There’s No Such Thing As A Nintendo

There’s No Such Thing As A Nintendo

Blake J. Harris, author of the excellent Console Wars, tweeted a pic of this 1990 poster over the weekend. Remember, adults (especially retailers, which is who this seems targeted at), Nintendo is an adjective, not a noun.


  • For years ‘Nintendo’ meant home videogames. Why Nintendo would fight this is beyond me.

    Like ‘Xerox’ (if you’re American) or ‘Hoover’ (if you’re British), the brands are synonymous with that type of product.

    Not to mention Cellophane, Aspirin, Escalator, Laundromat, Thermos, Band-Aid, ChapStick, Dictaphone, Durex, Filofax, Hula Hoop, Jacuzzi, Kleenex, Plasticine, Post-It…I could go on!

    • Why Nintendo would fight this is beyond me

      This is an interesting-ish sort of read…

      When a brand’s name becomes so commonly used, it loses its value. In worse case scenarios, it can also lose its legal protections. Much like zipper, aspirin, escalator, thermos and even heroin, which all started life as brands belonging to companies but are now a free-for-all, though to be fair, no one is really trying to claim heroin. It’s called generification.

      • This is exactly the same reason as to why Telstra called their 3G network “NextG”, not “Telstra 3G”. I remember getting briefed about how we were to talk about it back prior to launch and the Kleenex/aspirin examples were given as to why we had to “protect” the brand name.

    • Because genericised trademarks can result in losing protection over the name.

    • From a marketing perspective, a genericised trademark is a bad thing as it weakens the mark itself and can cause customer confusion.

    • What Pi and aeon have said further below. When a brand name becomes inextricably tied to a product other companies can step in and steal the trademark legally arguing that this brand name is now so commonly used in reference to the product in question that it has ceased to become a brand but slipped into a common use term.

      It’s a situation where from a marketing perspective you need to maintain brand strength but not so much so that the general public can only think of your brand name referring to your product. These posters by Nintendo would’ve been run to mitigate the damage that might’ve been caused in that time period when it was basically only Nintendo cornering the console market. As you say for years ‘Nintendo’ meant home videogames, if they didn’t attempt to fight it over time that’s exactly what it would’ve meant meaning Sony and Microsoft could’ve jumped on the bandwagon by claiming ‘Nintendo’ is no longer a brand but is actually a term that refers to all forms of video games effectively neutering Nintendo’s brand power.

    • Why Nintendo would fight this is beyond me.

      I’m surprised with all these responses that nobody has mentioned that Nintendo are absolute control freaks when it comes to this stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I love Nintendo, but they value control over their image far more than their image itself. It gets to the point where it’s almost suicidal.
      It’s actually quite interesting to look at the way Nintendo react to stuff. They do a lot of things that you would normally attribute to heartless greed in a company like EA, but when you see it swing the other way and throw away money fighting something that could only have a positive result it becomes clear they’re just maniacally OCD.

    • Those companies are exactly why Nintendo’s fighting it. If it’s used generically, they lose the right to enforce their trademark like those companies did.

      Plus, they don’t want their name to be associated with the likes of Doom and Wolfenstein.

  • Maybe the poster is intended for media. Cos no one says “Hey wanna come over and play Forza Motorsport 5 on my Microsoft Xbox One with Kinect?”.

    • Yeah, a lot like that memo that went out a few years back to tell everyone to stop using the red logo and to now use the silver one instead.

      I care not for their wishes – red racetrack forever!

  • Nintendo is a noun, but it’s a *proper* noun, like John or Australia. It refers to the Japanese company.

    It’s also used as an adjective, as is common with brand names.

    The reason Nintendo don’t like use of “Nintendo” as a noun is. firstly, it causes confusion between their consoles (notably Wii vs. Wii U), but probably more importantly it’s occasionally (and incorrectly) used to refer to hardware made by different companies. Very occasionally you’ll hear somebody talk about a “Sony nintendo” or “Microsoft nintendo”, where “nintendo” is used as a generic name for game console.

    If Nintendo let that sort of usage go they could lose rights to the brand name.

    • Very occasionally you’ll hear somebody talk about a “Sony nintendo” or “Microsoft nintendo”.

      This is cringeworthy.

      • You can get a similar rise out of people by using “iphone” as a generic term for any touch screen mobile phone.

        • I have to do this now that I have heard of it. Preferably with someone who is pinging my hipster radar for their android fandom.

          • It works pretty well on Apple fans as well. You can tell them that Samsung’s new iphone is better than Apple’s one because it has a bigger screen.

      • Oh, I agree.

        Come to think of it, the variation I’ve seen most often is “nintendo playstation”, which according to the big N is A-OK.

    • I hate having to say wii u, most people think you just mean a normal wii and it sounds silly.

  • I called my NES a “Nintendo” and SNES was “Super Nintendo”. never used the abbreviations

    • Same, but if their adjective naming was so important, why didn’t they call it a “Nintendo super entertainment system”?

  • I always refered to my NES as “the Nintendo”. I also applied the same use to my SNES. Guess I’m guilty. Sorry Ninten- oops. Can I say it like that?

  • I worked with a lady who referred to any gaming device as a “Natendo”.

  • I like to think they are talking about how mum and dad would say “Stop plying the Nintendo.” When we were actually playing a Sega or PlayStation.

  • I call the wii u “the new wii” because no one I know, knows what I’m talking about.

  • The copyright on that image was from 1990. as in, 24 years ago. Has anyone got any evidence to suggest Nintendo still feel this way?

  • There is such a thing as a Nintendo. It being an adjective doesn’t preclude it from acting like a noun 🙂

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