One of the most unexpected things about Wii was how incredibly well it was marketed right from the get-go. The early Wii trailers, dating back to E3 2006, were for lack of a better word just plain cool. It was easy enough for gamers and non-gamers alike to see how Wii had potential to make games more immersive and fun.
With Wii U, there’s been a lot more confusion surrounding its potential to add something new to gaming. Could an effective advertising scheme be just the ticket to correcting this? Let’s give Wii’s advertising campaign an overview and see what it did right that Wii U might emulate.
Of course, we have to start with the way Wii was presented at E3 2006. Take a look at the Wii’s debut trailer:
Interesting how it starts off with the branding – those little i’s running across the screen. When I first watched it, I had no idea what was going on, but I was really curious about what those letters mean, and where they were going. Then it became clear: they correspond to the system’s new controllers, the Wii Remotes.
From there it’s all about showing people using the Wii Remote to do all kinds of jobs: they serve as drumsticks, tennis rackets, golf clubs, conductor’s batons, steering wheels, swords – and then we dive straight into Mario Galaxy. The seamless transitions between showing the Wii Remote being used and the gameplay it’s driving serve to connect the actions seen on screen with actual games – not only actual games, but beloved Nintendo franchises. Later Metroid Prime introduces first-person pointer aiming, WarioWare shows wacky party minigames, and Zelda serves as a mashup of basically all the cool ideas teased before it.
This is how you introduce a new console controller: by immediately associating it with awesome games. And in case you forgot there were a bunch of awesome games after the conference was over, they immediately showed off all the coolest ones all over again alongside even more games:
Already I feel as though Wii has convinced me that it is worth buying. I have seen Mario, Zelda, and Metroid, and it hasn’t even come out yet! I have seen a controller that feels like it really offers something new and unique (I’m especially excited about pointer aiming and sword-fighting). What’s more, I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Let’s compare this to Wii’s E3 2011 and E3 2012 showings.
This is an okay showcase from a utility perspective. We get a good look at all the various kinds of apps you’ll be able to run on the Wii U GamePad, as well as some brief examples of the controller being used for Wii Sports, Wii Fit, and Off-TV Play with New Super Mario Bros.
There’s one thing missing, however – I don’t remember walking away with the feeling that there’s a strong lineup of games that’s enhanced significantly by the Wii U GamePad. And while Nintendo also showed a trailer for a bunch of HD multi-platform games, none of them really conveyed to me how Wii U would offer the best experience possible.
The best comparisons I have for this particular Wii U trailer are iPhone and iPad trailers. Here’s my favorite example:
What I think this brings to the forefront is that Wii U in its original E3 2011 showing didn’t work very hard to present itself as a new gaming innovation. Instead, it presented itself as a competitor to the iPad: it can do everything…oh, and it can play games, too. This lack of focus on new games built for core gamers drove attention away from Wii U believed it was a new controller for Wii.
E3 2012 was not much better. Here’s the first real Wii U trailer we saw in June:
Look at this guy! This video tries to be funny, but it instead comes off as just plain awkward. This is not how gamers want themselves to be seen. Unlike the Wii trailer, I do not feel like playing Wii U will make me “cool.” Instead, I just see a dweeb whose best friends are an action figure, a sleazeball, and a lonely old guy. And since this is the trailer that introduces Wii U’s online system, there is a key element missing from the equation: an online multiplayer game.
Instead, all I see are social networking elements and video chat. And that annoying guy.
Let’s compare the Wii U games lineup trailer as well:
Wii U has a significant advantage over Wii in that its games lineup is very, very robust. This has to be the best set of launch offerings I have ever seen. Never before have I seen a release lineup where 90% of the games – even the third-party games – are titles I would actually consider buying. That certainly speaks for something, but… there’s something missing.
That “something” is the passion and energy present in the Wii games lineup trailer. You could feel what it was like to play Wii just by watching. In 2006, Wii was at the center of everything. You were constantly reminded of the Wii Remote and its important role in the games being presented. Wii was cool. In 2012, Wii U and the GamePad both lack that presence. The games are great, the utility it offers is great, but I don’t feel as though I’m stepping into a revolution – I feel like I’m stepping into business as usual.
This is just from the trailers, mind you. I think Nintendo is definitely onto something, but I think that they’ve been holding back in order not to reveal the precious secrets behind their strategy. Mr. Iwata has even admitted this – they’re waiting until the last second to play their full hand so that their competitors can’t swoop in and steal their innovation before they get the chance to bring it to market.
But I think the time has come for Wii U unleash strong marketing that does the same for the system that Wii’s advertising did in 2006. Will they succeed at this? I don’t know – but I know of a great place for them to start:
This is the best video game advertising campaign of all time. Can you top it, Nintendo?