Remember How Bad The Wii U's Marketing Was?

We're nearly two weeks away from the Nintendo Switch, and no matter how it ultimately fares, it's already surpassed the Wii U in one key area: Marketing. And unlike the Wii U, people actually know it exists.

Seriously, do you remember how Nintendo announced the Wii U? At E3 2011, Nintendo of America boss Reggie Fils-Aime got on stage and started talking about names ("Is it unique? Unifying? Maybe even utopian?") and a "new controller", which left those of us in the audience stupefied. Was this an add-on for the Wii? An accessory? A new console?

It was perhaps the worst hardware reveal in modern history. Go ahead and watch the first two minutes of this video:

After Fils-Aime explained the console, he put up a short video that confused things even further. The first thing you saw was someone playing with a Wiimote. Just under the television, you could spot a console that looked exactly like a Wii. And the words "the New Controller" kept appearing over and over, as if Nintendo was trying to convince its audience that this really was a brand new accessory for the Wii.

Seriously, watch this. If you didn't already know what a Wii U was, would you have any idea that this was advertising a brand new console?

The following year, Nintendo released this Wii U commercial that's actively hard to watch (that music...). Check it out:

Now compare this to the Switch reveal trailer or the commercial that Nintendo put on YouTube today, which makes it clear in 30 seconds what the system is and why it's unique.

The hardware is clear and the slogan is nice and simple: "Play together wherever, whenever." They even have a trademark sound effect — that short snap at the top of each video — that's both catchy and instantly recognisable.

This Zelda commercial that ruined the Super Bowl is just as effective:

Over the past few weeks I've talked to several people who don't know what the Wii U is but are excited for the Switch, which speaks to the hardware itself but also, perhaps most importantly, Nintendo's marketing, which has transformed from disastrous to brilliant in just five years.


    The people in the audience that were there for an unveiling for a new Nintendo machine did not know it when it was shown and were stupefied?

    Hard to argue, or laugh along with Jason who's just having a bit of fun here - but it's worth pointing out the 'is it a new controller?' stuff would also have been a moot point if tech reporting and sales staff at the coal face every day had stepped in to fill any holes and stop any confusion.

    During the Wii days, I remember retail pushing those awful ancillary and very unofficial Wii Remote add-ons that looked like tennis racquets or golf clubs with every purchase of the console - completely unnecessary but hey, gotta sell 'em.

    Not to mention the precursor to Gamergate that was the whole 'ew casuals, let's sneer and deride them' episode that all games media was happy to prop up at the time. Chickens came to roost on that one didn't they?

    The Switch is clearly going to either 'epic win' or 'lol Nintendo fail' (what do the kids say these days?) and it's only going to be one of those extremes, there's no if's or but's about it. I don't know when we're going to realise otherwise.

      Repeating 'new controller' was the real problem (along with keeping Wii in the name).

    No, Nintendo's marketing is still shit.

    Just wait and see - Switch sales will fade away soon after launch.

      It’ll all hinge on whether the thing is worth owning as a handheld.

      If people start seeing them on the train and at school and they look like a thing worth owning, it might get off the ground long enough to build some momentum.

      If it gets momentum it’ll get some (some is a lot for Nintendo!) 3rd party support which might give you a reason to own one beyond the occasional 1st party release.
      Dropping the 3DS might also allow Nintendo to get more than 3 games a year out the door, and MAYBE they won’t even be lazy 2D platformers, mini-game collections or cut-copy versions of their old games.

      If all those things happen then it might go well for a few years before it eventually collapses under the inevitable lack of good software.

      If that doesn’t happen, it’ll be PS Vita at best.

      Also Zelda needs to be AAA amazing. If its ‘meh’ the system is DOA.

        The thing that worries me is that recently Nintendo themselves have been sending mixed messages about whether *they* consider Switch to be a handheld. Apparently it doesn't replace the 3DS for them, only the Wii U. That scares me a lot. It should be replacing both platforms.

          yeah ive been saying that as well from the get go. focus on one single platform, and essentially double development resources having to produce for a single system.

          my guess is that they will phase the 3ds out eventually; them re-iterating the fact that it will not replace the 3ds is purely because of the large install base, and it being their primary money maker at present. No one will want to invest in a dying system, and parents are not going to purchase $469 handhelds to replace them immediately.

          i see 3ds hardware and software sales dwindling over the next 12-18 months. then perhaps they might do some sort of budget handheld.

            Nintendo has nailed the handheld market since they entered it. Every platform was extremely successful. They haven't truly cornered the home console since the SNES - the Wii was a hit for hardware sales, but not so much on the software side.

            Switch is going to struggle the way the Wii and Wii U did in terms of third party console games. It's just not powerful enough. It's a much more compelling piece of hardware as a portable than a handheld.

            Really, Switch is what the Wii U should have been. It's a portable that can also take the place of a home console and it's the logical evolution of the Wii U gamepad. Wii U was an interesting R&D project that should have been kept internal and used as a stepping stone to the Switch, it should never have actually come to market.

            In the back of my mind though, I still wonder if it might not be Nintendo's Dreamcast moment. If it flops, I'm not sure whether they can justify staying in the hardware business to their shareholders, many of which are investors that look at the other Japanese publishers making money hand over fist off shitty gatcha-based phone games games. They're already starting to dabble in that market and that approach would be the death of everything Nintendo used to be about.

              Totally agree. if this thing flops, shareholders are not going to be in favor of another hardware launch; there is no way they are going to be able to justify it.

            The migration of 3DS users to the Switch hinges on one thing only and if it happens, it will be an absolutely given thing: The next Pokemon game.

      Man, whenever I see your comments I cannot help wondering whether Nintendo killed your whole family in front of you when you were a kid or if you just betted your life savings against their success because, boy, are you committed to this loathing.

        Not really. My only beef with Nintendo is its dodgy (not necessarily illegal) practices to maintain high prices on its products. I'd like to buy more Nintendo stuff but when I see high-priced Nintendo games next to cut-priced games for every other system, I struggle.

        Nothing against Nintendo's products in general though.

    I can remember my reaction being "W T F"

    It's obvious they were trying to piggyback off the success of the Wii by retaining the name, much like Playstation and Xbox retain their base names. But adding a 'U' to the name with a tiny superscript logo, as well as making the console itself look very similar doesn't scream "New Console".

    They should have just called it the U, or at least redesigned the logo so that the U was much more prominent.

    In any case, I'm glad they replaced those circle pads with actual analogue sticks.

    Poor Jason, still salty over how confused he got.

    Looks like most of the features in those ads never made it to market. Their second trailer reminded me of the good game opening (rip), except more annoying

    I still look at the Nintendo Switch as a WiiU Gamepad that is just more portable. You could say it is a WiiU Gamepad version 2.0.

    Clearly whoever was responsible for marketing the Wii U got the axe. The marketing is top notch for the Switch, and Nintendo are branching out and doing things they haven't done previously - a whole new direction.

    Can we talk about the graphic design behind the new Zelda please? That logo is real tight.

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