Nintendo is now one of the biggest digital entertainment brands in the world, and despite exclusively targeting the video game sector, it can afford to keep up with rival tech giants. While Microsoft and Sony could generate revenue from home computing, home viewing, and other domestic technologies, Nintendo had to become a serial innovator to keep up, and on more than one occasion it called on promotional marketing to do it more effectively…
Mario the pioneer
Nintendo’s first global marketing success was with the Mario franchise. The likable Italian plumber first appeared in video games in 1981 with a cameo in the title Donkey Kong, but after Mario was given his own game in 1985, Nintendo never looked back. In the late ’80s, into the ’90s and beyond, video games were seen as a special interest with little mass appeal, yet Mario still managed to sell more than 400 million games in a legacy spanning four decades.
The marketing agencies at Nintendo realized early on that they had a hit with the friendly Mario, and it was clear the character could be pivoted into a lucrative revenue generator beyond his video game incarnation. It didn’t take long for promotional merchandise and other spin-offs to build on the success of the Mario video game. By 1993 Mario had his own TV show and a Hollywood film, while a large quantity of Mario branded merchandise went on sale at about the same time.
Now, fans of the franchise can buy Mario mugs, hats, alarm clocks, toys, games and all kinds of things promotional merchandise and clothing You want to mention – there’s even a website dedicated exclusively to Mario merchandise!
Pokemon follow him
However, the folks at Nintendo weren’t satisfied with one global marketing phenomenon, and behind Mario came Pokemon. Pokémon became Nintendo’s second runaway success story within a decade, after Satoshi Tajiri’s monster fighting, collecting, and trading RPG for the Nintendo Game Boy launched in 1996. The game was so simple and inherently addictive, that Nintendo quickly realized they were taking a hit. again and started marketing Pokemon using the Mario template.
If Pokémon’s marketing campaign is even more aggressive and all-encompassing than Mario, and in a short time Nintendo has released wildly lucrative Pokémon trading cards, a Pokémon TV series, and numerous Pokémon movies. Of course promotional merchandise is not far behind this venture, with action figures, cuddly toys, posters, bed sheets and a myriad of other promotional items providing the company with yet another lucrative revenue stream.
Nintendo’s promotional model is a cyclical process, bringing in new fans from many different sources. Fans of the Pokémon TV series may be compelled to purchase copies of the video game, while those introduced to the franchise by the games themselves may develop a taste for trading cards. This process has helped Nintendo to produce two of the highest-grossing game franchises of all time, despite competition from rivals with much larger budgets.
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