Thoughts on Mainstream Game Advertising

Written by Paul Goodhead

February 14, 2011 | 14:05

Tags: #advert #advertising #casual-gaming #thoughts-on #wii

Companies: #nintendo

As a marketing graduate I often find myself idly assesing the marketing strategies that tech companies employ. It’s an industry that's fairly set in its ways - Taiwanese companies tend to think a CG picture of a pretty girl with an ornate sword or huge gun can sell anything, no matter what we in the West say. Meanwhile, here in the West, we can't help but work the touch-feely lifestyle angle - 'this laptop is good because you can help the kids with their homework on it!'

My interest was piqued therefore when I saw Nintendo’s latest Super Mario advert which marks the 25th anniversary of Mario series of games. The advert is initially quite unremarkable, showing men and women of all ages, some of whom are celebrities, talking about the Mario games and their memories of them. So far, so Nintendo; the company has been using softer, more personal adverts targeted at casual and first time gamers for a while now.

What I did find remarkable though was the end of the advert which contained the message the ad was there to convey - ‘Super Mario Brothers, part of the family since 1985’. It’s the first time I’ve seen a computer game use a heritage message, a message that emphasises the history and longevity of a brand or product.

These kinds of messages are more commonly seen in other industries where age and experience are seen as key benefits for the brand. Sainsburys, for example, ran a ‘Trying something new for 140 years’ campaign in 2009 and Ford is planning a campaign for this year based around the fact that it opened its first UK factory 100 years ago.

As a result it’s interesting to see this angle being used in an industry that is generally more about the new and next big thing than the past. It’s clearly an angle that Nintendo feel will work for their demographic though...and I’m tempted to agree with them.

The Wii has found its niche among those who probably wouldn’t call themselves hardcore gamers and consequently most of its user base doesn’t know all that much about games. They are therefore more likely to be swayed by an easy to understand heritage message than by boasts about DX11 effects or the Havok physics engine.

Part of the reason we’ve not seen messages like this before is also because the industry is relatively young. This is one of the first generations where you’ve been able to have old and young people share a conversation about games. It’s also become more socially acceptable to play games as more and more people are gaming these days. It’s not uncommon to see a mum playing a DS on the train and we’ve all seen the news stories about Wiis finding their way into care homes.

It therefore wouldn’t be surprising to see more of this kind of lifestyle approach, broad appeal advert in the future. It'll hopefully pave the way for a more understanding and calm view of computer games from others, which is why I think advertising like this is a good thing - even though we have to listen to Jamie Redknapp sycophantically spouting crap about how he'll 'never forget the first time I beat Bowser'.
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