I'll always remember the first time I saw "Super Mario Bros." played on the NES console. I was eight years old and visiting friends of my parents with my father and elder brother in Long Island, NY. I was fascinated, it was clearly the best thing ever and I needed to have one for myself - the strange and mysterious name of Nintendo stuck to my mind as being the best, most fun and technologically advanced games. I knew about and had played the hand held Donkey Kong game (you know, the orange split screen one where Mario made his debut as "jump man") but I hadn't associated that with Nintendo yet, the NES is where it started for me and a lot of other people.
Nintendo is the oldest existing video game company and console manufacturer, in fact the company was created in 1889, they started by making playing cards and started making video games end of the 70's after hiring the people that are at the heart of Nintendo's success: Gunpei Yokoi and Shigeru Miyamoto (creator of Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Nintendogs, etc.). Nintendo is Japan's third most valuable listed company with a market value of over $85 billion.
During the NES and Super NES generations, Nintendo's communication was mostly based on the fact that they were the hottest things in town. Their slogan until 1992 was "Now you're playing with power!". This might bring back some memories (and just the haircuts are worth it!):
And this one which seems to come straight out of James Cameron's Aliens or maybe even Tron:
And this is probably one of the cheesiest ads I've ever seen, for "The Legend of Zelda" apparently it says it was banned, I'll have to look into it:
They kept the same style of message at the beginning of the Super NES times:
Nintendo was also the first video games company following the 1983 games crash to introduce a "seal of quality" which was mostly a marketing strategy to reassure consumers that the games sold were well made and would be suitable for the entire family. Thinking about it now, it actually doesn't mean that much (they've now changed it) but it worked for me as a kid, I remember I looked out for the seal, and that definitely meant it was quality for me! It closely associated the words and I wouldn't be surprised if it's the same for a lot of people. Simply put: Nintendo = Quality. Of course, their products generally reflect this quality, otherwise they wouldn't have had a lasting effect.
Nintendo dominated the home console market with the NES (60M units sold vs Sega MS 13M) and Super NES (49M units sold vs Sega MD 29M), until the release of Sony's Playstation. Nintendo had created a strong family and child oriented image, and Sony positioned the Playstation for a more mature market and marketed the console as a necessary element of a living room HiFi system alongside the TV. In that time, Nintendo stayed behind in the "console war", though still making profitable products and leading in the handheld console market.
Now I think that what's happening right in the console market and Nintendo's choices are fascinating. Rather than trying to make a bigger and better console, they started looking at the way games were played, started looking at the vast amount of the population that doesn't play video games rather than trying to win back market shares from the relatively small portion of people that does. The trend had already began with the release of the handheld Nintendo DS and is now continued with the Wii, released a year ago. With the Wii Nintendo has concentrated on the experience of playing and creating fun games accessible to everyone.
I think the $200M advertising campaign to launch the Wii is brilliant, with the slogan "Wii would like to play", simple and to the point, to me watching the ad is infectious, I just want to go play! Portraying a wide variety of people tells us anyone can enjoy the wii, of any age or background. I think the major and impressive shift for the video game industry in the campaign is that the focus of the advertising is on the people playing, and not the technology anymore. (I'm making a uninformed assertion here, I'll have to research this more, but it feels right)
Have you created a Mii? I don't ave the console (yet) but I went to see some friends who have it and they created my "Mii" the experience was exactly that, it was really fun!
All right it's a long post, but I'm close to being done. This one is hilarious, it's a spoof on the "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ads:
The Financial Times announced in September this year that the Wii had outsold the Xbox 360, which came out a year previous, and is far outselling the Playstation 3 as well. And with the release of Super Mario Galaxy, widely acclaimed as one of the best video game ever made (and in some cases the best) it looks like the Wii is this Christmas's console of choice. I know that when I saw the new Mario ad, just a few seconds were enough for me to definitely want one, I don't even play video games any more but I'll make an exception for this one - just need to get a job first!