Before I ridiculously tried to mix public relations and marketing with a foray into game-industry writing, I was a student with an undeclared major with a part time job in retail. Like every 14 year old: I wanted to work into GameStop, so as soon as I was old enough I got a job at JCPenny, I didn't want GameStop turning me down for lack of job experience, and after working there for 9 months I filed my application.
YouTube comments on any video that mentioned the Nintendo Wii U was filled with a litany of questions and confusion, but it wasn't until I got a job at GameStop that I realized how badly Nintendo communicated the function of their new device to customers. Kids didn't know what it was and parents didn't know how it worked. It was only die hard Nintendo fans that watched their press releases understood the concept. The question I got most often was "How much does the Wii U cost?", parents wanted the new tablet that synced with the Wii so their kids could play their Wii games on the go. The least ignorant question I had was if they could buy an additional Wii U tablet [for the Wii U they already owned] because they knew their kids would end up fighting over who got to use the tablet and who was stuck with a regular controller.
The 2014-2015 release of the New Nintendo 3DS was evidence that Nintendo had not learned from their mistake. Why anyone in Nintendo America's marketing department thought adding the qualifier "new" to the name of ANY item is beyond me. "New" signifies nothing aside from the recent introduction of something, it does not communicate to the buyer that it is an upgrade and entirely different system with additional processing power and access to different games. People had no idea that the games made for this system would not work with the "Nintendo 3DS" and that the two were not interchangeable.
Kids asking for the "New Nintendo 3DS" would return to the store after Christmas with a pissed off look on their face. All of them saying they'd asked for the New Nintendo 3DS and as they unwrapped their present they were greeted with the old one. Because: when walking into a store parents didn't know that "New" was part of the device's title, so they left it off - returning home with a device that was released over 4 years prior. Even looking up the two devices on Google gives you the exact same results unless you insert the word "Nintendo" between New and 3DS. If the world's most prominent search engine can't tell the difference unless you use the exact wording, how should they expect parents to?
With the Switch it seems like Nintendo learned their lesson. Before it was even announced, Nintendo's new device codenamed NX was known to be a device that could be used both at home and away from a standard TV unit. Seen as a hybrid between the 3DS and the Wii U, there was more than an impression among news outlets and gamers that would be a portable (standalone) unit that you could use with your television. Not half a system that would allow you to travel away from your primary console, using the tablet as a separate display. And when they were ready to announce, they used no words. They created a trailer that showed adults playing their system at home on their couch, picking it up and going outside. Using the device on the train, on a plane, in a park, and even atop a roof during a party - and then returning home, docking the device and continuing gameplay on a television. Without uttering a word their cleared up any confusion and instantly provided their consumer base with the information they needed to understand that this was a brand new device, and what it was capable of.
Who they hired to make this change, I don't know - but I'm glad they did. Nintendo might be slighting into a niche market, but that doesn't mean they should allow their own missteps to lose their current gaming market-share. Hopefully this will keep them in the mainstream for a bit longer.
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