Frontline Marketing

Nintendo And Best Buy Partner For ‘Mario Kart’ Esports

Mario racing in car

By | August 9, 2017 |

Nintendo is once again trying something different with its Nintendo World Championships. The October 7 event in New York at Manhattan Center’s Grand Ballroom will mark the culmination of eight regional events held exclusively at Best Buy retail locations across the country. Best Buy last partnered with Nintendo for a competition leading up to the 2015 World Championships, which were held at E3 2015.

Starting on August 19, eight Best Buy stores around the US will host two-day qualifying events. The focus for this year’s competition is Mario Kart 7 on Nintendo 3DS and players will be divided into two groups based on their age. The first age group, 12 and younger, will play as Mario on the Nintendo DS “Luigi’s Mansion” course. Meanwhile, the second age group, 13 and older, will play as Bowser on the Game Boy Advance “Bowser Castle 1” course. The player with the best time trial entry in each age group will qualify for the Nintendo World Championships.

Shane Kitzman, senior communications specialist at Best Buy

Shane Kitzman, senior communications specialist at Best Buy, told AListDaily that hosting the qualifiers in 2015 was so much fun that the retailer jumped at the opportunity to do it again in 2017.

“Considering the difficulties that specialty retailers like GAME (UK) have had with the slow trickle of Switch units making it to their stores, it is a smart move for Best Buy to align with Nintendo,” Joost van Dreunen, CEO of SuperData Research, said. “Improving brand awareness in the run-up to the holiday season is always helpful, but it also further weakens the competition if Best Buy is more closely associated with the most popular console currently in the market.”

Michael Pachter, video game analyst for Wedbush Securities, doesn’t see this marketing activation helping the big box retailer as much.

Mario Kart 7 on 3DS isn’t exactly the most compelling esport in the world, and 3DS players are mostly younger, so their parents make the purchase decision,” Pachter said. “This will have a low impact for Best Buy.”

Anyone who visits these regional events at Best Buy will be able to try demo versions of Super Mario Odyssey, which launches on October 27 for the Nintendo Switch system, and the Metroid: Samus Returns game for the Nintendo 3DS family of systems, arriving on September 15. Plus, visitors who are My Nintendo members will be able to check in using their My Nintendo QR Code at any of the qualifier event locations to receive 100 Platinum Points. My Nintendo members who are one of the first 200 to check in daily at each location will receive a My Nintendo pin as an added bonus.

Mario Kart is one of the most accessible Nintendo games from a competitive standpoint,” van Dreunen said. “By having a low barrier for folks to come to the store and give it a try, Nintendo maximizes the reach of this marketing effort. And while you wait your turn, why not see what else they have available?”

Following the format established in 1990 and updated in 2015, the Nintendo World Championships event in New York City will challenge regional winners across a variety of new and retro Nintendo games. A Nintendo spokesman said more details about the exact games will be announced closer to the event.

“Bringing back the World Championships will strengthen Nintendo’s relationship with its customer base, as a growing percentage loves to either watch or participate in competitive gaming,” said van Dreunen. “Titles like Super Smash Bros. and Splatoon 2 are uniquely positioned to benefit from this trend.”

The 2015 World Championship E3 event was filmed and aired as a taped production on Disney XD, which has recently increased its programming around competitive gaming. However, the streaming and television partners for this event have yet to be announced.

As for Best Buy’s brand recognition for gamers, the retailer has struggled to connect with that audience of late.

“Traditionally, Best Buy is the number three games retailer in the US, behind GameStop and Walmart,” van Dreunen said. “During its most recent earnings call, Best Buy’s numbers were up largely because of a combination of growing mobile and gaming sales, as competitors like Sears struggled and HH Gregg went bankrupt. However, those benefits are likely to be temporary as the dominance of online retailers, especially a juggernaut like Amazon, are crushing brick-and-mortar chains.”

Pachter added that while Best Buy still matters for video game hardware sales, the retailer is “a melting ice cube for software sales.”