James Estrin / The New York Times

October 19, 2019

GUEST ROOM | Nintendo’s New Audience

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Do you remember the feeling of hiding your Nintendo DS under your pillow when your mom comes in to check that you’re asleep, or the dullness in your eyes after hours spent working through stages of Yoshi’s Island in the car on the way back from a long trip? The feeling of sadness late at night after finishing Super Mario Galaxy?

Nintendo has recently been trying to hit this nostalgic sweet spot for their Gen-Z and Millennial audiences alike, successfully capturing the attention of busy-bee young people with remakes and reboots of beloved franchises. The company has also cast a wide net with adapting other companies’ games for their console; this choice successfully appeals to an older group of consumers.

The 2017 release of the Nintendo Switch was a big step up from the company’s last console, the Wii U, revolutionizing console play with its ability to turn into a handheld gaming device. This date marks the beginning of Nintendo’s new intentional awareness of a new body of people. Where college students might not have the time or energy to commit to sitting down to play a game, as we are constantly multitasking and busy, the Switch allows gaming in between classes, on transportation and quickly boots up. It seems the Switch was designed to save time.

Harping on the consumer’s desire for convenience and portability, the Nintendo Switch Lite was released in September, a smaller version of the switch. The Switch Lite doesn’t connect to a TV, but it can still run most of the Switch’s games and has a more comfortable grip. The Switch Lite is not competitive with the 3DS, as I haven’t seen any of these around or heard any buzz about its games. It seems Nintendo has moved on from the DS device, yet is still utilizing the nostalgia of the handheld device.

In the same month as the Switch Lite’s release, Link’s Awakening, a faithful remake of the 1993 Gameboy RPG, came out with positive reviews. The overworld dungeon style will not strike any chords of nostalgia with ten-year-olds, but a millennial might get excited to replay a more dynamic and colorful version of a game that once kept them entertained during their childhood. This seems like a clear tactic to entice Gen Z and millennial groups.

Additionally, the Switch’s ability to run games like Skyrim, and more recently, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, continue the appeal to college-aged players. I was ecstatic upon hearing about my favorite immersive open-world games being so portable; I can be transported to fantasy worlds wherever I go, not just from my basement! These games deal with serious themes and often serve as detailed escapes from adult life.

I saw an advertisement that showed a young couple with a sleeping baby in the backseat of their car pulling out a Switch and Switch Lite to play Luigi’s Mansion together. It allowed them to escape the responsibilities of parenthood. I laughed at this; I don’t think I’ve ever seen Nintendo target parents.

No longer is the young adult’s only interaction with Nintendo their eight-year-old cousin trying to get them to play Wii Sports at Hanukkah dinner — college students and working millennials have Switches, and these demographics have become an important part of Nintendo’s consumer base.

 

Emma Plowe is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at edp52@cornell.edu