Sports fans have no doubt spent decent chunks of the past two weeks tuning into various events from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. For many observers sports like Synchronised Diving, Handball and Taekwondo are only particularly interesting once every four years, as dedicated athletes have their chance to shine in front of a global audience. The Rio Games, it must be said, haven't been solely about glory; it was a controversial event, with Brazil having endured a lot of difficulties and fallen on tougher times since originally winning its bid in 2009.
The Olympics are, increasingly, a tough sell for host cities, with the extraordinary cost of hosting being a factor to scare plenty away. Yet Japan and Tokyo are stepping up for 2020, in what will be the second visit of the Games to the city. It promises to be a huge occasion, and there'll be a lot of excitement around seeing the sporting extravaganza in the bustling 21st Century Tokyo - it last hosted the games in 1964.
As is now tradition, Tokyo had a spot in the Rio Closing Ceremony for a 'handover' of the games, which typically consists of a flashy video and then an in-stadium display. This Brit recalls the borderline horror of the London handover in Beijing, in which a mop-haired buffoon of a politician awkwardly waved a flag and most of the showcase obsessed over the fact London has red buses. It was passable, but hardly a glowing demonstration of the modern, multi-cultural capital of the UK.
To be fair, these handovers rarely show the complexities and richness of a host city's / country's culture, as they have just a few minutes to make their mark. It's all about presenting a friendly, fun and accessible introduction to the next Olympic Games venue.
It was rather lovely, with that in mind, to see Nintendo's mascot as the beating heart of Tokyo's showcase. In case you haven't seen it the video below should help - Mario takes centre stage, jumping through a green pipe from Tokyo to Rio and emerging as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Even better from a Nintendo publicity perspective, this part of the ceremony seemed to capture the imagination of viewers and mainstream media around the globe, with the Tokyo2020 hashtag picking up plenty of steam. With Mario in the limelight it was a reminder of the character's enduring popularity and brand power - below is an example of the BBC's highlights, devoting a notable chunk to the Mario segment.
Nintendo has had a good few months of positive publicity and a high volume of headlines and social media attention. The big N was an arguably dubious beneficiary of the extraordinary (and record breaking) hype around Pokémon GO this summer, despite the fact it's not actually a Nintendo game. As news outlets and gamers typically uninterested in the dedicated gaming space got hooked on GO, the narrative emerged that placed the Nintendo name front and centre, despite the fact it's a mere stakeholder in Niantic and The Pokémon Company. Yes, some of Nintendo's imprint can be seen in GO, but let's also be blunt and acknowledge it's Niantic's creation - Nintendo joined the likes of Google as investors, ultimately, and is distributing the Plus accessory.
In any case, that viral hit has kept Nintendo in the spotlight, which is very welcome indeed. In pure product and market terms the company's in a weak phase, with the 3DS losing momentum (likely to get a bump when Pokémon Sun and Moon arrive) and the Wii U somewhat limping towards its finale. A lot of buzz and attention has come through sheer brand power (see also the focus on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at E3) helping to compensate for the lack of current-day sales success.
Yet this isn't happening by accident. After all, Nintendo has carefully cultivated its image and brands over the past 30-35 years (going back to the original arcades). Even more importantly, it's gradually upped its game in the past few years, even if the gears have turned slowly. Nintendo brands and characters have crept into feature film cameos, while the company itself has produced some excellent short films of its own. It's an area ripe for expansion, and we've argued before that the company should be shameless in promoting and using its IPs in various forms of media.
It's not just the old faces representing the Nintendo brand either, with 2015's Splatoon providing a new IP breakthrough; in Japan, particularly, that franchise is already huge in terms of live concerts, events and merchandise.
Another enduring strength for many of Nintendo's franchises and characters come through global appeal. After all, Mario isn't - stylistically - overtly Japanese or readily identifiable as such; some have joked online of relatives saying they thought he was Italian, and were therefore baffled to see him in the Tokyo segment. What viewers like these do likely know (even if they don't play the games themselves) is that he's called Mario, and he's in video games on Nintendo systems.
That's a vital foundation of Nintendo's success - it can incorporate rich parts of Japanese culture to add mystery and amazing designs into its game worlds, yet at the same time produce games that aren't readily identifiable with their homeland. Consider something like Dragon Ball, which is overt in that respect, and then Nintendo's various IPs. No matter where the player lives, the universality of Nintendo games makes them appealing, relatable and fun.
Tokyo's showcase for its 2020 games was just one small reminder of this - the ongoing relevance and powerful identity that Mario, and other Nintendo IPs, represent. As Nintendo continues to step forward into a new era that will include more mobile apps and the NX system, it has that enduring history and pop culture clout on its side.
Never thought about it that way
I watched it live with my Japanese house guest, Mario/Abe-San was easily the best part of an otherwise boring closing ceremony.
I am of the opinion that the way Nintendo keeps hammering brand awareness onto the public through Mario and in detriment to all their other IPs is extremely redundant, but that might just be me.
Ma-RIO. I see what they did there.
The exposure of Japanese products on the world stage has been diminished since the advent of South Korean exports in recent years and as such Nintendo remain one of Japan's biggest cultural legacies. I think this has something to do with the prominence of Mario in the handover ceremony. Despite the very definite culture shift towards western developed and published games, Nintnedo have remained truly a force within the industry and I hope that they can really hammer home the brand awareness they want.
Hahaha... Very clever idea.
Let's keep praying for both Nintendo and Japan...
Yea. Nintendo is just doing brilliant. I won't be praying for them tho. They need to earn success
@Anti-Matter while your praying for Nintendo. Can you pray for me too. Thanks. I think I need the money more than Nintendo.
Nice too Mario at the Olympics.
"Marvel at the UK's ability to paint buses red!"
Note to self - offer @ThomasBW84 a drink if I ever get to visit the UK
I'll start saving money for my trip to Tokyo in 2020. Can't wait to visit the Olympics there and Nintendo Land at Universal Studios.
@Oubie for real. You've just given me a new 4-year plan goal lol.
Seeing Mario last night had me grinning from ear-to-ear. The Commentators on NBC in the US immediately started laughing and commenting on "Super Mario" showing up. It was definitely a delight for the talking heads to see as well. I was hoping Japan would embrace all of their unique eccentricities for their performance and they came through great.
OMG DORAEMON AND CAPTAIN TSUBASA
that pac man tho
Mario appears in a trailer for the 2020 olympic games? Nintendo is saved!
I saw Mario and Pacman...erm...what character could Sony use that is as recognisable as that pair?
Amazing can't believe it
2020 opening is gonna have Nintendo stuff in it. I guarantee it.
I think Nintendo need some serious marketing muscle to take the reigns for a while. They have a frustrating tendency to shy away from the initial costs of advertising. It's pretty bizarre that despite the phenomenal success of Pokemon Go, and now Mario in the Olympic Ceremony itself, that Nintendos fortunes haven't radically altered.
Brand power needs a good head for strategy to really reap any benefits.
@Savino No, don't read that as despise. Lol aww you went all defensive hahaha. It was a serious question. Now Drake is a rubbish choice to be honest but as for Crash, he isn't even first party or even Japanese! So, come on. Try harder Gimme a Sony character that could represent video games and be recognisable to such a diverse audience of gamers and mums watching the Olympics.
You bet I'll be making the pilgrimage in 2020 (because it'll be a good excuse for a weeb like me to have a look around)
@HappyMaskedGuy "It's pretty bizarre that despite the phenomenal success of Pokemon Go, and now Mario in the Olympic Ceremony itself, that Nintendos fortunes haven't radically altered."
In today's age of Nintendo, I'd say not bizarre at all. Maybe a decade ago.
But the last 5-6 years Nintendo has really reverted into a shell of sorts, and their relevance has suffered greatly.
@gatorboi352 I think they have finally listened to Michael Pachter and going after using their IP! It's clear Nintendo has had scaffolding put up during the Wii U years. When it's all taken down in March, hopefully they will be shiny.
Nintendo does have a great and enduring brand. They'll need to find a way to keep the brand relevant to the 21st Century with the NX.
After seeing Pac-Man show up I'm surprised Sonic didn't make a cameo, especially considering how popular he is in Brazil.
The high jump at the Tokyo Olympics will have the bar going up and down.
Loved the Rio Olympics despite some of the difficulties. Very much looking forward to Tokyo 2020. Lots of young Japanese talent coming through in lots of sports - silver medal in the 4x100 relay. Japan + Olympics = epic. Surely there has to be a stellar Mario and Sonic game to celebrate. The latest versions are the best yet, so not totally out of the question.
This was awesome. I couldn't believe it.
One of the most awesome product placements I've ever seen.
Had a big smile on my face the whole way through
@MarcelRguez true. if the stones only ever sang satisfaction, we wouldn't have their other stuff.
btw @ThomasBW84 anybody know if nintendo had a hand in making the video itself?
@crimsontadpoles there will probably be an nx app for the olympics like they had with museums.
@Jamotello Precisely. They need to use the plurality of their IPs as a marketing weapon. Splatoon has been getting some attention too, which is good and hopefully an example of things to come. They need to be known as something more than the house of Mario, it makes the catalog of their consoles seem smaller than it actually is in the mind of the general public.
@Savino Who the hell is Drake? Genuinely
@Savino I think the opening ceremony will need Miyamoto riding a steam train into the stadium on an enormous neon rainbow, before sketching a massive freestyle picture of Mario doping with mushrooms on the floor, before drawing him being disqualified by a committee of angry Toads.
Mario is disgraced, and this phases into an emotional 3D montage of his redemption.
@Savino ahh hold on, its the main character from Uncharted.
Sorry man, but he has zero charisma or memorability. And Crash is a horribly designed character. You just can't compete with an Italian man drawn like Mickey Mouse who can jump. It's too much genius. Not to mention- moustache.
@Jamotello I'm hoping by that time we are onto the NX NXT
@Oubie Already setup my savings account for precisely these reasons. See you there! I'll be the guy getting wrestled to the ground by some angry Piantas.
Let's just say that a LOT of effort is going to be put on Mario&Sonic 2020 olympics. Like, more than previous versions!
A mop-haired buffoon of a politician awkwardly waved a flag.
Or a Prime Minster with a hard to say name being elevated out of a giant circular green box.
At the very least, maybe SEGA will put some effort into their next Olympic Games videogame.
Wonder if they'll try and get as many characters from the opening ceremony to be in it too? XD
lol Mario's been a Japanese politician this whole time. Cute lol.
Started saving for 2020 yesterday. I'm going heck or high water!
Apparently the BBC hasn't any love for the former colonies; 'The uploader has not made this video available in your country.'
So much for the olympics being a global event...
Watched the Twitter video... that was really well done. Even the little flourishes... like RIO extending to MARIO.
Well played, Tokyo and Japan.
This was awesome! Already can't wait until 2020 and M&S 2020!
@Savino Drake would be a poor choice because barely anyone would know who he is outside of the hardcore audience.
Say what you want, but Sony and Microsoft have some weak IPs in terms of exposure (besides Minecraft of course).
That Tokyo video was pretty cool, not only because of Mario (Tsubasa and Pacman were also in it).
I also love the fact that @ThomasBW84 called Boris Johnson a 'mop-haired buffoon'.
I loved Japan's promo video and performance. It was so charming and funny; it really stole the show last night.
@HeroOfTime32 @HappyMaskedGuy I just recently talked about it with a friend. Why not? We made a financial plan, hopefully it will work out for us.
they should have the squid sisters perform live in the japans opening in the 2020 olympics
"the uploader has not made video available this in your country"
@Jamotello I should think at the very least Nintendo had staff members overseeing the representation of Mario, if not doing the animations directly.
@LuigiMan123 D'oh, is that the BBC one? The point of that video is that the Mario bit took up about half of a 2 minute summary vid - a lot of media loved that part
@Oubie I'm going to knock my plan up soon too. Me and my younger brother will be there. Perhaps not at any actual events, but at least for the opening. Then it's Akihabra Ahoy! (doubt I spelled that right)
Loved it and I wouldn't be surprised if Mario was made the official mascot for the Tokyo games.
This is the type of stuff that Nintendo needs to keep doing, put your brand out there for all to see! Prove to people that aren't fans like us that you are still just as relevant as Sony or Microsoft. Of course I believe they are but the reality is most people are more interested in the competition's machines and promoting their brand with events like these would go a long way into changing that.
@MarcelRguez @ottospooky Fair points well made, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we reached a point where Mario's fame is almost organic rather than forced. Once it reaches that point I think it's less about advertising the character, more that it propagates itself so it'd be foolish not to play into it.
I do take your point, though, that they need to make effort with other franchises, but I don't think they are mutually exclusive.
@Savino Everybody knows Mario. Not even all console gamers know Drake.
@Savino Drake?? Oooh you mean the generic white male game protagonist... yeah sure is memorable
Looking forward to Tokyo!
Funny that you bring up Dragon Ball. Honestly, I was disappointed that it wasn't included, I would imagine it is the most easily recognisable anime outside of Japan. But, obviously overjoyed with Mario's appearance.
As an awful reminder, they made no appearances at the opening ceremony of the "2020" Olympics.
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