Over the past week, Nintendo has relentlessly bombarded me with information on its latest game, Kid Icarus: Uprising for the 3DS. The company has been doing everything it can (for the last couple months, actually) to raise brand awareness for its revival of the classic NES game. One of Nintendo’s most aggressive and super-effective tactics is advertising directly to customers through the 3DS handheld itself. The device’s Internet connectivity and built-in software make for one hell of a powerful promotional tool.
And you know what? Those tools worked. On me, anyway. And I’m not sure how I feel about that.
Here are some examples:
Fans who opt in for the SpotPass mode on the Nintendo Video application might have caught a Kid Icarus animated short…or four. Through these three-minute clips, the company can quickly get fans up to speed on Uprising’s story, world, and characters. Who wants to read a boring old instruction manual these days?
In the eShop, Nintendo presents customers with several Uprising plugs. It has trailers, general information on the game, an in-stores-now announcement, and even a little talking-head show hosted by a lovely woman named Jessie Cantrell. When she describes the title’s new modes and features, Cantrell sounds a bit like she’s simply regurgitating press-release bullet points (similar to the official commercial shows on Xbox Live). Though that might sound unappealing, she’s essentially doing the same thing on Nintendo Show 3D in a video that a bunch of wannabe (and professional) game journalists do in written form online, only with higher production values. So for fans, I suppose it’s a matter of preference.
Through this application, fans can access content like Kid Icarus trivia by using their 3DSes at specific retailers. Presumably, they can then lift their heads up from the screen to go find and buy the products in the store. I believe this is a textbook example of marketing synergy.
I didn’t anticipate this piece of software doubling as a promotional gimmick. To celebrate the one-year anniversary of the 3DS launch, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime’s Mii character showed up on my handheld, again through SpotPass. Sure enough, what game did this industry-celebrity avatar tell me he was currently playing? I’ll give you one guess.
To be fair, I opted in to receive content like this from Nintendo in these programs, or I looked it up myself. I just find it fascinating that the company is able to cram so much hype into all of these unassuming little applications to heavily reinforce the branding of its latest product. Keep in mind that this comes in addition to traditional advertising like merchandise, TV commercials, newsletter emails, and reviews from gaming websites.
What makes this form of marketing so unique and effective, however, is that everyone who consumes it through the 3DS is already halfway to the sale. How much more targeted of a campaign could a game company ask for than to be able to speak directly to customers through the prerequisite console?
Even more interesting is that even though I’m fully aware of what Nintendo is doing with these ubiquitous plugs for Uprising, it still worked on me. I bought the game. I rarely buy titles close to launch — I’m more of a play-behind-the-curve kind of guy — but I picked this one up within days after its release. (Well, a $10-off sale did help with that decision.)
Then I even went and told Nintendo how effective their tactics were! When registering my copy to collect consumer-rewards points, I filled out a survey. One question, on where I previously heard about Uprising, had “information I saw within the 3DS system (videos, descriptions, etc.)” as a response. Another wanted to know what influenced my purchase and plainly laid out the other campaigns and promotions the company used to promote the game, one of which was “animated shorts on Nintendo Video.” To be honest, I checked off those boxes.
If enough people also mark them, expect Nintendo to fire up this hype machine for its next big release as well. Though I’m weary of such aggressive (yet somewhat subtle) marketing, the company is, for now, giving fans what they want. And having gone through the process, I’m not really sure how I feel about it all. On one hand I’m worried about what this kind of advertising will do to impressionable children, but apparently I should also be mindful of the effect on impressionable adults.