Nostalgia and What ever happened to good old Console Mascots

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Kyle Smith

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I remember back in the 90's all the advertisements for the Nintendo 64 coming out. I'd be sitting there watching the X-Men Animated series, when an advert would come on, and BOOM there he was, Super Mario, swimming through water, jumping off buildings and swinging bowser. All of this was in a never seen before vibrant colour pallet, with this sweet hyper fluid 3D. After watching this amazing advert that had me hyped, it would then hit me: 'to play this beautiful game, all you need to do is buy the brand new Nintendo 64!' I would look over at my SNES and think to myself, "man, you gotta convince mum to buy you one of these!"

It's interesting because although there were adverts to showcase the new console, primarily consoles sales were made on showing off their release games, which usually featured a child friendly character such as Mario. At least this is how Nintendo and Sega did it, PlayStation on the other-hand didn't actually have a mascot until about 2 years after, where we saw the release of Crash Bandicoot. I think it was this principle that actually stopped me getting a PlayStation One, until a lot later in it's time. Why would I hang up great child friendly games, (that I was allowed to play) for a console that primarily featured: Grand Theft Auto, Tekken, Metal Gear Solid and Gran Turismo? I mean, when I finally played these games, I understand why. But as a child, why would I put down my adventures as Link, Mario or Star Fox, for characters I didn't consider as 'cool' or even know the names of. Also, my mum perceived these games as being more adult and lifelike, meaning I had a little more of a challenge to get her to buy any of these titles.

But the question for the article today is, what ever happened to using a mascot like Mario to sell your console and represent your brand? As a child (and to some degree as an adult) whenever I thought of a console, I would always think of the flagship character that represented that console. For Nintendo it is, and has always been Mario. For Sega, it was Sonic and for PlayStation, I considered it to be Crash Bandicoot, whilst some friends considered Spyro (if you're one of these people, you're wrong). As I got older, I started to learn Buisness Studies, and then eventually became the Business Analyst, that I am today. Having that business orientated mindset, I have frequently found myself asking why did that ever change? I mean Nintendo have been slogging along doing the same thing, throwing Mario at every console launch its entire existence and its worked incredibly well for them. They have a simple message: "If you want to play as Mario, buy our console". I mean the Nintendo Switch, has finally overtaken on unit sales versus the Xbox One.

Well to answer this, I think it comes down to demographics of customers. When consoles first launched they were considered by the community as 'Kids Toys'. Therefore families purchased them for children. But as times moved on, that concept has changed, with more adults purchasing consoles for themselves to play. Due to this, the demographics shifted, meaning marketing strategies did too. I mean, look at the advertisements that have been going out for the Xbox Series X recently. It's all technical, all about components and parts. Now compare that to ANY generic Nintendo advert, where it's all games and vibrant colours. Both strategies work, but that's because they are hitting completely different demographics. Xbox wants the average working adult to buy its product, whilst Nintendo still banks on families and younger audience to buy its technology.

But what I find most interesting, is that the last few generations of console have been some of the most competitive and aggressive business battles. Sony and Microsoft have been duking it out for years now, aiming for the exact same demographic, trying to poach one and others customer base. But, why have neither of these giants, (including Stadia to a degree) tried to take on Nintendo's Demographic. I have theories, but seriously as someone whose whole career is suggesting businesses to try and adapt to take on new challenges/changes, I cannot understand why no-one has entered this arena. I mean look at the Nintendo Wii. How many house holds did you know had one? MY NAN had one - (For the Wii bowling and Tennis). The Wii was special because it wasn't aimed at the big gamers, it was aimed for the average household. So, instead of selling to the people who were going to buy the console anyways, due to their long history and love of the gaming and the Nintendo brand, Nintendo aimed it's marketing at those who were less likely to buy the console, pulling new people into the concept of gaming.

I personally think that these big console companies are missing a little trick here. If they could even inject a little bit of the nostalgic flavour of advertising into their brand, and start to aim at advertising for the generic family, they could have an uplift of sales, with brand new customers. Its an interesting thought that I wanted to share with our readers. So, who could the new mascots of this generation be?

Well Nintendo still do it, today with Mario, so that's the obvious one out of the way. Sega, well, they don't do consoles anymore. PlayStation, had a fantastic launch with AstroBot with a lot of people becoming big fans of little cute robot, with it's debut in the free PS5 showcase demo. With the current love of the game, I would suggest that Sony use this to propel that love. I mean, common, all the reviews are comparing it to Mario. Xbox don't currently have their own traditional style mascot, and lets be honest a parent wont be comfortable giving their young child a game with a huge hulking space marine looking thing (Sorry Master Chief). I think back through Xbox's exclusive games that were child friendly and can only think of Lucky. Although, this moved over to Nintendo's console, I think that if Microsoft used Lucky in the right way, it could be come a really strong mascot for their brand. Alternatively, revive Banjo Kazooie with the Rare acquisition and use this loved franchise. Finally, Stadia. To be honest, Stadia hasn't really had any exclusives that could give them a unique branding... so maybe a friendly bug looking thing? I don't know, its google, they don't ooze friendly to me, to any degree.

I hope you've enjoyed my ramblings today, but be sure to comment who you think could be a great mascot for the new generation consoles in the comments sections on our social media pages! Thank you for reading!

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