The Nintendo Wii U dropped into stores last month, and the Nintendo 3DS XL launched earlier this year. The Wii U continues Nintendo’s path of making unconventional consoles, replacing the Wii’s revolutionary remote controller with the Wii U GamePad. The 3DS XL, on the other hand, is just a bigger version of the 3DS, which is basically a DS with 3D graphics and a few upgrades. The Wii U and 3DS demonstrate that Nintendo is following a set course right now. The games that have been released for Nintendo platforms have also revealed a pattern. In today’s competitive video game market, Nintendo has decided to aim for casual gamers.
The Nintendo Wii U plays up the casual gamer aspects of the console in its television commercials. The overwhelming majority of scenes in the ads depict kids or families playing together. Obviously, this commercial is targeting that demographic. The Wii U commercials take it a step further by illustrating the abilities that will make the console even more appealing to families and kids. One advertisement mentions how a gamer can play the game on the controller without the TV screen. A big sister figure comes in and changes the television, but the kid keeps playing. Another advertisement has two kids talk to their grandfather using video chat on the Wii U. These two abilities would be valued the most by families.
The 3DS is also a console geared toward younger gamers, but it is also being marketed heavily towards girls and women. A series of Nintendo television commercials have been playing for the last few months. Dianna Agron of Glee appears in spots for Art Academy and Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask. Sarah Hyland of Modern Family is in an advertisement for Style Savvy: Trendsetters. Gabrielle Douglas, the women’s all-around gymnastics champ at the 2012 Olympics, talks about New Super Mario Bros. 2 in another commercial. Dianna Agron, Sarah Hyland, and Gabrielle Douglas are celebrities with squeaky-clean images who are well-known amongst girls and young women. They all repeat the same line: “I’m not a gamer.” Then they proceed to talk about how the 3DS turns them into something more, like a stylist or an artist. The line implies that these games are not only for serious gamers. In fact, the ad connotes that being a gamer is not a positive thing. Despite the fact that the girls are actively playing a game onscreen, they assure us that they’re not gamers. These commercials are clearly targeting females who don’t play video games and maybe want to avoid being seen as a gamer. Art Academy and Style Savvy: Trendsetters are specifically chosen for these advertisements because they are simulation games and not from the action-adventure, platformer, or shooter genres that most people associate games with in popular culture. Additionally, the Nintendo 3DS is available in pink and purple, and those two models are featured in the commercials. The Nintendo DSi was available in pink, so the 3DS is expanding on it by offering two colors to appeal to females. (For a more in-depth opinion on Nintendo’s 3DS campaign, read I’m Not a Gamer, I’m a Girl).
The games Nintendo has for its consoles are also focusing in on casual gamers. Nintendo does not have as many third-party games available. Those that they do have are just slightly changed iterations of a title that is already available on another console. The highest-rated and best-selling games for a Nintendo console are often Nintendo’s own. The company relies on its franchises like the Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and the multitude of Mario games to be the unique titles that will pull hardcore gamers and Nintendo fans into buying their new consoles. For example, the Wii U launched with Assassin’s Creed 3, Batman: Arkham Asylum, and Call of Duty: Black Ops II, to name a few. Those games are available on other consoles, and in some cases, they have been out quite a bit before the Wii U launched. If gamers are looking to play those acclaimed third-party titles, chances are that they already own them for PS3 or Xbox 360. There’s no reason to buy the console, except for titles like NintendoLand and New Super Mario Bros. U.
Nintendo has carved a niche for itself in the video game market today by continuing to define itself as the maker of consoles for casual gamers: young children, families, and women. Nintendo has been able to stay successful even though they have isolated hardcore gamers. Time will tell if their strategy of selling games to people who don’t play games will keep them afloat when the other next-gen consoles launch.