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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Case Study on Nintendo's Events Promotion: North America Open 2019

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - You could replace Nintendo with any company competent in digital marketing, but this is KoopaTV...

The Super Smash Bros. Ultimate North America Open 2019 is over and it's been announced that the Southeast region will be playing against the world in a pre-E3 2019 event. (It was also announced that Phoenix Wright will be a playable character!) I mentioned before that Nintendo promoted it through all of their communication channels.

But what does that actually look like? Why is it effective? And could they have done much more?

Well, for me, it started with Nintendo's news press release, which was the basis for my KoopaTV article about the event to begin with. After that, it appeared on social media and YouTube, out to millions of subscribers and followers.

This was all amplified by websites like KoopaTV that produce content around interesting things Nintendo does, furthering their message while adding some personal charm to it to inspire authenticity. At least, speaking for KoopaTV. Nothing charming about lots of those other sites! As an aside, as far as I could tell, KoopaTV was the only gaming media outlet of any size to participate in the actual tournament itself. And if any others joined, I easily got the farthest.

We also got some e-mails from Nintendo, including them timing their January newsletter to go out on January 22 so they could put the tournament as the cover story, as well as an e-mail dedicated to telling people to watch the tournaments.

The third-party tournament host, Battlefy, also promoted the tournament prominently to their base.

I could've sworn that Nintendo used the in-system Nintendo News application to promote the tournaments, but after looking through the archives, I couldn't find it! Was that just fake news, or did they remove it?

(I've asked other people and they said they found out about the tournament through the News application, so they removed it after the fact.)

Nintendo Switch News notification blue dot dashboard
That irresistible blue dot! One must see the News!

Regardless, I'll tell you that using the Nintendo News is a fantastic way to reach an audience. You're communicating to people who are actually using your system. They're most interested.

But there is even one avenue of communication that's greater than the system-level news feature that I know Nintendo did not take advantage of, and this is something that all developers can and should be using in their own games:

Game-level news feature! Yes, you can use that for more than expressing game updates.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Art Dojo results Nintendo Switch
Nintendo has used Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's news feature to share
the results of a Japan-only art contest to a worldwide audience.
Surely they can use it for something useful.

With a close alignment between development and marketing, you can make it easy to send out notifications to people playing your game, in-game, about your game. You can make it unavoidable, or at least extremely tempting to check out with a notification dot.

This could upset players if you use it in every marketing campaign, but used sparingly, it could have amazing effect. Conversions from viewing an in-game advertisement to signing up for the tournament would be even better if the Switch had an Internet browser that you could use to open a web page and sign up from the tournament, right off your console. Without that, traditional digital advertising via desktop or mobile browser with a call-to-action you could click on would be better.

But the user intent would be weaker than signing up for a tournament for the game right from the game.

Anyway, Nintendo's existing methods were enough to get around 10,000 total registrants across all of the tournaments. Pretty good turn-out. No idea how many of those subscribed to Nintendo Switch Online just for that, but at least some, you'd think. I think it beat their expectations, if they set realistic ones. It certainly got more attention than we expected it to, as players. But there were a lot of empty spots in the tournaments that might have been filled if Nintendo were more optimal.

One more thing to note: While I would recommended Nintendo advertise the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate North America Open 2019 through the in-game news, I would not recommend they advertise the Splatoon 2 North America Inkling Open 2019 through the Splatoon 2 in-game news. While the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament was marketed for everyone (competitive and casual, to the point of having a very quirky ruleset), the Splatoon 2 tournament was pretty obviously a professional-level affair. The vast majority of people playing Splatoon 2 wouldn't have the ability or interest to compete at that level.

Though perhaps they could only show an advertisement to players with a high enough in-game ranking? That's a possibility.

Lesson for marketers: Put your message where people are. If they're playing your game, or any software for that matter, and you want them to do something, put your marketing in the game and have an easy way for them to take an action from that. Otherwise, if they're not congregating in your game, use your more traditional digital communication channels. Of course, doing both at the same time is a good way to make sure they see it and remember it.

Multiple touches are important! Just one and they might miss it or put it off and then forget.

KoopaTV's product and objective is this very website, so it should be pretty easy to get people on this site to just read the latest article or whatever special thing KoopaTV wishes to promote. The tricky part is getting people to KoopaTV to begin with. Perhaps that's something you, the person reading this, can help with?

Another best practice: send a confirmation e-mail when folks register, and send a reminder e-mail before the event begins.

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