Though the rest of their E3 showing last week wasn’t nearly as bad as it was made out to be, Nintendo did seem to miss the target entirely during their Digital Event. The Digital Event started out very well, with great presentation – in the form of puppets – and Star Fox Zero footage, while the rest of the event seemed to fizzle out. However, I don’t want to focus on whether or not the presentation was sufficient, but rather, I found the theme for Nintendo this year to be most curious: transformation.
Could this be transformation in regard to the next console? No, it wouldn’t be that (at least, not yet), especially since Reggie Fils-Aime purposefully reiterated that no details for NX would be revealed until next year.
Could transformation reference the direction of the company moving to a more mobile-based foundation? No, it wouldn’t be that, either; again, Satoru Iwata had made it very clear earlier this year that Nintendo would still be making dedicated gaming hardware – the NX. To further this point, they gave a brief outline as to what the new mobile app would encompass, while not giving out too much other information on it. Nintendo will be utilizing mobile, as opposed to becoming fully immersed in the mobile market.
Ok, well, maybe the theme of transformation is in regard to the types of games coming to the 3DS and, more specifically, the Wii U and its GamePad usage (like they stated last year at E3)? I mean, they did transform into Star Fox characters during the presentation. I wouldn’t say so, as the only newly revealed game to fully utilize that (in the Digital Event) was Star Fox Zero. Sure, Super Mario Maker will make great usage of the GamePad, but we had known that since last year, so there’s no real transformation there. In addition, there are no new franchises that were highlighted (Star Fox, Zelda, Metroid), except for Xenoblade Chronicles X – but even its predecessor was on the Wii, so that isn’t a new IP either.
In fact, I would make the case that last year would’ve been the better theme for transformation: Splatoon was a new IP where the player could transform between a squid and a kid (and now that song is stuck in your head), Nintendo claimed to be fully behind the Wii U and many things were coming, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS and Mario Kart 8 transformed the franchises into something relatively new, the various collaborations with second and third party developers to make new titles (Hyrule Warriors, Bayonetta 2, Devil’s Third, etc). So, what did Reggie mean by this theme of transformation?
I believe Nintendo is transforming their name; they are reinvigorating their brand to a new audience of gamers. No, this isn’t the approach the Wii had, appealing to those who don’t normally play games. I wouldn’t even say this is fully focused toward families, much like they’ve been trying to do with the Wii U. I believe this transformation is the focus evolving to get “Nintendo” to be a household name again, much like the good ol’ NES and SNES days from over 20 years ago. Younger gamers these days don’t refer to Nintendo when speaking of gaming, for the most part. In fact, I’d make the argument that many would say, “Xbox” when speaking of gaming (same thing with parents who somehow aren’t “in the know” regarding video gaming). The Nintendo name and brand are still recognized, but aren’t household staples like they used to be; so I see Nintendo making their way back into that realm of conversation, but by other means than simply reaching the “hardcore” gaming crowd.
Nintendo at Universal Studios
This is a great step towards brand recognition and saturation; many families from all over the world visit Universal Studios (especially the Florida location), and what better way to get Mario and friends in the eye of the public without using, you know, actual gaming consoles. Heck, just look at the link above – that’s not a gaming site you might typically find Nintendo-related news on. Adding Nintendo-themed attractions to a larger theme park like Universal Studios Florida will potentially help to open younger gamers up to Nintendo products in their future. In addition, older gamers – like myself – might have interest in seeing just what the two companies can cook up; enough to perhaps visit themselves, taking their own families to see the Nintendo attractions. This is building the install base for any upcoming consoles, such as the NX.
Super Mario Maker and Skylanders SuperChargers
Super Mario Maker was easily the show-stealer for Nintendo this year, I’d say even more so than Star Fox Zero. Nintendo is putting stock into the new Star Fox title, for sure, but there were plenty of events and things to do over in the Super Mario Maker section of Nintendo’s E3 set-up. It seemed that as much as Nintendo pushed Star Fox Zero, they pushed Super Mario Maker even more. I mean, it is Mario’s 30th anniversary.
Why does a game like this help Nintendo to transform their brand into a household name again? Nintendo is not just making another Mario game, but rather, giving gamers the chance to make their own Mario game. This is just another way for a new generation of gamers to get acquainted with the plumber we’ve grown up with ourselves.
In addition to younger gamers having the opportunity to make their own Mario levels, Nintendo also made sure to spend a lengthy amount of time on their collaboration in Skylanders SuperChargers during the Digital Event. This was smart for them, because it not only would be a reference point to their own NFC figurines (amiibo), but would utilize an already established franchise that reaches tons of younger gamers. More saturation and branding within the gaming world means a larger install base when the NX comes out.
Mobile usage will reach a broader (younger) audience
This aspect could be extremely crucial in this transformation process. Up until very recently, Satoru Iwata had been very adamant in stating Nintendo would not move to the mobile gaming platform. Now, there will be an app with separately dedicated software titles to entice people to make the move to Nintendo consoles. Why is this so crucial? When you go out for a nice stroll, take notice how many young ‘uns have smart devices or tablets (or access to them). Many consumers have either a smartphone or tablet, so why not meet them where they’re already residing? If done right, the mobile app will further build an install base for Nintendo’s NX, while perhaps even convincing some to move to the Wii U or 3DS now.
Nintendo might very well be transforming their image and brand through indirect methods (Universal Studios), gaming related methods (Super Mario Maker and Skylanders SuperChargers), and reaching out to potential console gamers by meeting them where they are at (mobile app). I do not think Nintendo is abandoning the Wii U, but rather, they are preparing a new generation for their future console. This would make sense why they focused on near-future releases at E3, as opposed to future content (waiting for reveal of NX details): it gives them an ample amount of time to establish the [hopefully] newly added foundation of young gamers they’re reaching out to.
This is a transformation for the company to not only catch up with the times, but to establish a new group of gamers as they transition to the NX. From this aspect, I can see how the Digital Event appears to be quite outstanding, and gives a perspective on what’s to come for the gaming company. Guess we will see how it all plays out later this year!