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.