This past weekend, I sat through an hour of Pokémon GetTV--a Japanese television show that hosts a rerun of the Pokémon anime, followed by half an hour of absurdity. It was everything you've been trained to believe that Japanese television is: a carnival of marketing absurdity and seizure-inducing wackiness. Every few minutes the hosts would take a break from showing an adult in a pink jumpsuit rummaging around a child's house looking for hidden Pokémon toys to show you that--yes--Nintendo is still selling merchandise. Near the end they took a few minutes to promote Pokémon Battle Trozei and then showed like, twenty seconds of footage from Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. It was absurd, sensational, and the best chance Nintendo has to salvage the Wii U in America.
You already know that Nintendo is struggling. You know it posted record losses, and that its system is on its way to outright failure unless something drastic happens within the next year or so. And you likely have your own idea as to how Nintendo can save itself. Cut the price? Maybe. Release a ton of games? Obviously, but easier said than done. Ditch the system and make a new one? Not in the cards.
The solution, the real solution, is in licensing, and a ton of it. And from the sounds of it, that's exactly what Nintendo's going to do. Iwata recently confirmed that the company is looking into "possibilities in licensing character IP in areas Nintendo has never worked before." When he said that, no one really knew exactly what he was talking about--but after watching GetTV, I think I'm starting to get it. Nintendo's clearest path to victory is doing in America what is already did 15 years ago: create an abundance of demand by promoting the hell out of its brands.
Walk into a Toys 'R Us, and you'll be met with entire aisles of things that aren't as popular as Mario. There are entire sections dedicated to Ninja Turtles and Minecraft; huge aisles of Tiny Birds figures that no one seems to ever buy. Hell, the average store has more Rabbids than it has Metroids--but that could all change if Nintendo plays this right.
If Nintendo were to launch cartoons, movies, or other entertainment products based on its many beloved licenses would help it in every way possible. The shows themselves might be profitable, giving the franchises expanded life, and the success of the TV brands would bolster the success of the brands in general. A successful Mario show airing on Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network could easily beget a newfound demand for Mario games--same goes for Star Fox, Metroid, Zelda, and just about every major Nintendo franchise.
Why am I so sure this would work? Because it already has once before. Without the Pokémon television show, there's a good chance that Pokémon Red and Blue wouldn't have been the juggernauts they were in America. Sure, the quality of the games helped a lot, but it's safe to say that Pokémania wouldn't have hit critical mass if not for the TV shows, marketing, toys, and everything else that served to remind kids that they absolutely needed to Catch 'em All™.
And sure, none of the brands Nintendo would be promoting would be as successful as Pokémon is in Japan, but that's the point. If Nintendo plays big with its franchise, and lures people to its games through a massive amount of licensing, there's really nothing stopping them from success. There's room for Mario and Link to flourish beyond the latest game releases, if only Nintendo would take the chance.
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