Posted by: seanmalstrom | February 1, 2014

Email: Nintendo Power

Hey Sean,
I love that you’ve been talking about Nintendo Power. I totally agree that it is an underappreciated factor in the success of the NES. I got a subscription for my birthday when I was 9. I couldn’t wait for the new issue every month! I was close to tears some months when I was expecting it in the mail and it still hadn’t come (<– not a huge exaggeration).
I think the magazine did a good job of putting you into the worlds of the games and into the Nintendo universe. Maybe it’s just my age talking, but the Internet is a different medium and doesn’t seem to do the job quite as well. The magazine was full of maps and illustrations, comics, and letters and pictures from other Nintendo nerds. The magazine had a friendly tone, like talking to somebody who liked games as much as you did. Maybe I’m just not paying attention, but I’m not sure if that exists anymore in Nintendo’s marketing.
I think the wide coverage of the magazine was part of its success as a marketing tool. Each issue talked about a wide range of different games, past, present, and future. Tips, secrets, and high scores were given even for games that had been out for a while; maps, features, and posters were produced for contemporary games; and photos and blurbs of upcoming games and Japan-only titles sparked the imagination. Such coverage provided a sense of depth to the entire Nintendo universe and phenomenon. It exposed readers to all kinds of different games, some of which they may not have heard of. The medium of the web tends to limit this kind of broad exposure, since readers pick and choose what they will click on and read. With a magazine, a reader will at least get a glimpse of other games as he thumbs through the pages.
I think Nintendo lost an opportunity in letting the magazine go. I think they let the magazine’s tone and audience age too much, leaving the kids high and dry. Nintendo Power was the #1 children’s magazine in the US for a time. These days, I don’t think a lot of 8- to 11-year-olds read game news sites (I could be wrong about this, since I don’t hang around a lot of 11- and 12-year-olds). How do they market to this segment of consumers now? (Serious question.) I think a friendly, content-rich magazine would still be a good way to reach younger kids. Of course, it will help if Nintendo worked harder to create fresh, content-rich games to cover like in the past. But I dunno, I guess pretty much any games will be new and exciting to young kids. Maybe I’m just old.
Those are some of my thoughts. What do you think?

Nintendo Power didn’t really talk down to kids. It used a type of Japanese style (?) for the magazine that wasn’t often seen in the US. It relied more on images than words. US magazines, even kids’ magazines like Boy’s Life and all, tended to be very wordy. Just open up to any old Nintendo Power, and the flooding of images really gets you. Nintendo Power offered an atmospheric quality that drew you in instead of relying on words, words, words. Maps, comics, the illustrations dancing around the page’s borders, and to the little images of Counselor’s Corner to the Letter’s Page to the Top 30 all contributed to this atmospheric force. You didn’t read Nintendo Power. You inhaled it.

If Nintendo plans to utilize smartphones and tablets as supplements to the game experience, one excellent area to look in is the MMORPG or Minecraft or Terraria spaces. The database pages are extremely popular. Minecraft just hit 14 million users on the PC so apparently the supplements of the wiki page isn’t hurting.

Smartphones and tablets could serve a similar job as Nintendo Power once did. While they would convey information, what is very important that they convey the atmosphere. People could still be in the game’s ‘atmosphere’ even when they are away from their console.


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