Brand Study – Nintendo (Part 3)

December 2130, 2009
Categories: Blog, Brand Study

continued from Part 2…


So we have just looked at Nintendo‘s rise to power in the 1980’s by focusing their brand on promising powerful technology and gaming excellence. We also looked at Nintendo throughtout the 1990’s as the market slipped past them. Gaming console began to proliforate the market and quantity began to prevail over quality, and first-to-market became more important than innovation. Nintendo was able to stick their ‘finger-in-the-dam’ hold back the invasion of consumer electronic giants, but that wasn’t going to last forever. So grab some poptarts and peanut butter and sit back as we look at Nintendo’s gamble into the new millennium.

So let me paint a little picture of the landscape of 2005. Sony ruled the schoolyard of video gaming for the rest of the millennium when which the Third Age of Video Gaming was about to begin. This time the war was between the new and improved Sony Playstation 2 versus the up and coming challenger, Microsoft‘s Xbox. It scares me to mention that Nintendo rolled out the GameCube because that little purple box was barely even an undercard to the big fight. Not to mention that Sony was also eye-balling the handheld market by releasing it’s multimedia-enabled device, the Playstation Portable (PSP) in hopes to finally wipe Nintendo off the planet (insert GAME OVER joke here).

The war raged on between Microsoft and Sony. The PS2 and Xbox went blow for blow for a couple years with PS2 winning most of the battles. Xbox had in fact never read history, and their struggles mirrored Nintendo’s demise in the 1996. Which brings us to 2005… the calm before the storm. One year before the scheduled release of the Playstation 3, Microsoft dropped a bomb on the gaming community by unveiling their new Xbox 360 at E3 2006.  A war was brewing…

Wii Move You

blueocean-wiiPretty much grim right? How can Nintendo possibly get back to fighting with the big boys? This was the question that was left in the hands of the brain-trust of Nintendo – either come up with something new, or find a new job.  So, locked in a room with a white board and a box of Pocky, they went to work on righting the ship.  If you happen to be a fly on the wall in that room that whiteboard they were brainstorming on would look something like the diagram on the right.  For all you gamers out there, this graph simply shows that the Xbox 360 and PS3 are pretty much nose to know in almost every category except the two items, motion control and public appeal.  For all you non-gamers/business strategists, this chart should be easily recognized as a Blue Ocean Strategy.

Blue Ocean is a new age business strategy which focuses on ignoring the competition completely, and creating new customers and new markets and just servicing their new customers – “If you build it, they will come” sort-of-dealio.  Essentially, Microsoft and Sony were fighting in the competitive “Red Ocean”, and Nintendo wanted no part of that bloodbath, so instead they would rather sail off in to the “Blue Ocean” with a new product where there’s less competition.

Now if you noticed at this point, Nintendo’s original brand promise of power and technology, had waned and wavered to “Please buy me – I still have Mario”.  Pressured under the strains of competition, the Nintendo brand had strayed far off course and now was a time to return to their roots – but instead of putting the power and technology back into the hands of gamers, they were aiming to put it in the hands of the non-gamer.  The newly merged technology departments of Nintendo went to work on a new console that will appeal to mom and pop, child and teen, you and me.

wiiI remember going to E3 in 2006 armed with my backpack for swag and my 2megapixel camera hoping to get some pictures of new technology (I’m a liar, the camera was for the booth girls).  Walking in to the LA Convention Center all the buzz was about the Xbox 360, but walking out, all the buzz was the Nintendo Wii (actually it was unnamed at that point).  Strangely, the public were never allowed to even see it let along play it.  Those that were able to try it, loved it.  Those that didn’t see it, doubted it.  But slowly yet surely, screenshots and video clips were leaked to the media showing images of this crazy, motion-controlled, nun-chuck, gamepad, stringy-thingy controller held by people in goofy poses, sweating and smiling from ear-to-ear.  Clearly Nintendo had created something very special.  Product testing has proved this new console was madly fun, and incredibly addicting.  Market test also showed that the addiction and fun transcended the gamer community and had global appeal.

Doubts turned to curiosity.  Curiosity turned to anticipation.  And just before Chirstmas of 2006, anticipation turned into cash flow.  Contrary to all the game release strategies of the past, the Wii released with barely a handful of game titles, and was under-powered (no HD, no DVD, no hard drive, no online marketplace).  But that didn’t matter. I was just about to say the Nintendo Wii hit the shelves, but they barely made it off the receiving dock before they sold out across the globe.  Combined with a fun marketing blitz, interactive gameplay kiosks, and a super cheap price point, the Nintendo Wii was an instant hit.  Children were play with their parents, parents were playing with their grand-parents.  It was a beautiful thing!

wii_logoNintendo had done the impossible, they had become a force again.  Nintendo had embraced their old brand strategy combined with a new Blue Ocean Strategy and re-wrote the definition of “gamer”.  Nintendo made some major brand adjustments in 2007 to market to their new found customers.  Gamers are typically loud, bright, and hi-octane, and the Nintendo was no longer wanted to be associated with these clowns.  Nintendo customers were more generic and diverse, and their brand had to represent that.  The previous brand guides of hi-fi art was turfed for a simple grey font with a clean, white background.  The official color of the Nintendo logo was also changed from bright red to a muted grey.  A new slogan was adapted with the simple brand promise, “Wii Move You”.  All of these brand changes.. simple slogan, clean design, dull colors was to prove to the world that the Will was for everybody.  Through 2007 and 2008 the Wii constantly remained on backorder in all store, and it’s popularity grew.  In 2008, the WiiFit was introduced which further cemented Nintendo’s brand promise of fun and mobility for everyone.


By no means, does this conclude the rise and fall of Nintendo.  Last year, Activation and Red Octane has inavertedly allowed Xbox 360 and Playstation to enter into Nintendo’s blue waters.  And just last month, Tony Hawk released the first motion-controlled skateboard to all consoles.  The blue waters are starting to have a red hue, and it remains to be seen if Nintendo’s brand promise can still deliver or if they have to re-invent themselves again, to stay ahead.

[part 1] [part 2] [part 3]


Wikipedia History of Nintendo
BrandChannel: Nintendo Leaps and Bounds
Wii: Creating a Blue Ocean Strategy the Nintendo Way
Nintendo Brand to Take a Backseat?

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3 Responses to “Brand Study – Nintendo (Part 3)”

  1. Randall Beck says:

    Thanks for this great blog.

  2. KnowOrange says:

    does this website have a mailiing list?