Prepare yourselves for a doom-laden post! The sky is falling, Nintendo is going under, we’ll never play a console game again…!! Actually, despite the sensationalist headline, I do intend to ask a legitimate question: Is a Nintendo Switch PR crisis looming? I’m not sure of the answer, but I work on the fringes of the PR world in my day-to-day life, and having watched Nintendo’s recent Direct I have some marketing-related questions in my mind as to how the company will retain a grip on the public’s imagination throughout 2019.
Nobody can deny that Nintendo’s September presentation was a strong one. The announcement of a new Animal Crossing game for 2019 was undoubtedly the highlight of the event, arguably followed by the ‘upgraded’ version of Super Mario Bros. U and the mammoth Final Fantasy bundle. We already know that a new Pokémon game is on its way next year, and a handful of other titles featuring beloved Nintendo characters have already been showcased (albeit briefly) in the form of Yoshi’s Crafted World and Luigi’s Mansion 3. Plus of course there was the news that Animal Crossing‘s Isabelle would be featured as a playable character in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
So yes, that’s quite a lot to be excited about – my games shelf toppleth over! And when we talk about PR ‘crises’ we cannot realistically brand September’s Direct with this label. Yes there were a few voices of dissent from those gamers who will only be satisfied with every Metroid Prime game ever and all of the Legend of Zelda titles remastered in HD (with Waluigi as a bonus character) but the general mood from Switch owners seems to be one of excitement and anticipation.
So I look at all this with my PR head on and wonder: where on earth does Nintendo go from here? I mean, announcing things is the easy part. Keeping people excited – or even making them more excited – and then turning those people into sales statistics is where things get complicated. Moreover, we’re fast approaching the winter fangasm that will be Super Smash Bros. Ultimate / Super Mario Party / Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu, so it’s fair to say that Switch owners aren’t going to be feeling starved as we head into 2019. You’ll also have those players who are discovering the Switch platform for the first time, perhaps immersing themselves in the worlds of the hugely successful Breath of the Wild, Splatoon 2 and maybe even Fortnite. Twiddling their thumbs they won’t be!
What this amounts to is a potential over-saturation in a galaxy not too far, far away. I make this subtle comparison after the box office indifference towards Disney’s recent Solo feature, which came hot on the tails of a major Star Wars movie salvo. Disney has since agreed that it offered too much too quickly, and has stated its intention to gently apply the brakes. Could Nintendo be facing a similar problem? It’s certainly possible – a Nintendo Switch PR crisis could be on the horizon.
But then, the company is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, it has to reassure its shareholders that it has a stack of grand plans to send the profit graph through the stratosphere. But if it’s more coy and chooses to hold back some key announcements, it runs the risk of failing to generate enough excitement. And judging by the comments on the latest Direct video, it’s clear that some Switch users are a tough crowd to please.
Okay, so what does Nintendo have in its favour in 2019? What rabbits can it pull out of hats in future Direct showcases?? Well, the details about the next Pokémon title are sure to get people talking, and hopefully in a positive way if Nintendo pitches the game right. Ditto Animal Crossing. It’s a game that people have been craving for a while, and the fact that it’s finally on its way is great news to many. But will those titles alone be enough to fuel a year of nail-biting Directs? Not really. I mean we don’t know what else the company has in store, but I wouldn’t have thought it would want to roll out another Mario Bros. game too soon, and you can only offer so many ports (deluxe or not) before people begin to twig that everything on offer is basically a re-release.
As such, it might be a bit of an exaggeration to say that a Nintendo Switch PR ‘crisis’ is looming. Maybe a conundrum, or a head-scratcher. That being said, Nintendo is arguably one of the most innovative and creative brands in the world of gaming, so there’s every chance that it will grab hold of this puzzle with enthusiasm and smiles. Let’s enjoy the ride.
And heck, Game Freak’s Town may turn out to be the greatest console game of all time. Move over, Shadow of Memories!