gore to make a crime scene investigator squeamish. Okay, I’m generalizing a bit, but I think you get the point. By and large, adults have moved on. Generation X is off somewhere playing Candy Crush and whatever Facebook game is trending today. Millennials, on the other hand, are painting abandoned buildings with zombie brain splatter and placing preorders for Call of Duty number umpteenth. But where does this leave the kids?

Perhaps no one has noticed, but kids are extremely underrepresented in the video game market these days. Most high profile games are either rated T for Teen or M for Mature, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a good rated E for Everyone game – unless you turn to Nintendo’s game library.

Nintendo has always been reliable for being able to provide amazing, family-friendly titles that appeal to everyone. In fact, finding an M-rated video game on a Nintendo console is akin to finding a pearl – they’re not always great, but they’re rare and rare is at least interesting. So with that being said, why isn’t Nintendo marketing to kids anymore?

Kids are persistent, obsessive, and, in many cases, extremely annoying. And unlike the children of yesteryear, today’s children are increasingly tech savvy. Hell, my two-year-old knows how to work our family game consoles, and my eight-year-old has already written his first program – that’s pretty damned savvy! The children of today love video games, arguably more so than us millennials or Generation X-ers ever did. If you provided these same children with a new console, with tons of great games, and marketed it as the hottest thing a child could ever own, you better believe that they would bug their parents day and night until said parents finally caved and purchased one.

Given the route that the video game industry has chosen to go, Nintendo is in a prime position to indoctrinate the minds of millions of children just waiting to experience their first Chrono Trigger, Pokemon Red, or Super Mario 64. They are begging for life-defining gaming experiences – I’ve lost count of how many times my son has asked to buy a new game in just the past week.

As video games become more and more political, increasingly violent, and overtly sexual, parents are looking for an out. They don’t want to be the bad guy, but they don’t want their kids playing Call of Duty, either. Parents, the ones in my generation at least, would love to play video games with their children – but they’re not ready to explain to their six year old what a ********** is. But there’s another way, a third option if you will – a fourth, if you’re a PC gamer. There’s the Nintendo Switch, a friendly mustachioed plumber, colorful ink-shooting squids, and the best looking version of Link that a Nintendo console has ever seen, all waiting with open arms. At least, they would be, if Nintendo would just market the damn thing correctly!

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When Brittney Williams isn’t playing with her two sons or frantically attempting to clear out her video game backlog, you can find her posting news and opinions here at Warp Zoned or managing her retro gaming business. You can find her on Twitter at @The_Arkayde.

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