I’ve been watching the most recent Wii U television ads, and if I weren’t a Nintendo fan or a hardcore gamer, the idea of playing games with two completely different controllers would confuse me.
Wii U’s marketing suffers from a split personality disorder with two main controllers competing for attention. Nintendo can’t decide on whether motion controls or touch controls should be the main attraction of Wii U’s bipolar marketing. When Nintendo advertises two different controllers at the same time, this leads to information overload, and information overload will push consumers away from a product. As long as this continues, consumers will never fully understand what Nintendo is trying to accomplish with this system. Offering options for different controller interfaces is good for gamers, but it has become a nightmare for the marketing divisions at Nintendo of America/Europe.
I wish Nintendo would focus on advertising one controller — either the GamePad or the Wii remote — so the messaging behind their marketing would remain consistent and coherent. Touch screen controls and motion controls are two completely opposite ways to play video games, and watching Nintendo advertise both of them at the same time is turning Wii U’s marketing into a confusing mess. The only thing that has been consistent throughout Wii U’s marketing campaigns is their family focus.
I thought about recent packaging for Wii U titles like “Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Sochi 2014” and “Wii Party U”. The first thing that catches your eye on the packaging is the giant Wii remote, not a GamePad or the Wii U logo.
On the Wii Party U box, the size of the GamePad is super tiny in comparison to the giant Wii remote which takes up 1/3rd of space on the front packaging. The size comparison makes consumers believe that the GamePad is just some side attraction while the Wii remote is the main attraction. The packaging for Wii U’s “Mario & Sonic at the Winter Olympics” is even stranger because the Wii U GamePad is not shown at all. Instead, a large picture of a Wii remote takes up 1/3rd of the front packaging. If consumers didn’t see the teal blue, they would probably assume “Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games” was a Wii game — instead of a Wii U title.
If you observe current and previous packaging of Wii/Wii U games bundled with remotes, you can see how easily consumers could mistake certain Wii U games for Wii games.
Some people want to believe that box art can’t confuse consumers, but yesterday on NeoGaf, there was a thread about a person’s sister asking why the Wii U version of Just Dance 2014 wasn’t working on her Wii.
If you rewind back in August 2013, Vooks.net posted a picture from a JB Hi-Fi store in Malvern, Victoria. The store posted a sign to help customers figure out the difference between Wii and Wii U games. The sign explained that Wii games would be found in white cases and Wii U games are in blue cases.
Multi-player has always been Nintendo’s strength, but marketing multi-player has become a liability for Wii U. When Nintendo’s marketing focuses on three people playing with Wii remotes, and one person playing with the Wii U GamePad, people assume that the Gamepad is an accessory for the original Wii. This was a problem in 2012, it’s still a problem in 2013, and it will continue to be a problem in 2016.
People enjoyed Wii Sports because everyone had the same controller during multiplayer (Wii remote + nunchuck). Because everyone used the same controllers, everyone was on the same page (kids and adults). But when you market Wii U as this system where one person has one controller, and another person has a completely different controller, how do you expect mainstream consumers to understand this?
For example, take a look at the TV commercial for “Mario and Sonic at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games 2014”. The commercial shows parents figure skating with the Wii remotes, but not with the GamePad. The commercial then shows the son snowboarding with the GamePad, but not with the Wii remote. The parents watch the son snowboarding, but they don’t participate in the fun. An earlier scene in the commercial shows the kid bobsledding with the GamePad while the rest of the family have Wii remotes.
When consumers watch this Mario & Sonic TV advertisement, the first thoughts traveling through their mind are, “Which is the main controller? Do I need to learn both controllers to play this game? Which mini-games are GamePad only? Which mini-games are Wii remote only? Which mini-games require both a Wiimote + GamePad? Which mini-games are multi-player only? Which mini-games are single-player only?”
Parents are already intimidated from just using one game controller, and asking them to understand two different controllers is a bit of a stretch.
I had a conversation with two female co-employees — Christina and Brittany — who both owned Wii Fit Plus for the first Wii. Neither knew much about the Wii U or Wii Fit U so I explained the details to each of them. The two women who bought Wii Fit Plus were not gamers, but they found the Wii appealing because it made fitness more fun. I’ve lost count of how many women told me,“I prefer playing Wii instead of pressing buttons and sitting on the couch all day.”
Over the weekend, I invited both women to my home to play Wii Fit U, Nintendo Land, and Wii Party U. We laughed. We had fun. We watched each other look like fools on the balance board while holding all of these different controllers. Everyone seemed to be having a good time. After they had to chance to actually experience the Wii U, I wanted to hear their general opinions of the console. Both women admitted that the GamePad provided fun, unique experiences, but they were turned off by the idea of having to keep switching between different controllers.
“Wii Fit U seems really cool, but it asks people to juggle too many pieces of plastic,” said Brittany.
Christina agreed, “If you’re not a big gamer who is already comfortable with game controllers, then going back and forth between the GamePad, the Wii remote, and the Balance Board is an awkward feeling.”
In theory, giving gamers tons of ways to control their games should have made video games more simple. But I’ve read many studies (like this one) that say giving people too many options isn’t always a good thing.
Nintendo would be better off showing only one controller in television advertisements. Keep things simple, and stop over-complicating Wii U’s overall message.
As they say…Sometimes showing less is more.