In the realms of video games there tends to be 3 categories.
- Hardcore games – these are your Call of Dutys, FarCrys, Skyrims and Bioshocks
- Casual Games – these are your bejeweleds, flappy birds, and Farmvilles
Nintendo’s current branding is unique in the gaming market, it’s games are simultaneously considered hardcore and casual. It’s also one of the only game console manufacturers currently on the market that develop exclusive content for themselves. Gamer’s often refer to buying a Nintendo console as “Paying the Mario* tax” (*or insert your game of preference). A lot of this is through Nintendo’s dominance of nostalgia marketing, having on their roster some of gamings oldest icons including the plumber itself, but it’s also how the capitalise on that notalgia.
Where Microsoft and Sony announce their games at E3 with a huge stage show, flashing lights, pyrotechnics and all the guff. Nintendo chooses to release it’s news through it’s Nintendo Direct presentations on their YouTube channel.
These Nintendo direct presentations are an extraordinarily clever way to set themselves apart from their rival companies.
Nintendo is known best for it’s console innovation – they developed most of gaming’s now popular control systems – the D pad, the control stick, the ergonomic controller and motion controls. As a company with innovation you’d normally expect them to do huge presentations on just how innovative they are – perhaps something in line with apple, which is what their competitors – Sony and Microsoft do, Nintendo instead opts for what looks like log budget YouTube videos, which were originally filmed in what we can assume is a traditional Japanese styles office. This subtler more humble approach clicked with a lot of fans and set them apart visually and tonally from their competitors
It uses the cult of personality
Ask any gamer and they’ll tell you the head of Nintendo is Satoru Iwata. Ask them to tell you who the head of Sony or the head of Microsoft’s Xbox division is, and they may stumble a bit. Using Iwata in their videos has put a face on the company, and it’s the face of an adorable Japanese old man. This is more effective than using say, Bill Gates to promote Xbox, because Nintendo is a games company – they don’t do horizontal integration or product mixing, they are a games company all the way down. Showing that the head of your company is just as excited about the new Zelda game as fans are shows the company has a passion for what they do, which will in turn produce quality games.
Typically gamer’s have to wait for a journalist or reviewer to post information on a game, they get that information second hand and at a delay. Nintendo Direct eliminates the middle man and connects directly to the consumer. As a gamer you feel like Nintendo cares about your opinions and wants you, personally to get excited about their games, the increasing trend for Nintendo to release their games with a global launch date helps this. The second latest Pokemon game: Pokemon X and Y on Nintendo 3DS had a simultaneous global release, launched with an international ad, in the ad begins with a language all Pokemon fans can understand: Pikachu.
Directly communicating with your target market makes them feel special, communicating with your global market creates a sense of community.
Community seems to be Nintendo’s main message.
In a current climate where the console wars still rage and the dregs of #gamergate still fling mud at eachother, Nintendo’s strong message of community stands out from the others. It’s ironic when you consider they were the last console company to allow online play, and the last to get truely involved in social media, but their current brand message is definitely community. This is echoed not just in the marketing, but also in their methods, Games are getting global releases, they have a console app – MiiVerse – which is solely for the purpose of sharing art, scores and information of games, and that app has content filters – unlike other gaming messaging system which are famous for letting through rude, threatening or harassing messages alienating marginalised groups such as female gamers, Gamers of Colour or homosexual gamers (for an example of the type of stuff many women get I would recommend this site ) The content filters makes Miiverse a safer environment and more suitable for families and small kids. This all helps to helping Ninendo to attain that weird position where it fits neither into the casual gaming category nor the hardcore one.
Many Nintendo games are rated E for everyone, and that’s exactly their intended market.