The YouTube comment section on any video that mentions the Nintendo Wii U is filled with confusion and a litany of questions, but it wasn’t until I got a job at GameStop that I realized how badly Nintendo communicated the function of their new device to their customers. Kids knew they wanted it, but didn’t know how to explain to their parents what is was; only die-hard Nintendo fans that watched their “Nintendo Direct” press conferences understood the concept. The question I was greeted with the most was “How much does the Wii U cost?” with parent’s hands outstretched as if they were holding an invisible Etch A Sketch. Parents wanted the new tablet that synced with their Wii at home so their kids could play their games on the go. The most informed question I had was if they could buy an additional Wii U tablet [for the Wii U they already owned] because they knew their kids would end up fighting over who got to use the tablet and who was stuck with a regular controller.
The 2014-2015 release of the New Nintendo 3DS was evidence that Nintendo had not learned from their previous mistakes. Why anyone in Nintendo America’s marketing department thought adding the qualifier “new” to the name of ANY item is beyond me. “New” signifies nothing aside from the recent introduction or creation of something, it does not communicate to the buyer that it is a console upgrade – an entirely different system with additional processing power and access to a wider variety of games. People had no idea that the games made for this system would not work with the “Nintendo 3DS” and that the two were not interchangeable.
Kids asking for the “New Nintendo 3DS” would return to GameStop after Christmas with disappointment and disbelief strewn across their faces; all ultimately expressing the same thing: they’d asked for the New Nintendo 3DS, and as they unwrapped their present they were greeted with the old one. Because, when walking into a store parents didn’t know that “New” was part of the device’s title, so they left it off – returning home with a device that was released over 4 years prior. Even looking up the two devices on Google gives you the same results unless “Nintendo” is inserted between New and 3DS. If the world’s most prominent search engine can’t tell the difference unless you use the exact wording, how should they expect parents to?
With the Switch, it seems like Nintendo learned their lesson. Before it was even announced, Nintendo’s new device codenamed “NX” was widely rumored as a console that could be used both at home on your couch and standalone away from a television. Speculated as a hybrid between the 3DS and the Wii U, news outlets and gamers had more than an implication of what the system would be. And this time, when Nintendo was ready to unveil their project, they used no words. Their initial trailer showed adults playing their system at home on their couches before picking it up and going outside. It showed them using the device on the train and in a park, even one woman toting it to a rooftop party before returning home, docking the device and continuing gameplay on her television. Without uttering a word, their cleared up any confusion and instantly provided their consumer base with the information they needed to understand that the Nintendo Switch was a brand new device with before unseen capabilities.
Who they hired to make this change, I don’t know – but it was worth the risk. Nintendo might be slipping into a niche market, but that should come as a result of the market, not due to their own missteps. Hopefully, this will keep them in the mainstream for a bit longer.
tldr; After Nintendo’s history of using confusing nomenclature to market their devices, they may have finally learned from their mistakes – welcome: the Nintendo Switch.