Sunday, June 17, 2012
Is the Wii U Going to Have Branding Issues?
Ever since Nintendo announced the Wii U back at E3 2011, there has been a lot of confusion surrounding the new console. After the original revealing last year, many game enthusiasts and journalists were confused as to what it really was. It was quite common to see someone call the next generation console an add on to the Wii. Nintendo later clarified that it was indeed a new console, and instead of focusing on the actual box, they were focusing on the new controller. After that, pretty much every single person familiar with the industry realized that the Wii U was indeed a new console and not a peripheral, but the general consensus was that Nintendo needed to rebrand the Wii's successor or focus on the hardware.
One year later at E3 2012, Nintendo again only focusesd on the new Wii U GamePad and not on the actual console. While gamers and journalists in the gaming industry knew the Wii U was a new console, the masses who read and pay attention to non-gaming media outlets did not. Over the last few weeks, we have even seen a journalist from CNN and Jimmy Fallon on his television show claim that the new console a simple add on to the current hardware. It seems to be a common point of confusion for everyone who is just learning about Nintendo's next console, and it is a legitimate concern for Nintendo if they want to the Wii U to have a successful few months after launch.
So what can Nintendo do to avoid such confusion as we get closer to the Wii U's launch this holiday season? Well, the first and most obvious point of action to take would have been to change the name, but it seems a little bit too late for that to happen now. The issue with the Wii U's name is the fact that the simple addition of the letter U is not indicative of a hardware upgrade. I have seen people say that since Sony did not have an issue with branding moving from the Playstation 2 to the Playstation 3, neither should Nintendo, but the difference between the Playstation successors and the Wii's successor is that going from a two to a three is an obvious sequel and upgrade. It has been ingrained in our culture. When a better, upgraded product comes out, it usually has a new number attached to the end of its name. This is true for movies, video games, consoles, electronic devices, and so on. A simple letter does not evoke the same kind of upgrade, especially when the "Wii" part of the Wii U's logo is exactly the same as the Wii's logo.
There is also the issue that this generation has been plagued with new additions to consoles that do not require completely new hardware. The Xbox Kinect, the Playstation Move, the Wii Balance Board, Wii Motion Plus, and the Wii Zapper are just a few examples of the add-ons created during this generation of hardware. The Wii especially has had many additions and games that use the Wii's name and logo, followed by a new word, such as Wii Fit. I understand that Nintendo wanted to keep the Wii branding because it is a money maker for them, but they should have changed the font and coloring of the Wii part of the Wii U's logo or added a word that signifies an actual hardware upgrade, like a Super Wii or Wii Advance. Those kinds of changes give off the feeling that this new console is something better than a simple Wii.
It also does not help that the actual Wii U hardware looks extremely identical to the Wii's hardware at first glance. By keeping the Wii's name and logo and designing the hardware to look reminiscent of the current generation hardware, Nintendo is asking for confusion during the first few months of the Wii U's life. It would help a little bit if Nintendo actually showed off the box from time to time, but they seem insistent on associating the name Wii U with the controller instead of the box. While I think that is a great idea, they can still show the box off from time to time while still focusing most of their time on the new GamePad.
Nintendo also needs to stop focusing on the fact that you can use the old Wii Remote and other Wii peripherals with the next console. While I understand that Nintendo wants to show off multiplayer games, throwing the Wii Remote into trailers and advertisements for upcoming games is just going to confuse non gamers even more. They will see the same Wii logo, see hardware the reminds them of the Wii, and then see the Wii Remote and Balance Board they already own and come to the conclusion that the Wii U is not a completely new piece of hardware. Nintendo needs to show people playing exclusively with the Wii U's GamePad for most games in order to set up the idea that the Wii U is a completely new piece of hardware that has little to do with Wii hardware.
Of course, Nintendo can avoid a branding issue without chaning the name, design, or logo by having a simple advertising campaign that puts some focus on the actual hardware instead of only on the controller. By adding a simple phrase saying something along the lines of "Only possible on Wii U," along with a shot of new hardware at the end of each advertisement, Nintendo can help ingrain the idea that the Wii U is the Wii's successor in people's minds. However, the thing Nintendo cannot do in my mind is focus solely on the new GamePad and Wii Remote integration like they have been doing in the weeks following E3. That kind of advertising campaign would only reinforce the idea that the Wii U is simply an add on to the current Wii.
They also cannot have a standalone Wii U GamePad available around launch. By only allowing people to buy the GamePad and console together, Nintendo would avoid a countless parents and non gamers buying a controller they are not able to use. While it may be a little disappointing to people who want to play multiplayer games with two GamePads, it would be more beneficial to Nintendo during the first six or so months of the Wii U's life to not have standalone GamePads.
While I have been a little negative toward the Wii U, I do not think it will be a failure. If Nintendo really does have branding issues during the first few months, I am pretty sure that we will see a new advertising campaign or something similar to turn Wii U's sales around. Nintendo has done it recently in the past with the 3DS, so they can do it again with the Wii U. I do realize that the 3DS also had a massive price drop to help it, but Nintendo still managed to successfully communicate to people that the 3DS was not a new iteration of the old DS after months of confusion surrounding the handheld.
And certainly, no one can actually say without a doubt if the Wii U will have a branding problem when it releases this holiday season. For all we know, Nintendo could run one of the best advertising campaigns the gaming industry has ever seen, even surpassing the original Wii's early advertisements. I am only basing this post off of what we have seen from Nintendo at the E3 conferences and the general reaction from various websites and gamers.
So, what do you guys think? Does the Wii U have a branding issue or am I creating an alternate reality in my head? If it does have an issue, what steps do you think Nintendo can take to clarify the situation? Let me know in the comments!