Online Entertainment

Nintendo Unleashes $200 Million Wii Ad Campaign

Nintendo plans to invest at least US$200 million inmarketing its new Wii video game console in an effort to regain the market crown fromSony’s PlayStation.

The company is going to what it called “unprecedented lengths” to let people see, feel and experience the Wii system. The marketing campaign is designed to convince the masses that the Wii can be enjoyed by more than gamers.

“Our plan to market Wii broadly, with hands-on experiences, continues to pay off,” said George Harrison, Nintendo of America’s senior vice president of marketing and corporate communications. “Wii introduces new ways to play, to expand both the appeal of games and the audience of gamers. Our marketing campaign is central to that.”

Gaming for the Masses

Nintendo’s concept of “gaming for the masses” is evident in every element of the marketing campaign. The company has set up an online social networking community and scheduled sampling events in average people’s homes. Urban gaming events, retail midnight madness promotions, a multi-city music tour, and hands-on play opportunities in malls nationwide are also in the works.

There is something to be said for Nintendo’s gaming for the masses marketing strategy, according to In-Stat Video Game Analyst Brian O’Rourke. The controller is similar to the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox, he told TechNewsWorld — that is, enormously complicated.

“You have two joysticks and 12 buttons on the standard controllers of both Sony and Microsoft. You need to know what each of those buttons do in a particular game,” O’Rourke said.

Nintendo has gone back to basics, he added. The movement of a user’s hand on the joystick determines the action on screen, which is very intuitive.

“Anyone can pick up a Wii controller and play relatively well relatively quickly,” he explained.

As Seen on TV

Wii’s central ad campaign follows two friendly Japanese men who are shown demonstrating the Wii’s ease of use and playability. The TV spots, which begin airing this week, also include a series of vignettes spoofing reality TV shows.

In other television initiatives, Comedy Central will host a contest to give away a Wii every hour throughout the long Thanksgiving weekend. At the end of the weekend, the grand prize will be a Wii console and a Toyota Scion that is tricked out to look like a Wii.

In addition, Wii will be featured on the Nov. 24, 2006, Nick at Nite episode of “Road Crew.” The spots feature a family from Long Island that finds they enjoy playing a Wii together.

The $200 Million Question

Nintendo’s viral efforts are already paying off. Wii’s MySpace page has attracted nearly a million page views from more than 200,000 unique visitors. Members have created Wii videos and posted thousands of messages in the forums.

In a 24-hour period in early November, Wii served as the centerpiece of a multipart “South Park” episode, appeared on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, made People magazine’s “Style Watch” gift guide issue, and was featured on a National Public Radio report about holiday gifts.

Will the flood of cash and strategic marketing measures pay off for Nintendo? The marketing certainly helps, O’Rourke noted, but what helps more is a solid console with a fair number of games available at launch, he said.

“The combination of the fact that Nintendo’s technology is a bit less expensive to develop and [that] they have those big title characters — like Mario and Zelda — to depend on will help them succeed in the next generation,” O’Rourke said.

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