News Article

Talking Point: Nintendo Continues to Evolve Its Hype Machine

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

It's not all about Nintendo Direct any more

Following their introduction in late 2011 and rise to prominence in 2012, Nintendo Direct broadcasts quickly became a primary marketing and awareness tool for Nintendo. In 2013 alone there were 16 broadcasts — counting the E3 equivalent — for the Western market; some were full-blown reveal extravaganzas, while others were focused on specific releases. They were a frequent source of news for the latest and greatest games coming from Nintendo.

2014, so far, has been rather different. There have only been four presentations branded as 'Direct' this year, and three of those were special presentations on individual titles — Mario Kart 8, Tomodachi Life and Super Smash Bros.. The last of these was on 30th April, and though there have been some broadcasts in Japan since, Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Europe — no doubt with strategies devised by HQ in Kyoto — have focused their efforts elsewhere.

E3 2014 showed us the beginnings of Nintendo's adjustments and expanded approach to spreading its message directly to consumers. Perhaps to avoid negative comparisons to the "retreat" of E3 2013 — as it was interpreted by many — the decision was taken to brand the equivalent video this year as the Nintendo Digital Event; in practice, it wasn't particularly unique or different to a Direct. It was flashier than a typical Nintendo Direct, with greater showmanship, animations and the now famous Satoru Iwata vs. Reggie Fils-Aime showdown, yet the end result was much the same. Games were introduced and briefly shown, and we all watched live online.

The fresh approach was what followed, and what led some to declare that Nintendo had showed the greatest energy and generated the most buzz of the three major console manufacturers — or 'winning E3', as some like to say. Although it started with technical hiccups with Nintendo Minute, the company kicked off three days of live streaming, combined for over 20 hours of footage. The presenters were the Treehouse team from Nintendo of America, and as a result they were best placed to show off games and enthuse over what makes them worth our attention. There could be some presentational improvements next time, of course, but it was an impressive effort over a sustained period that served as a gift, ultimately, to dedicated fans.

Aside from that we had the thoroughly decent Super Smash Bros. Invitational, which had more bombast and noise in front of a large live audience. In some respects it was pretty gutsy putting a development build of the game in the hands of the world's best Smash players, but it worked well, and generated plenty of excitement. If the running Treehouse broadcast was for the most devoted followers, the Digital Event and the Invitational were the key features that targeted a degree of mainstream coverage, particularly the former. It seemed to work, too, as the strength of the reveal line-up — and the manner in which it was shared — delivered a lot of positive press not just from the gaming media, but also newspapers and TV stations.

While we recently considered the many areas ripe for the Nintendo Direct treatment this year, the past month has demonstrated further how Nintendo is learning from its recent successes. The San Diego Comic-Con is a case-in-point, with a mix of plans at the event and online. Those in attendance are able to visit the Nintendo Gaming Lounge and demo a range of titles, naturally, but those at home can join in with Mario Kart 8 online tournaments, while from 25th July at 11:30 Pacific / 14:30 Eastern / 19:30 UK / 20:30 CET, there'll be the option to watch a live broadcast from the event, including a 3DS Super Smash Bros. tournament. Yet again, Nintendo is taking a fairly limited access event — not all, naturally, can go to San Diego — and allowing fans around the world to join in.

What this 2014 approach does allow Nintendo to do is to stretch its lineup and reveals out further, while as a company it's taking every opportunity to keep the gaze of 3DS and Wii U owners on games coming soon — in other words, those the big N needs to sell to boost the home console, in particular. Even beyond live events we've seen the company up its game in structuring announcements for titles like Super Smash Bros. and, in collaboration with Koei Tecmo, Hyrule Warriors. Just today we had the rapid localisation of a Japanese streamed programme to deliver the flashiest trailer yet for the Zelda / Warriors crossover, while hype reached fever-pitch last week when a three minute character reveal for Smash Bros. was announced four days ahead of time. We're not sure a three minute video has commanded such build-up and excitement ever before in the world of Nintendo.

Nintendo's upping its game through social media and online video, then, in a substantial manner. It's tempting to simply say that it's catching up with the times, yet the volume and frequency of its hyping efforts arguably outstrip the efforts of its rivals. We'd suggest the reasoning is simple — Nintendo's fighting back. The almost viral success of the DS and Wii era — in which the mainstream market flocked to the systems due to their concepts, and by-the-numbers celebrity ads were helpful extras — allowed Nintendo to simply accumulate wealth and accolades. The technology and gaming sectors have changed hugely since then, and 3DS success has been hard fought while the Wii U requires an even greater effort to drive it through to generational survival. These efforts above that we've outlined — along with others such as Miiverse events — are targeted at the dedicated gamer base, too. That alone shows how hard Nintendo is having to work to translate world class games on bespoke systems into financial success.

The battle for notable mainstream success will — high profile examples such as E3 aside — likely still rely on traditional promotion of exclusive, exciting games and good value hardware deals; with amiibo joining some big-name games this Holiday and beyond, Nintendo has the tools to target families and parents yet again. It's continually adjusted hype machine, outlined in part above, may have the welcome by-product of generating buzz and positive headlines to reach that sizeable audience, but it's primarily targeting us — gamers. It's enthusiastic gamers that buy the most games and support a console's infrastructure, and the efforts to bring the Wii U forward towards a solid state of affairs, and to keep 3DS games flying off shelves, are directed at this committed audience. In the past generation Nintendo didn't need to worry itself too much with its biggest fans, as they would follow and the company was sweeping all before them — new realities have sharpened the company's focus.

The key point is simple, though — Nintendo is doing its utmost to keep its gamers excited and happy to own its consoles. While issues of third-party support — for example — remain and won't go away soon, we've seen a doubling of effort to keep the flow of information going. Nintendo is also being smart, not going above and beyond on games that will sell regardless — such as Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire — but focusing on those that are fighting on key battlegrounds. Not only is it learning and reacting to what excites its userbase the most, but it's also setting trends, as it did at E3.

For Nintendo fans, it's nice to be loved.

Do you agree that Nintendo's efforts to excite fans are improving and evolving? Is there still much more it could do? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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User Comments (70)



Tsurii said:

Now that I've seen the word in the's been a while since we "heard from Nintendo", hm? My guess would be, that they're busy prepping for gamescom atm, but it's kinda weird not to see something from them for this long. (well..unless you're living in Japan)



PanurgeJr said:

What I personally think Nintendo is doing best right now is making the content coming to Wii U as enticing as possible. They are essentially going it alone, with a handful of 3rd party support like Platinum and Valhalla that they are directly involved with, so the range of content is restricted compared to PSBone; but I find the content more appealing, and that more of the titles from this smaller set of options are must-haves. I don't feel as excited for the entire upcoming libraries of the other consoles as I do for just Hyrule Warriors, Bayo2, and Smash individually. Even Captain Toad looks more interesting than most 3rd party titles, and it's only going to get better next year.



DefHalan said:

I find Nintendo's plan is to target their audience, instead of press. Which works and hurts at the same time. With Nintendo themselves targeting theaudience, press feels left out. I saw it happen at E3, where press would report on Sony and Microsoft's Conferences and when it came to Nintendo they were like, well you all saw it so we don't need to report about it. (Thank you NintendoLife for not doing that) A lot of press, from what I have seen, get upset if they aren't told first or given special treatment over "normal gamers"



Bolt_Strike said:

I'm pretty sure the reason they're not hyping Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire is because it's a by-the-books remake, not simply because it sells itself. If that were true, we wouldn't see anything like what they've done with Smash. There's just nothing to get hyped about other than the fact that it's a Pokemon game at this point.



TwilightOniAngel said:

This was a nice read, but the thing i don't get from the article is that you talked about third parties remain and won't go away? Didn't they leave? I would love too see them come back,but they won't take that risk no more.The last third party support the wiiu has is ubisoft and that god awful watch dogs port,that will sell like crap and they will blame us for it. But let's see what happens when the wiiu sells like crazy this year and next year.



BigH88 said:

I don't think Nintendo is catching up with the times.
The times need to catch up to Nintendo. I can almost guarentee everybody's going to copy Nintendos new fan service method in the next year or sooner.



Twilight_Crow said:

Hype? Really? Well, personally I don't feel the hype you are talking about. I felt hyped for MK8... and that's it. I liked what they did on E3, watched a lot of the Tree House content, and it really helped me decide what games were for me... but no hype. I do think they are doing better, maybe it is just not reaching me specifically. shrugs

I already saw enough footage of HW to know I want it, so I am not watching any more trailers or footage because "spoilers". I am in no hurry to get it though, I am not hyped. It will come out in a few months I will buy it and have fun with it, that's it.

Same with Smash, Bayo 2 and Captain Toad. Just bring the games as promised, and I'll get them when I have the money.



DiscoGentleman said:

Nice article! I feel like Nintendo's press and marketing is really stepping it up compared to the last couple years. Actually, on their facebook, they posted a link to take a survey of how you think they've been doing on this very subject. So... everybody go check that out and give them some more feedback!



heyzeus002 said:

The only problem I have with the directs is I find it tricky to temper my spite of owning all 3 next gen machines, nintendo are closest to my heart due to being responsible for so many amazing experiences and memories over the years ever since I was a kid so for me the nintendo hype has no equal. Of course this is my fault and nothing to do with nintendo but its probably the only thing I don't like about the directs. More pertinently, I am ecstatic that we Europeans dont get treated like 5th class citizens anymore. That for me is the biggest thing nintendo have done.thank you sega dreamcast, you were seriously wounded but your soul still burns...



DiscoGentleman said:

I have this theory that Nintendo got too comfortable with themselves after the DS & Wii sold so freaking much, so they got "lazy" with the new generation. Then, when the sales figures and poor press hit them, it lit a fire under their butts (so to speak), and now we're seeing their reactions akin to, "Oh damn! We gotta get movin'!"
All in all, a good thing.



TingLz said:

@DefHalan IGN and Kotaku seemed fairly receptive to the new direction. Not to mention why would they report on a "live press conference" that everyone watched anyway. There's not that much difference



Twilight_Crow said:

@midnafanboy Nope. Its released is too far away aaaand open worlds—its main feature apparently—are not something that calls my attention.

I liked what I saw, it looks like is gonna be cool and I will get it when the game comes out, but no hype.



ricklongo said:

I think Nintendo is dropping the ball with the lack of Directs. They may not be too important for the more casual crowd, but as an enfranchised player I can say that my level of hype for Nintendo products reaches enormous levels after each Direct presentation.

Take the Comic-con, for example - I must admit I'm not excited or "hyped" by Nintendo's forthcoming participation. That's because, as far as I know, there won't be a focused presentation with hand-picked footage of upcoming releases and new surprises to build my hype levels. Their participation in these large events is definitely a necessity, in order to "spread the word" on Nintendo products for those not necessarily up to speed on future releases. But come on, throw us hardcore fans a bone as well.

The lack of Nintendo Directs is also worrying in that it may mean there really aren't many surprises in store for us in the near future. I'm not even talking about unannounced retail releases that get revealed out of the blue (like Hyrule Warriors and Kirby Triple Deluxe), but stuff like Gamecube / DS / N64 games on the Wii U virtual console.

Especially in a slow retail time like this one (although yes, the e-Shop has been killing it lately), new Direct presentations could help immensely to tide us over until the next big game.



DefHalan said:


I completely agree, I didn't watch IGN or Kotaku, I watched some other stuff and from what I saw, Press didn't pay too much attention to Nintendo because they didn't get as much "Special Treatment" I found it strange.



Twilight_Crow said:

@midnafanboy I did feel joy when I saw the footage, it was so colorful and beautiful. I can understand hype beyond measure, specially for something that well crafted. I just don't feel it for any Nintendo game right now, and after the event I hadn't thought about the new Zelda anymore... I even forget about it until someone mentions it lol.

Maybe I am getting old indeed, or maybe games in general are turning away from the things I like and embracing things I don't care about, like open worlds.



Hy8ogen said:

I miss the directs. But this new direction seems to be working better. Maybe they should have directs when there is something big going on instead of the monthly one. Quality>Quantity, isn't that Nintendo is all about?

I myself, LOVED the Nintendo Digital Live event. That showcase was phenomenal. It was a good 40 minutes for my wife and I.



sinalefa said:

Talking about hype for dedicated gamers, I miss Iwata Asks. So many interesting details about game creation that we could not find anywhere else.



FJOJR said:

Sakurai's trailers for Smash Bros. have been nothing but brilliance. Not only using amazing CG cutscenes that put some Hollywood studios to shame but also having unique styles such as the Kid Icarus anime involved or the CG-Anime mix of Fire Emblem. Also hopefully Sakurai's comment on Captain Falcon hints at a new F-Zero title on the way. Either way Nintendo has definitely seen an improvement since E3 with many gamers unimpressed by the X1 or PS4 onslaught of shooters, racers and sports games. Nintendo has issues still such as the Gamepad continuing to be an albatross until proven otherwise with probably the new Zelda main entry which still leaves at least another year of the thing sitting and doing nothing.



Palutena said:

This is all well and good.. however.. I'd really like it if we had a Nintendo Direct soon.



WeAreCreation said:

Hype, you want hype? how about Nintendo's Mario Kart 8 is awesome! Nintendo please buy Capcom, and save Megaman! also, the Wii U is a great machine, the Gamepad is ingenious! And another thing, Nintendo make a pokemon RPG for the Wii U! lastly, Super Smash looks like a hit! Long live Nintendo!!!!!!



DreamOn said:

A lot of the hype machine is lost on me this year because I'm not into smash bros or hyrule warriors at all. It's fine though, MK8 is the greatest thing ever and Captain Toad is coming.



ecco6t9 said:

It's all excellent, if most websites are going to rip apart Nintendo, Nintendo might as well present the news the best way possible.

"Yet ANOTHER new Mario Kart,,,,"
"A brand new Mario Kart that is in full HD, offers a fresh experience and will help the Wii U sell."
Which headline sounds better?



DJSmith99 said:

@ZachBeacon There are games coming. Smash Bros. Wii U and 3DS, Zelda U, Mario Maker, Mario Party 10, Hyrule Warriors, Captain Toad, Yoshi's Woolly World, Kirby Rainbow Curse, Bayonetta 2, Mario and DK, Star Fox, Xenoblade Chronicles X,Pokemon Alpha Ruby/Omega Saphire, Codename Steam, Possible Zelda Majora's Mask 3D, Monster Hunter 4,Possible 2D Metroid, and possible 3D Metroid are some of the upcoming games. Only a few of these are 3DS games, which is fine since the 3DS has plenty of good games and the Wii U needs more games. If these games weren't coming, people wouldn't be hyped.



ZachBeacon said:

There have been "games coming" for quite a while. Some of those games were announced YEARS ago. We haven't had a game show up since MK8 though.

The Wii U lineup is still better than the PS4 and XBox One but all three need games. The 3DS has been doing better than most everything else but the 2014 lineup is a shadow of 2013.



Uro said:

@Twilight_Crow Miyamoto said that he dosen't like to call it "open-world", it was only to give an idea of the game. he prefers more the tearm "vast" (go figure what that means exactly, but maybe there's still left hope for you).



TheWPCTraveler said:

The Direct approach is fantastic because barring Nintendo-only sites, Kotaku and Destructoid, you have a press that is otherwise ready to rip Nintendo to shreds...



Uro said:

@Hy8ogen One might aswell say Quality=Quantity if not Quality<Quantity... But perhaps that counts only for Nature. Sorry random thoght.



TwilightOniAngel said:

@Uro Okay you don't have tell @Twilight_Crow anything about this game and here is why. She doesn't like open world, that's okay don't freak out not everyone has too like everything.But you don't have to force anyone too like something, even if you changed the open world to vast. Maybe there is still hope for you old sport.



sleepinglion said:

I love Nintendo. To be fair, this is not a 'hype machine'. It's really just Nintendo waking up and realizing that in today's market they need to promote their products better than in previous years. I appreciate all they are doing, but realistically, we're praising them for going, "Oh, shoot, we need to stop phoning this in."



Detective_TeeJay said:

I personally cannot perceive how anyone can NOT be hyped for Smash Bros, but to each their own. Every day is like a new torture waiting for that game.



joey302 said:

Took em long enough!! How bout addressing the weak vc release schedule for wii u while their at it!!



rjejr said:

Well compared to the first 1 1/2 years of Wii Us existence it's easy to say Nintendo is really on top of it's marketing game now.

My only concern/downside is that Nintendo did a really good job marketing MK8 w/ the bundle and the free game, and SSB is seemingly all over the place, but what about games that aren't MK8 or SSB? HW is getting a lot of hype but how much of that is Nintendo and how much is it Koei Tecmo? Are Bayonetta 2 and Captain Toad getting their due? (Release dates might help build hype.) amiibo need to be in the news - Disney Infinity 2 and Skylanders Trap Team are all over the place. Where are the amiibo ads?

So yeah, the 2 games that can sell themselves - MK8 and SSB - Nintendo is getting out there - but what about the rest?

I'm not in a hurry for news, it's summer time for outside fun in the sun, but since E3 I've been expecting a late Aug ND w/ a SSB date and bundle and something else holiday oriented perhaps - last Aug was the price cut WW HD bundle ND - so there's still time, But by Sept I'ld like to see somethig besides SSB being marketed to know that Nintnedo has really turned the corner. Free Captain Toad amiibo w/ game purchase would be nice



wcb123 said:

This is nothing new from Nintendo, rather its been a long time forgotten.Marketing strategy. They used to do these sorts of things all the time in the 80s and 90s. A welcomed return.



Twilight_Crow said:

@Uro You really care that much about my opinion wow. I know what Miyamoto said, I used the term "open world" because other people used the term. But forget the term, they did point out to a very big world where you can ultimately go wherever you want. I am usually not fond of games with worlds like that, it's a matter of taste; but I didn't even say I didn't like the idea of that kind of world for Zelda, It looks it can be pretty good , I am just not hyped. If they make a good game, I don't care how vast its world is.

@midnafanboy Yeah, open world, vast, huge, the point is too much space you can go to, I just rarely like that, thanks for understanding it.



WeAreCreation said:

Hype is why the PS4 has sold 8 million units! But enough of hype, now lets really look at our options. On one side, we have the PS4 that does not have enough exclusives. and on the other side we have the XBoxOne with not enough IP's. guys, Nintendo owners have reason to rejoice, the Wii U is simply the best option out on the market at this moment!



sleepinglion said:

Side note, as part of their 'hype machine' for dedicated fans it sure would be nice to see an influx of titles into the Virtual Console, reminding some of us why we fell in love with the big N in the first place. Capcom can drop 3 or more VC titles in a single release week, why can't Nintendo?



Findonovan95 said:

Man, I love that showdown. Lol! Let it be known that the hype for Zelda U is real! XD

It's weird you know; I've never really gotten excited for a PC/Xbox/Playstation game. Only Nintendo seems to be able to lift my hype levels.



ikki5 said:

Well, though i think everything Nintendo has don't with the info is good... but it is still lacking. Yeah, they are good at creating hype.... well kind of. It is just they seem to put their efforts into one thing, currently it is Mario Kart. We don't get too much on smash but it is slowly shifting. There are just so many things though that seem to be left behind such as other games and other services. Personally, I found they generated more hype from the directs where as this year... it's lacking and the hype is more directed at one thing instead a more broad spectrum.



Dragoon04 said:

That is not entirely true. The Mario Kart 8 direct was also called a Digital event. I remember it was a lot flashier. They were testing the waters with it before E3. Anyone else remember that?



FJOJR said:

@sleepinglion I laugh because in a lot ways that is true. But this is a company that is equal parts forward thinking (game department) as it is backwards thinking (everything else). They're quirky like that.



Action51 said:

My only hope is that they don't abandon the idea of periodical Nintendo Directs. I'm okay with having fewer of them, as long as they do more events and release more videos.

One thing for everyone to keep in mind is that at this time last year, the mainstream of gaming media was requiring a minimum of three "Is Nintendo dead? Here's where to buy the best shoes to dance on the grave of Nintendo!" articles per week, and look where things are now.



Action51 said:

I just wanted to add that part of what is fueling Nintendo's success right now is how the gaming media from the big mainstream sites were so eager to fawn over the other "next gen" consoles and bought right into their hype... fueling fanboys and public perception.

Of course now that the release hype has died down we see the PS4 and X1 facing similar game droughts, weak launch windows, and more "safe" sequels, while they are largely getting a free pass for the "sins" they crucified Nintendo for a year ago.



123akis said:

I completely agree with everything that you wrote in this article, brilliant read Tom!



AndyWARbear said:

Nintendo's E3 Digital Event started with Reggie stating Nintendo's best marketing slogan. "There's nothing wrong with having a little fun." Reggie's speech left me motivated, proud and excited to be watching and really set the mood perfectly. From that moment they haven't put a foot wrong.



Dogpigfish said:

In other words, Iwata got out of the way in America... finally. We'll see if it's too late or if Reggie can restore the brand.



RickyNGmr said:

The Big N has been doing something good after all... lately reports have came up about how the interest on Wii U increased. But more strange is that stores like Walmart, BestBuy have being doing a little more space to their Nintendo's area, at least locally in my region (Puerto Rico-Caribbean). And at GameStop is more usual than before hear them spread the word about "Nintendo's is who will have the most active fall/Holiday season, check it out their releases... for Wii U". I guess that could means there's a certain hype about Nintendo now, even more expectations, than before (and/or E3). They are 'exposing' the games they know their fanbase will buy after all (Smash/MK8).... but are forcing others to 'hey, guess what, we are still here, we are Nintendo, and we are about GAMES'! From September thru December (if no delays occurs!!) nintendo's line up have the strengh to fight. And the amiibo featuring on Captain Toad/ MK8 have the strengh to get into the minds of the Parents/Kids. Hyrule Warriors, meanwhile, I believe is creating hype over the curiosity beyond the Zelda fans! We can expect a Direct near fall... Sakurai told "Directly" that more details will be given before the Wii U release about the cross platform feature (There's an icon already exposed!!! ;^p) on SSB4. They are recognizing something ppl often forget: is not about 1 or 2 big Momentums; is about keeping a 'momentum' afloat as long as u can in the hardware life cycle, because sales will continue in the long road upon it!



arnoldlayne83 said:

As long as Nintendo won't invest on same developer to develop more exclusives like Bayo 2 and co. this hype will be not enough... Sony sold milions of console with exclusives like gran turismo and Pes (at the time)...



Alucard83 said:

Nintendo has taken everything as granted all the time that's why. They thought they had the whole world in their hands, but they are wrong. There's a new generation out there and you will not get away with only a few A++ titles. And a good strong console will help as well. Nintendo needs also to spend more money on gamestudios to make sure they are creating exclusive titles for them. Nintendo is expecting that every 3rd party will come to them and offer a game. The time has changed. We've seen some good new games, but we want a bit more. Keep up the good work

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