Could The Luigi Death Stare Be The Wii U's First Killer App?

It seems like a silly idea. Even for those heavily invested in the success of one console over another. It’s an idea turned parody: the belief that a single video game could ‘save’ a console.

Earlier this year Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata stood up in front of a group of testy investors and attempt to steady nerves by stating that the “fate of a video game system is often influenced greatly by the introduction of a single title”.

One could only assume he meant it, but it was hard to take the idea seriously. How could a single video game save the Wii U -- the worst selling home console the company had ever released, a piece of hardware with the traction of Teflon, a console skidding towards slow death with the grace of an overweight baboon on roller skates. How could we expect to imagine that a single game could possibly rescue the Wii U from the doldrums? It was, quite literally, unimaginable.

The Best Luigi Death Stare Videos

But you might argue that’s the point – that it is unimaginable. How could anyone have imagined say, the existence of Pokemon, until it was imagined? Or Wii Sports for that matter. The kind of cultural phenomenon that shifts consoles at life-reviving speeds is impossible to manufacture in a laboratory. These ideas appear in the wild. They simply occur. In a vacuum. They are mini Tsunami and all anyone can hope to do is ride the subsequent wave for as long as humanly possible.

But what if that mini Tsunami wasn’t a game -- what if it was something as pointless as a GIF? A five second GIF heard around the world. The five second GIF currently haunting all of our Facebook feeds like an imprint. The five second GIF that somehow managed to take Mario Kart 8 all the way from Kotaku to Fox bloody news?

What if the Wii U’s mini Tsunami was simply a well timed GIF of Mario’s brother Luigi, mean mugging his rival Waluigi, post blue shell, en route to victory in Mario Kart 8? The Luigi Death Stare.

How could anyone have imagined that?

It sounds crazy. Even as I typed those words I had to stop, re-read and ask myself: is this real life? Is this pure hyperbole?

Maybe. But maybe not.

Consider this: in this mess of tweets and status updates we call the internet, there is no stronger cultural currency than the humble GIF, particularly the kind we can share and claim as our own. There isn’t a marketing budget on this planet that could have had the kind of positive impact the Luigi Death Stare GIF had. None. In fact, the first time I saw the GIF was on Facebook, it was accompanied by the words, “this GIF may just have sold me on a Wii U”. The next day a status update: “Just bought a Wii U, who wants to play Mario Kart?”

Incredible. I saw about a dozen similar messages on my various feeds over the next two or three days. 24 hours later it was on Fox News. This is how we communicate. We live in a world where a simple GIF could very well drag the Wii U in from the brink.

Or at the very least, it could represent the tipping point. Let’s dial things back a bit. Let’s make some simpler, more easily digestible arguments. There are obviously contributing factors to the rapid fire spread of the Luigi Death Stare. First and foremost, Mario Kart 8 is a very good video game. It may be the best Mario Kart ever made. It’s the console sequel to Mario Kart Wii, which sold a mind boggling 36 million units. That’s roughly double what both Mario Galaxy games sold combined. If any game was going to ‘save’ the Wii U it would probably be a Mario Kart game

But the oil greasing the wheels? It’s a GIF. People: it’s a GIF. This is the world we live in. This is how word about the game is spreading. The Luigi Death Stare has taken over Tumblr. Twitter and Facebook is awash with alternate videos, GIFs, everything. People are making their own Luigi Death Stares. There is already a Subreddit dedicated to them. It has 9000 subscribers. It’s been on Fox News. I’m counting down the hours till an email appears in my long discarded Hotmail account, with a ludicrously large video file attached: “saw this and thought of you, love Mum.”

Doubt the power of this phenomenon at your peril and consider this: in 2013 Nintendo made a large scale concerted effort to rebrand Luigi. I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and assert that a lot of money was spent in this endeavour. ‘This is the year of Luigi’, they said, as they made numerous attempts to sell video games with his face on the cover. There’s no real way to measure the success or failure of the year of Luigi but outside of a few parody twitter accounts, and long running jokes on a few gaming websites, it didn’t exactly infiltrate anyone’s life. It didn’t make Fox News. My Mum won’t be emailing me about it any time soon.

I wonder: could the Wii U be the first video game console with a GIF for a killer app?


    One thing I've learned from the internet is that if you try to force a meme, it will immediately die.

      With the amount of posts on the stare from Kotaku in the past few say this meme is about to be killed

        Nah. Over exposure can kill a meme, but it needs to be excessive. A meme will instantly die if the original creators try to take advantage of it.

        Like with Rick Rolling. Everybody did it and tried to contact Rick Astley about it. Eventually he decided to jump in to the craze and performed the song during a parade. After that, nobody gave a shit about the meme.

      this is true, sometimes
      but other times

      but the thing is, Nintendo had zero involvement in this

    I believe it's pronounced "Jiff".

      *Grabs popcorn*

      *Pull out a blade*

      Alright let's dance mother fucker.

      I'll burn your nipples, bitch.

        Oh god, this one got me. I'm dying.

          I hope not! Where else will we get top grade gaming editorials?

        oh god i cant breath xD

    It takes $0 to scroll through FB and laugh at something funny for 5 seconds and post some meaninless shit to make you seem hip and with-the-crowd.

    It takes $300+ to buy the console and game.

    Also that last sentence/question is ridiculous.

      I know, I get what you're saying -- I really do! But I know at least three people in my circle that have done what you just said was ridiculous: they bought a $300 console after watching that GIF.

        Oh, no doubt. They are the people with disposable incomes who previously had no reason to buy a Wii U. As expected, Mario Kart is a system seller. People see the funny things, see that their friends are having a blast with it, and so they buy it to join in on the fun. Smash Bros will only help that.

        So basically, yeah, MK8 is looking like a system seller like no previous other game on Wii U.

          It's also come along at a time where I think the Wii U OS has hit a tipping point on casual comfort. Quick Start + Mario Kart 8 already in the tray is a deadly combination. I'll be playing the XBOX One, pickup the Wii U game pad during a loading screen and then spend my night there instead. I'm seriously considering buying all my Wii U games on the eShop from here out just so I can pick up and play.

          I think if they can capitalise on Quick Start, promote the browser, YouTube app, tablet functions, etc, they can potentially break through the problem of Nintendo droughts. All it needs is an upgrade to the universal remote so it can do the full range on one panel and the game pad would easily be an every day use item without the need for a new Nintendo game every month.

        I'm in that category, I am dying for a Wii U just for this. The only thing stopping me is the fact I'm going to try my luck in the UK within a few weeks. It actually may well be one of my first purchases when I get there.

        To be fair... it's a great game and was already worth buying without the death stares.

    When played at full speed, do you even notice these glances/stares?
    All the GIF's I've seen are in slow motion....

      Not during play, no. These clips are taken from the post-race Mario TV segment that let's you check out the highlights from the race with full reel traversal (rewind, slowdown, etc).

      Thats whats awesome with the replay and more so the slowmo feature, is that you suddenly and quite clearly notice a lot of things that are missed in real-time

      It's a feauture in the game. One of the most brilliantly executed features ever. The dynamic camera is so well done in these replays its unbelievable how greeat it makes certain scenes look

    I wonder if this whole bonanza will make Nintendo reconsider their draconian IP controls on video sharing, youtube etc. etc. Surely they can see the benefit now?

    I'll be honest, I saw the meme on reddit during the week. Starting reading the thread and it convinced me to pick up a Wii U. Going to get one after work for the long weekend. Didn't cross my mind that I was sold on a meme until now.

    See, @transientmind? This is how :P

      Heh. I guess so?

      Though my first thought was: "What the fuck is this 'death stare' thing everyone's talking about?" I saw a video Mark posted but damn if I have a clue... an entire meme passed me by for over a week or something? Not that I pay any attention to the self-declared 'front page of the internet'. (The claim alone incites crotch-punching urges. Internet hipsters thinking their echo chamber bullshit is relevant on the world stage... ahem.)

      What I'm curious about is how Ninty was able to predict this when they were talking about blowing up the install base. Memes are a fickle thing... without significant social engineering, anyway. Reckon they'll make their 20% or closer to the 40% the pundits were claiming?

      Either way, I dug into the Know Your Meme explanation and am no more enlightened, just remain baffled. The curse of not being the target market. (Like I said earlier: I've only ever played Zeldas 1-4.)

        Haha, I don't really get it either. I mean it's cool and all that there's all sorts of little touches like this to the game, but I don't get what's so great about this particular thing of Luigi. He doesn't even seem all that menacing to me. But hey, internet *shrugs*,

          That's the point: Luigi isnt meant to be menacing, yet suddenly in Mario Kart 8 it just seems like something snapped (even if it was unintentional)

    Better marketing than Nintendo has ever done for the Wii U

    The guy who made it from /v/ would be hella pissed about this.

    Honestly, if I didnt have to justify the expense to a missus who wants a holiday Id be heading out to buy a WiiU tomorrow.

    And Im saying that as someone whos been deeply critical of Nintendo and the way theyve handled the WiiU.
    Lots of people love Nintendo but for most of them (myself included) there just hasnt been quite enough incentive to get out and buy a WiiU.

    Mario Kart looks like lots of fun, thats all it needs to do and those gif are a great reminder of that.

    Lets be serious though, its not going to save the WiiU. It will spike sales but its still going to be a MASSIVE flop for Nintendo.
    Theyve sold about 6.2m of them so far, but their own sales predictions state that theyll only sell another 2.8m this year.
    Even if they do hit that target (and it should be noted that they revised down last years sales several times and still went nowhere near what theyd hoped to sell), that would mean the WiiU would have been out for 2.5 years and was still over a million units behind the Dreamcast in terms of sales! For a company with such a successful history thats a tremendous failure.

    One game isnt saving that. Itll spike for now, but when the new-gen consoles hit their stride in 2015 sales are going to completely flatline.

    I think you'll find the VirtualBoy was actually the worst selling Nintendo console of all time, not the WiiU. Jussayin.

    Mario Kart Patches I'd like to see:

    Gamepad rear vision mirror
    Horizontal split screen multiplayer
    An option to use the triggers to accelerate/break

    Mario Kart Patches we'll probably get:

    Luigi's death stare removed because the internet's reaction is not inline with his character

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