I never thought it could happen to me, but it did … I somehow ended up in a Nintendo commercial in real life. On my flight home from E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo game event in Los Angeles), I ended up talking with the person sitting next to me because she saw me playing Nintendo’s hybrid Switch home/handheld console. She asked enough questions about it that I eventually set it up for us to play some games together.
After peeling off the Joy-Cons and handing one to my United Airlines neighbor, I set up the Switch with its kickstand on my tray table. We then played Snipperclips and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the last hour of the flight. It was a great way to pass the time, but I was laughing to myself because the entire situation felt like Nintendo marketing. In October, Nintendo launched its first-look video for the Switch where the company focused heavily on young, hip people gathering around the small device in public places for quick gaming sessions. I was … cynical that anything like that would ever happen, and so it was absurd that I ended up in a moment that felt like Nintendo’s marketing team scripted themselves.
Since the launch of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, I have played the device with friends, and I’ve seen a lot of pictures on social media of people setting it up at their offices or a cafe. So I’ve grown more open to this idea, and I even asked Nintendo about how eye-catching the system is when people see it in public.
“Right. It’s great marketing for us, just to have them out in public,” Nintendo communications boss Charlie Scibetta told GamesBeat (read the full interview here) at E3. “The best marketing is word of mouth. If you see somebody enjoying it and they’re having a good time and they’re inviting you to play, you can’t ask for anything better than that.”
What’s even crazier is that Scibetta went on to describe what would happen to me later on the plane.
“It’s that buzz factor, where you see it and think, ‘what is that,'” said Scibetta. “People are usually pretty happy to tell you what they’re doing. Maybe even hand you one of the Joycons and they’re happy to play, as long as it’s a simple game like Mario Kart. It’s easy to pick up and play. You can take a total stranger and have them up and playing in 20 seconds.”
And it’s this easy sharing that makes it so easy for people to ask about your Switch. The lady that I played with was familiar with the Switch even though she had never played it, so she knew it had the local multiplayer features. And I wonder if the Switch is easier to ask about because it is built around socializing. I’ve played games on a couple dozen planes at this point on my 3DS or a gaming laptop, and no one has ever asked me about those before.
If you see me playing Invisible, Inc. on a notebook, you’d probably want to leave me alone. You’re not going to ask to see my computer or if you can get a turn just because we’re hanging out next to each other on a 737. But even the 3DS is far more solitary than the Switch, so no one ever asked me about that either.
Maybe it’ll get annoying if people assume that they can ask to play if I’m in the middle of Super Mario Odyssey, but for now — my first Switch-in-public experience was great.