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How Nintendo Can "Win" E3

"Effectively, Nintendo needs to relaunch the Wii U and make sure the audience understands what it is"

Is there really such a thing as 'winning' E3? There is the external victory of being the thing most talked about in the mass media, in the game media, and on social media. Those are really three different audiences: The broadest possible audience of anyone who sees, hears or reads news; the audience of gamers who are always interested in game news, and hardcore Nintendo fans. Then there's victory internally for Nintendo, by whatever standards it chooses to set. Ultimately, it's the votes cast by consumers in the form of spending that counts.

Nintendo is heading into this E3 in a difficult position. Sales of hardware and software have not been meeting the company's projections. CEO Satoru Iwata has gone on record that he intends to deliver a billion yen in profits for Nintendo this fiscal year, and implied that he may step down if that's not achieved. This puts Nintendo in a difficult position for marketing strategy, since any marketing spending has to return a profit within the fiscal year. No long-term brand-building here; Nintendo will be looking for marketing efforts that can produce solid short-term results.

This may be the reasoning behind Nintendo's decision to forego the usual massive E3 press event, instead having a smaller media event and a separate event for trade partners and analysts. Nintendo also announced it will step up its production of Nintendo Direct videos, a cost-effective way of directly reaching Nintendo fans.

Nintendo has not shared any more about its marketing strategy, but we can make some guesses. Nintendo put out a flyer at PAX East that compared the Wii U to the Wii, clearly indicating Nintendo feels gamers aren't really sure of what the Wii U is or why they should own one. Worse, if gamers are confused, the mass market must be completely baffled. Effectively, Nintendo needs to relaunch the Wii U and make sure the audience understands what it is. Unfortunately, Nintendo will have to do this in the face of what is sure to be a major push from Sony and Microsoft for their next-gen consoles. Nintendo will need to have clear, focused television ads hitting the key demographics, and those ads will need to be memorable to overcome the barrage of ads hitting the same audience.

One of the biggest weapons Nintendo could use in this battle is a price cut for the Wii U, but that is unlikely. Nintendo's already losing money on each one sold, and dropping the price $50 would just mean an additional $50 loss on each unit. That might get made up in software sales eventually, but it would have to be at least three or four titles during a time when Nintendo doesn't have all that many compelling titles for the Wii U. Hopefully we'll see some strong Wii U software for the holiday season, more than just Pikmin 3.

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Steve Peterson avatar
Steve Peterson: Steve Peterson has been in the game business for 30 years now as a designer (co-designer of the Champions RPG among others), a marketer (for various software companies) and a lecturer. Follow him on Twitter @20thLevel.
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