Teddy Together, somewhat unintentionally, was a wonderful announcement to brighten our Tuesday here at Nintendo Life. Randomly and out of the blue Nintendo of Europe announced the overtly cute kids game for a 1st July release; our reaction was to stare unblinkingly and then tease it repeatedly in private conversations.
Some of the replies to the announcement tweets were rather funny, too, and below are some that are suitable for a daytime audience.
Despite the jokes, however, this announcement is actually a welcome one. Nintendo needs to focus on a variety of areas to ensure future success, and games like this are part of that; by localising a game that's been out in Japan for a while, Nintendo is showing that the 3DS (moreso the 2DS in this case) has appealing software for young children or those that simply want a cuteness overload. That's a positive, as the broader the company's audience the better, not to mention the plus points games like this earn from the parents that buy them.
So while we joked privately we played it straight in our news article, because this is a game with a place on the market. The problem is that it represents poor messaging for Nintendo, opening itself up to teasing and jokes at its expense, while exacerbating the 'Nintendo is for kids' perspective that some use as a weapon against it. Nintendo's social media in Europe, taking Twitter as the case here, is typically full of information and occasionally witty tweets around a variety of games targeting a gaming audience. Looking at recent weeks games like Hyrule Warriors Legends, Star Fox Zero, Fire Emblem Fates and Minecraft: Wii U Edition have featured. The latter in particular is a title with a lot of young gamers as fans, but the point is that the messaging is also relevant to older gamers of various types. Then Teddy Together comes along, out of nowhere.
That announcement, and the reaction to it, reminded us of a small bugbear (sorry) we've had for a while - Nintendo is the gaming company that has the best shot of dominating the kids / children space, but can't figure out how to fully go after that audience. When the company went big with NES in the '80s it simply happened that it triggered a young generation of gamers, but it still - at times - struggles to break its one-size-fits-all approach to marketing in the modern era. There have, however, been improvements over the past few years.
Nintendo of America, for its part, has made positive moves. Play Nintendo began, if memory serves, as an initiative promoted at E3, and the website is full of guides, videos, downloadable bits-and-bobs (including a papercraft Arwing) and more besides. It even has a Parents section. There's a moderately successful YouTube channel, too, though it's arguably too erratic and inconsistent in its content. Weeks can pass without a new video, and certain series and concepts get a few episodes before being ditched. Well known Nintendo employees like Krysta and JC have popped up on the channel occasionally, too, but unlike 'Nintendo Minute' there's no cohesive and regular content to keep children and parents checking in. Play Nintendo also doesn't seem to have its own Twitter account, meanwhile, so the all-encompassing 'Nintendo' account deals with North America in full.
In Europe the messaging is even more lacking when targeting the younger audience. As we've seen with Teddy Together it's left to the main accounts to promote these kinds of games. Nintendo UK has tried to make a success of a 'Nintendo Girls Club' YouTube account, but it's now been dormant for over two months. It always seemed to miss the mark, frankly, and we know savvy young Nintendo gamers that are supposedly part of the target audience who didn't think much of the videos on offer. It's the sort of channel and content produced by those that don't actually know any young gamers, arguably - this writer (for one) wouldn't do much better, but then wouldn't attempt the task in the first place.
As with Play Nintendo though, it's not all bad. In both Europe and North America (often the former) there are rather enjoyable franchise-specific accounts to be found on the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram. Some examples cover Super Smash Bros., Splatoon, The Legend of Zelda, Animal Crossing and Pokémon. These all show that Nintendo's aware of the need to target and focus its messaging.
A broader and more consistent roll-out of Play Nintendo is perhaps a way forward, as it's a name that promises fun for youngsters without being patronising. If it was given more of its own social channels and consistent video output to join the impressive website it could be the perfect destination for reveals targeting much younger gamers, along with content designed to promote broader titles to that audience. Equivalents in Europe - as Play Nintendo is a Nintendo of America project - would also be great to see.
Ultimately, getting the right messages to the right consumers should be a priority for any company, especially so for Nintendo. The big N, through its approach to hardware and software, targets ages 4 to 90, essentially, and at times flinging out announcements on generic channels simply leads to replies and comments that aren't particularly good publicity. Releases like Teddy Together are a great idea, but there must be better ways to promote it to those interested without inviting incessant teasing.
If Nintendo is going to target such broad demographics in its quest to deliver fun gaming for everyone, it should at least get its messaging on point. The children's market, in particular, could certainly be even more lucrative if Nintendo ups the ante and gets the youngest generation excited about its games. With Play Nintendo as a foundation the company can go much further.