Think of the children: Nintendo flips the family-friendly switch off

The Nintendo Switch is exciting. It’s a new form of games console and it’s one I would be clamouring to buy if I hadn’t just watched its teaser trailer.

I had to sit through an advert which kept telling me that this wasn’t a product for me. “Go home grandad”, I read between the lines, “we don’t want you or your snotty sprogs”.

My tired, cynical old eyes saw Nintendo’s ad for what it was, a box-ticking exercise trying to entice millennials.

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Young man, dog needing a poo, young man, young woman, group of diverse young friends, group of edgy young pals playing basketball, young hipster showing the Switch to her young mates. And then a heavy nod to eSports with the ultimate hardcore title… Splatoon.

Young men – boxed ticked. Young women – tick. Racially diverse groups of young people – tick. Hardcore gamers – check.

Maybe I’m the cynic, but it was the whole three and a half minute video that struck me as cynical. A heavy-handed and unnecessary attempt at repositioning a brand so many of us love. Remove the Switch and this could have been an ad for Uniqlo. 

I don’t know why Nintendo’s marketing department decided that the only important people in the world are 18-30 year olds and I don’t know why eSports was given a focus instead of some wholesome family gaming. It seemed at odds with the rest of the ad’s ‘play anywhere’ sentiment.

What’s wrong with showing a mum splitting the controller and playing her daughter on a road trip? Why can’t a kid be playing Mario instead of an adult? Why not show a broad range of ages playing together with Nintendo’s latest console?  

I don’t understand why Nintendo decided to alienate the rest of us. Don’t get me wrong I still really want a Switch, it looks like an incredible bit of kit. I just don’t think Nintendo wants me to buy one. I’m probably not “cool” enough. But then again neither was Nintendo’s lame attempt at appealing to young millennials. It felt like your dad sticking a cap on backwards or your mum using text speak.

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nintendo switch

Maybe low Wii U adoption hurt Nintendo so much that it felt it had no choice but to change tack. But then maybe it wasn’t the target market that was wrong, maybe it was the product being marketed. The Wii U is an ungainly chimera that doesn’t make sense as a mobile platform or attached to the TV.

The saddest thing is that there’s no longer an accessible console aimed at both kids and adults alike. Nintendo’s ad is not made for people who just love to play games from the masters of great gameplay. It’s not for the fans, even though I believe the Switch will be adored by them if it lives up to the promise.

If Nintendo foregoes the younglings it’ll be tablets, phones and, god-forbid, the freemium apps that dominate them that the next generation of gamers will be weaned on.

That’s not good for Nintendo, and it’s not good for the future of gaming. Nintendo please think of the children and diversify your marketing.  

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