Marketing Wii U
We’re now a matter of months away from the launch of Nintendo’s next home console and while E3 2012 was the first staging ground for Wii U’s launch, there is still a lot of work to be done by Nintendo to ensure the system is flying off stores shelves in a little over four months time. E3 gave us the briefest of glimpses into the new console’s feature set, but with limited stage time and even more limited show-floor space, Nintendo have admitted that we are still yet to fully observe the Wii U experience. And that has to change over the next four months.
As it stands, we only know a handful of things about Wii U. We know what the controller configuration is in terms of the GamePad, although we are yet to see it fully utilised and we know it has NFC (Near Field Communication) technology built-in. We also have a basic understanding of the concept of Miiverse, and we know of a handful of games that will appear at or around launch. And that’s it. No really, that is it. So with just four months to go, let’s take a look at what Nintendo need to do to make sure we’re all ready to go in Q4 2012.
Wii U is NOT Wii
Perhaps the most important hurdle Nintendo are still yet to fully overcome is the misnomer that Wii U is simply a Wii accessory that isn’t necessary to purchase to play the latest games, a mistake which isn’t helped by Nintendo promoting the use of existing hardware alongside the Wii U tablet. A similar situation arose with the DS and 3DS, resulting in many assuming that the 3DS was akin to the DSi, only this time it featured 3D graphics. The result was an aggressive marketing campaign from Nintendo featuring the slogan “this is not DS, this is 3DS” and emphasising “only for 3DS” in television adverts.
Despite the vast majority understanding the concept of Wii U being a new console generation, far more than did with the DS, this will eventuality need to be covered off, and it is a relatively easy fix. Firstly, the new console unit needs to be present in all adverts, even if it is just with the GamePad lent up against it. Not only does this show that you need a new console, but it is a visual emphasis of the fact that the GamePad is not a peripheral for Wii, but for Wii U.
Nintendo also need to make sure that adverts do not rely on showing gamers enjoying Wii U with existing hardware, and instead make use of the GamePad. Nothing will hurt potential Wii U sales more than an advert featuring Wii Fit U with the player using a Balance Board and Wii Remote. Just showing this begs the question, “why do I want to buy the same game again?”. The adverts need to capitalise on the fact that the GamePad does something new and exciting, and that the Wii U is home to brand new games and franchises, while also enhancing a franchise that may have originally enticed a casual Wii adopter.
The GamePad and Why Should I Care?
My biggest gripe post-E3 was one I didn’t have after E3 2011. In 2011 Nintendo showed off some basic functionality of the GamePad and how it changed gaming for the better, but in 2012 they didn’t really explain why the GamePad was the right way forward, and in fact, after E3 I began to wonder if I even needed to get a Wii U. Essentially, the launch line-up for Wii U does very little different to the games I own now, except of course for being in HD.
This is a very important obstacle to overcome for Nintendo, and they need to come out and say “this is why Wii U is better”. Explain to us what makes the GamePad the controller of choice in the coming generation and show us how it improves the experience. Maps and inventories are fine but that’s all been done before. Do something creative like ZombiU did by intensifying the experience. Show us how having two screens is better than one. And like Wii did with Wii Sports, show us what we have been missing out on by not having this technology in our current consoles. We need to be amazed and no matter how pretty Pikmin 3 looks, a map screen isn’t going to do that.
Release Date and Price
The big one. When exactly is this thing coming out and how many more hours of work am I going to have to do to afford one? It’s incredible that mere months before a potential release we have nothing but an end of 2012 release window and a handful of price estimates regarding Wii U’s launch, and with Nintendo being curiously quiet on the biggest stage in gaming, it falls to the internet to provide us with the launch details in the next few months.
With the 3DS, Nintendo staged worldwide conferences in their three main territories to announce the news, and once again this has to be the way to announce it. Nintendo Direct just doesn’t have the same appeal as a big press conference does, and by getting journalists talking pre-conference, the buzz will grow exponentially. The news also then needs to spread virally post-conference, so don’t be surprised to see an aggressive advertising campaign across all media in October. Parents need to know Wii U is coming for Christmas after all.
As for when we’ll hear, it has to be soon. Most of us expect a late October/November launch for the system, so giving them another 2 months to ramp up the excitement leaves us with a late July/August timeframe for a launch announcement. Any later and they risk missing out on potential sales.
E3 2012 gave us a brief glimpse of what is coming for Wii U around launch, but with numerous publishers absent at the conference, there are still a handful of games that we still don’t know about that will certainly fall into this window. Call of Duty and FIFA spring to mind as the two big games that absolutely have to be announced for the system as launch approaches, if for no other reason than to boost Christmas sales.
But what of the launch itself? We still know nothing about what exactly is coming out at launch or if Nintendo Land will be bundled with the system as suspected. After the bad press 3DS got at launch, a solid launch line-up could be a deal breaker in deciding the early fate of the Wii U at Christmas, and with Sony and Microsoft holding fire, this could be the biggest opportunity Nintendo get to build momentum. The launch line-up therefore has to be announced when the release date is, as for many, the games we see on day one will be the ultimate clincher as to whether or not they buy a new console in 2012.
Hardware, Online and Miiverse
And everything else. Quite frankly, there’s still a lot to cover regarding Wii U, but these three remain the most important as we approach launch. The hardware specs, while not so important to the casual gamer, remain the most important information gap as we launch approaches, and while the logic is clear (Sony/Microsoft can’t suddenly one-up them) it seems strange that we still don’t know what sort of power Wii U has. From what we’ve seen it is clearly more powerful than the PS3/360, but to what extent? We know that the launch games won’t push Wii U to its maximum, but with conflicting reports it is hard to get a handle on just what we’ll be paying for in a few months time. This information needs to be released, and it needs to be released so that consumers can make an educated decision on the console. Just not in a press conference; no-one wants to sit through a list of meaningless numbers.
The online aspect is another relative unknown, with our knowledge of Miiverse sketchy at best. We know that Nintendo have created a Facebook/Twitter hybrid inhabited by Miis, but we’re yet to see a working demo of the interface in action and we have absolutely no idea what sort of functionality it actually offers beyond Miis running across your TV. The larger Nintendo Network is also yet to be fully unveiled, and while Nintendo have already promised a handful of content providers, how will this content be provided? Will it have that special Nintendo touch? Online is hugely important going into the next generation, and coupled with the eShop, could prove to be a lucrative venture for Nintendo. That’s why we need to see and understand it pre-launch, and a Nintendo Direct video could be the perfect opportunity to do just that.
Of course, this is just the beginning. Nintendo claim we have a lot to learn about Wii U, and with just four months to go until its expected launch, you can be certain that the executives at Nintendo are coming up with the best way to deliver all this information in a timely and informative manner. If you’re on the fence about Wii U, don’t worry. The next few months are going to be full of new and exciting information, so be sure to keep an eye out for it daily. The next generation of Nintendo gaming is only just beginning.