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Nintendo’s problem with the WiiU is all about branding

By on January 21, 2014
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Ben Cousins of DeNA pointed me to this Reddit thread about why the WiiU is struggling, written by someone who works in video games retail.

“Nintendo went out of their way to remove their name from the Wii and make it its own brand with its own line of products and accessories. Then they went and advertised their new console by only ever showing off the tablet controller and never the actual console. Look at all those pictures–the console is sitting in the background inconspicuously. And it does not help that it looks very similar to the original Wii. There was that anecdote of the Kotaku writer’s wife who, upon opening the WiiU box, asked why they would include another Wii with it. They basically doomed themselves with incredibly stupid and misguided advertising for their brand new console since people didn’t even know there was a new console.”

The full comment is worth reading, as it helps those of us in live in the video games bubble to understand better how normal people think about our products. If his diagnosis is accurate, it may go down as one of the most spectacular marketing misfires in history.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: thecurveonline.com
  • peter young

    Couldn’t agree more. The Wii-U is a glorious cocktail of brand identity crisis + line extension woes. It really feels like somewhere down the line, marketing and ID got pushed aside in order to take a “more conservative” approach (as is typical with line extensions), but there’s no way to know for sure without working there. I hope they get back on track with their next platform.

  • With the Wii U, Nintendo fled their main differentiator instead of embracing it. Smartphone and tablet games are fun but antisocial. The Wii was _the_ casual games platform for the big, shared screen in the living room. Putting screens in the controller undermined this. Once one sees something that the other players don’t, the game becomes less social — like Mastermind is less social than Connect 4, or Battleships is less social than Draughts.

    The advertising is misguided because the strategy was misguided. It was a mistake to put a big tablet controller ON the box, it was an even bigger mistake putting it IN the box.