Whether via raw gameplay, poorly-costumed dancers on a soundstage or through questionable scatological humor, Nintendo commercials worldwide have found ways for decades to sell their products to all walks of life.
Admittedly, these days they are a bit toothless.
A few days ago, Nintendo’s Hong Kong division released a video showcasing some of the Switch’s most popular games. It was quick. It was to the point. It was boring.
Commercials have been an integral part of the gaming industry’s marketing strategy since even before Jack Black hawked Pitfall for Atari.
But, this isn’t a tribute to the history of commercials in gaming. Nor is it a look at some of the weirder commercials produced in the United States (Cleanprincegaming already covered that in an enjoyable post last year). It’s a look at how the rest of the advertising world has sought fit to market Nintendo through the years.
We start in the land of pizza and Pisa. In 1986, Nintendo’s Italian division was still hawking the iconic “Game & Watch” devices, as can be seen in this somewhat cringe-worthy commercial. Stop looking into my soul, creepy children!
In the days of Mike Myers’-era Saturday Night Live and his “best German television,” Germany wasn’t above poking fun of itself, either. This commercial proves that even evil henchman can play like kids when someone pulls out the Nintendo Super Set.
This makes me cringe in the best way. I challenge you not to watch it at least five times. It has the look of a birthday party activity done with the help of a crude green screen set up in mom’s basement (if your mom ever puts something like this together for you, you better kiss that wonderful mother’s feet every morning). It features a very excited child eating a banana, a mining helmet and even somehow playing the game despite wearing an oversized gorilla mask.
This one has been covered on the Internet extensively. But, it’s just too pants-crappingly good to leave off this list.
The legend of this Australian commercial is that it was pulled from airwaves soon after release because, well, look at it! My 8-year-old self would have likely shunned gaming forever after seeing this. Kind of like how my 12-year-old self swore off drugs after being scared sober by the infamous drug dealer snake commercial. In that case, it was effective marketing. In Nintendo of Australia’s…?
This is a rather pedestrian Nintendo DS commercial that isn’t notable for much. Except for a line at the very end that comes across today as a rather tone-deaf marketing pitch for only one-half of the U.K.’s gaming demographic, that is.
While what Cleanprincegaming referred to as the “attitude era” is most remembered for its U.S. output, we can’t leave the rest of the world out.
I guess we can call Nintendo of France’s marketing for the DS successful, at least in letting people know they can move things with their fingers. But, how do you think that pug feels?
Let’s wrap this up in the land I have called home since 2013. While their neighbors to the north now usually get labeled as the world’s “hermit kingdom,” South Korea has for much of its history been isolated from the rest of the world as well (let’s not forget the two were still one country less than a century ago). It also shares a fraught history with Japan, which had colonized The Land of Morning Calm from 1910 until 1945. Put these two things together and one can see how it might have been hard for an outside company (not to mention a Japanese outside company) to find success in this emerging market.
Enter Hyundai. While most of the world beyond South Korea knows them just for their cars, the name appears on everything here, from cars to apartment buildings to shipping companies (note: the word “hyundai” means “modern” in English). The history of the original company and any subsequent smaller companies that spun off from them throughout history is a story for another post.
SK hynix, in the 1980s known as Hyundai Electronics, served as the licensee for the Nintendo Entertainment System in South Korea. They licensed both the NES and Super NES, known in South Korea as the “Comboy” and “Super Comboy.” In the commercial above, South Korean advertising’s past addiction to reverb is in full effect, as is its hyper-idealistic portrayal of the perfect, happy, successful modern Korean family.
(For anyone confused by the father’s “I’m going to slug you, son” fist gesture, this is an extremely common gesture throughout the country that can be interpreted as a general expression of excitement or, “we can do it!” So, no, the Comboy does not appear to have advocated child abuse.)
What can be said about the commercial below? South Korea really, really likes dancing groups.
Of course, the Japanese are no slouches when it comes to cutting a rug, either.
What are some interesting Nintendo commercials from around the world that you remember? Let us know in the comments.
John Dunphy has written, edited and managed several newspapers, magazines and news websites in both the United States and South Korea. He’s written about local government, food, nightlife, Korean culture, beer, cycling, land preservation, video games and more. His love of gaming began with the Atari 2600 but truly came of age on the Super Nintendo. Looking at his staggering surplus of console and PC games yet to be played, he laments the long-ago days of only being able to buy one $70 32-megabyte cartridge and playing it until his hands ached.