Should Nintendo Take More Inspiration from The Pokemon Company?

As most fans know, Nintendo’s marketing efforts leave a lot to be desired. From the sometimes questionable posts on social media to the non existent efforts in the UK in general, the company has always struggled with getting their brands out there.

But there’s one company that they associate with that has no such problems. Namely, the Pokemon Company International. And so I wondered something.

Should Nintendo take more inspiration from them in regards to marketing? Would it be better if Nintendo took some advice from the Pokemon franchise in regards to how to market their Mario and Zelda games again?

Because on at least some level, the guys behind the Pokemon series and its marketing are really damn good at their jobs. They’ve taken a series which become a fad about a decade ago, and kept it relevant for years upon years by carefully releasing information and news to keep people’s interest in the franchise.

They’ve successfully expanded the brand into every field possible and gotten whole new audiences for the games in the process. And while they’ve done some questionable things in regards to fan work before, they’ve also been a lot more supportive of their fans than Nintendo has as a whole.

So let’s look at some of this in more detail, and see how Nintendo could learn some useful lessons here.

The first thing they did well with Pokemon (that Nintendo kind of forgot about) was the adaptations. In this regard, Pokemon is not very much like Mario or Zelda. Oh sure, there’s a main video game series that things all tie back to, yeah. But there’s also:

  • A long running, incredibly popular anime based on the games
  • A trading card game, which has its own legions of fans and a still active tournament scene
  • Tons and tons of manga adaptations of the games, which have every tone possible (from the darker Pokemon Special to the much lighter Pocket Monsters Manga)
  • A short lived newspaper comic (yes really)
  • A stage show

And heck, there’s even other interesting stuff here too. Books exist based on the anime series. The trading card game got a Game Boy adaptation with its own characters and storyline. A Pokemon live action adaptation is apparently coming some time in the future. And stuff like Pokemon GO presents other versions of the series for people who want to play it on their smartphones instead of traditional consoles.

Either way, you know what the effects of all this are?

People stay obsessed with the series, even if their interest in the games fades away. If they get bored of the RPGs or gaming as a whole, they can still be Pokemon fans by following the manga series or the anime or collecting cards or just about anything else you can imagine.

Additionally, a lot of people also discover the series via these adaptations. I mean, how many people do you know who first heard of Pokemon through watching the TV show and listening to that catchy theme song?

Or collecting cards at school because everyone else was into it at the time? I know lots of people who did.

Either way, that’s the first thing that Nintendo should learn from them. How to create an expanded universe and successfully bring their brands into other mediums.

Another thing the Pokemon Company do well is supporting the competitive scenes for their games.

I mean okay, Nintendo do sponsor some Smash Bros tournaments now, we get that,

But Nintendo don’t really run any of them directly. And worse, they actively tried to shut down the scene the first they heard about it. They tried to stop Super Smash Bros Melee being played at EVO, despite all the popularity the game had developed by that point.

Either way, while they’re better now, their heart still doesn’t seem to quite be in this whole ‘eSports’ lark. They support it, but they don’t really do enough to bring more attention to the scenes for their games.

Contrast this to the Pokemon situation. Here, the people behind the series 100% support the metagame and the competitive scene. Play Pokemon runs official tournaments for both the main video games and card game every year, with various heats taking place all round the world. When Pokken Tournament came out and got popular, guess what? They started official competitions for that too, with players in North America and Europe competing to see who’s best at the game.

And again, they promote this stuff heavily. Look at their Youtube channel for instance You’ve got tons of coverage of the regional championships and what not right there. They post about the competitions and who won on Twitter and Facebook near instantly. They give away copies of the Pokemon teams used by winning trainers and post up some of their strategies and oversights on the official website.

Nintendo should provide this level of support.

And what’s more, they should start trying to get tournament scenes going for their other games too.

Look at Splatoon for instance. It’s hugely popular online and there are some really good players who would love to see an official competitive scene for the title.

But guess what? There doesn’t seem to be one. The Famitsu guys talked about running with a $1 million dollar prize, and people on forums have set up unofficial competitions, but Nintendo support is literally non existent. The game isn’t being treated as a serious eSport despite its high level of popularity and the many people out there who would happily play it as one.

And this goes for their other franchises too. There’s a competitive Mario Kart scene, but we’ve never seen anyone at Nintendo get involved with these games.

There’s an ‘East vs West London’ Mario Kart tournament, various library and college tournaments and multiple world record sites, yet no one at Nintendo even acknowledges that any of this even exists. You’ve got a series which could rival Super Smash Bros in the eSports arena, yet it’s just going completely ignored.

Oh, and how about some other franchises too? F-Zero has the makings of its own tournament scene based on F-Zero GX. Just look at these crazy runs of the game:

Or the leaderboards:

F-Zero Leaderboard – F-Zero Central

Yet again, nothing. Not only did Nintendo not support the competitive scene for this series, they outright left the franchise to die after the Gamecube and GBA instalments.

Nintendo needs to learn how to turn more of their games into bonafide eSports, and should look to the Pokemon Company for an example in how to do it right.

Which brings us to the one final thing that Nintendo needs to learn from the Pokemon Company.

How to market their games properly.

Because let’s face it, the Pokemon games are really well marketed. They get multiple Nintendo Direct like reveals a month. The websites get updated on a regular basis. In Japan, there’s a full fledged TV show that reveals new information about the games every week. They know how to grab people’s attention and keep it right up until release day.

Above: Stuff like this comes from nowhere

What’s more, these guys will take risks to get the series name out there. Like that Pokemon Super Bowl commercial they did earlier in the year:

That cost around $5 million dollars for the ad slot alone. 5 million! On a commercial whose sole purpose is to basically say ‘Pokemon still exists and it’s been around for 20 years’.

Or how about the theme park? Sure, Nintendo’s doing a deal with Universal for theme park space now. But there was a smaller scale Pokemon one back in 2005 or 2006. Didn’t last too long, but it was definitely something.

That’s the big difference between Nintendo and their marketing and the Pokemon Company’s own marketing really. One takes big risks that may potentially cost millions of dollars (but which could get lots more people interested in their games). The other… just kind of hopes social media and nostalgia will draw people in on their own and does little other than that.

But you can’t rely on that nowadays. Build it and they’ll come doesn’t work as a marketing strategy. No, you need to sell your work in as blatant a way as possible.

I mean, imagine if Nintendo really did that. If instead of just showing Breath of the Wild online, they decide to go out and buy a ton of prime TV ad slots for it (like right during Game of Thrones or something). And then they ran this trailer:

Nintendo would blast their series sales records out of the water. They’ve already got an amazing looking game, what matters now is to trying to get people to know about it.

So take some ideas from the Pokemon Company and their series marketing Nintendo. Get those adaptations out there, support the competitive scene and advertise the damn hell out of your work, and you will do much better than you’re doing right now.

You can create another NES or Wii level phenomenon, you just need to get your franchise names out there more.