Frontline Marketing

Nintendo Isn’t Playing Around With Its Switch Marketing

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By | February 28, 2017

The Nintendo Switch debuts on March 3, and retailers are struggling to meet demands. This is a great sign for Nintendo’s risky new hybrid platform, but that doesn’t mean they should uncork the champagne just yet. While Nintendo ramps up production to meet demand, the company has created a steady stream of hype ever since the big Switch reveal in October.

The Nintendo Switch may be all about having fun, but the company is taking its marketing very serious. From talk shows to pop-up demos across the US, let’s take a look behind the big marketing push to launch day.

Something To Talk About

Much like its sensational Wii predecessor, the Nintendo Switch aims to change the way consumers—and developers—look at gaming. “Nintendo Switch has inherited all of Nintendo’s entertainment DNA and we have packed each and every one of these features into the system,” said Shinya Takahashi, director and managing executive officer for Nintendo’s entertainment, branding and development division. “Nintendo is constantly pursuing new forms of entertainment to bring more fun and more smiles to the world.”

Whether gamers are skeptical of the Switch or can’t wait to buy one, the very idea of Nintendo’s latest offering invites passionate conversation across the board. Handheld devices and home consoles have always been two separate categories until now, but Nintendo dares to bring them together into one unit. The initial reveal posed more questions than answers from battery life to launch day titles.

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Slow And Steady

When it comes to the console’s success, this Japanese gaming giant is playing the long game. Rather than attempting to cash in holiday shopping frenzies, Nintendo is instead focusing on building a solid fan base and developer community that will last.

“The Q1 launch is one of the smartest moves Nintendo could have done,” Eric Bright, senior director of merchandising at GameStop, told [a]listdaily. “Instead of pushing units out during the heaviest time of the year (in Q4), this allows them to build a base. So by holiday, we can focus on games. There will be millions of people who will be hungry for content, creating a richer development cycle for game publishers who will have an install base to support titles. This also will take some of the brunt off of Christmas and enable Switch to be better stocked at stores.”

Much like virtual reality, creating an ecosystem for the platform is pivotal to its longevity. Over 40 developers have partnered with Nintendo for the Switch including EA, Bethesda, Telltale Games, Sega and Capcom. In addition to well-known companies that gamers know and trust, Nintendo is welcoming indie developers to the fold and highlighting them through its “Nindie” line-up with a livestream on February 28.

Just because the Switch wasn’t available for Christmas didn’t mean Nintendo wanted consumers to stop talking about them. Nintendo America president Reggie Fils-Aimé brought the console to the Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, where millions of viewers got to watch Fallon “nerd out” live on the air.

Gaming On The Go

In a digital age where peer opinions weigh heavily on purchase decisions, Nintendo’s Switch activations have become proving grounds not only in physical form, but in spirit. The concept that gamers can take their favorite titles from the living room to . . . well, anywhere, is played out quite literally as pop-up locations appear around the country.

In addition to playable demos at PAX South as well as upcoming PAX events and SXSW, Nintendo is inviting people to try before they buy at “Switch and Play” events. The tour kicked off in January in New York and has been making its way around North America via Toronto, Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The “Unexpected Places” campaign has taken the Switch to pop-up locations in the desert of California, the snowy peaks of Colorado, and on March 3, New York.

Pro wrestling star John Cena even got in on the fun, partnering with Nintendo for the invite-only California event on February 22. Cena played 1-2 Switch with invited fans and YouTube influencers, demonstrating the new Joy-Con controllers and other game modes.

“I know for fans of Nintendo, they’re going to go crazy,” Cena told Sports Illustrated. “Everyone is speculating about how good [The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild] actually is—it’s going to exceed expectations and, for a dude like me, a 40-year-old [in April] who hasn’t played Zelda since the gold cartridge, I sat down and was hooked. In a matter of 30 minutes, I didn’t want to put it down.”

Ready . . . Set . . . SWITCH

Nintendo’s big marketing push has included a livestreamed Switch event in which vital details were shared, a Super Bowl LI ad, unboxing videos and even tips for set-up. The console’s pre-orders may have a much higher attach rate than the Wii U, but a lack of launch-day titles or bundles may result in a rocky start.

“The news that the Nintendo Switch will launch without any bundled games or even demos is likely to have a negative effect on initial sales,” SuperData CEO Joost van Druenen told [a]listdaily. “For the current console generation (PlayStation 4, Xbox One), bundling has been an important driver of consumer adoption and a key strategy in the face of weakening title sales at retail.”

“Every time we launch a new platform, every time we launch a critical new game, we always learn,” Reggie Fils-Aimé told [a]listdaily prior to the Switch reveal last year. “We always do our breakdown of what worked, what didn’t, and certainly we’ve done that with Wii U, and we continue to believe that the innovation of the second screen was a worthwhile concept.”

Regardless of the outcome, you have to hand it to the company for taking risks and daring to innovate in the creative space. Fils-Aimé said it best when he told us, “Nintendo has a quite appropriate reputation of doing its own thing.”

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