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’ve even got a trademark sound effect—that short snap at the top of each video—that’s both catchy and instantly recognizable.
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.