More often than not, every major move by a corporate is followed by a lot of speculation/discussion which can bring both negative and positive publicity based on the level of acceptance of that move by the general public.
In this regard, Nintendo’s attempt to shut down the planned live stream of Super Smash Bros. Melee at EVO 2013 became one of the major stories this year. Super Smash Bros. is a fighting game released by Nintendo, initially in Japan and later in North America. It is essentially a crossover between Nintendo franchisees such as Mario and The Legend of Zelda. The game has several versions and has been commercially very successful.
As reported by EVO co-founder Joey Cuellar, Nintendo was not only trying to shut down the online streaming but the entire Smash portion of the event. Though the company finally back tracked and withdrew its objections due to the criticism it drew online from fans, the question is-Why would a company not allow its own game to be played in a professional gaming competition? It just appears insane to the naked eye. Isn’t publicity that involves people playing your game actually good for the brand? With the company all set to launch the newest iterations of Super Smash Bros. on both the WiiU and the 3DS next year, it should have in fact welcomed any version of the franchise getting free publicity. In the light of such assumptions, who would not ridicule Nintendo’s move?
Amidst all the negativity and criticism going around, Kyle Mercury, former Nintendo marketing specialist presented the other side of this story. He explained that though Super Smash Bros. is a really effective promotional tool, it in fact can turn out to be a dangerous brand for Nintendo. Presenting the characters which are so widely recognized, in a violent persona to such a large audience, was an uncomfortable prospect for Nintendo. We can all agree to the fact that we won’t be able to accept our brave Mario, who attempts to rescue our poor Princess Peach throughout the game, thrash her instead. That’s exactly what Mercury tried to explain. EVO would have taken the character representations out of the hands of Nintendo’s control, boiled them down to pure violence, and broadcasted it directly to 125,000 people.
But was this a calculated attempt at Brand Protection or a desperate measure to safeguard its own image? A close analysis of Nintendo’s actions in the past, talk about the mindset of the company. Evolution in Nintendo has been slow to the extent where it even refused to enter into the online gaming segment when that was an absolute necessity to retain its fan base. More so, when it did enter the online market, its understanding of consumer’s perception of online gaming really suffered a setback. The company has repeatedly put its own interests ahead of consumers especially while designing consoles. Every time the industry progressed to a new console technology, Nintendo had trouble accepting and implementing it and instead it chose to use work with something else. In the light of such background information, the EVO debacle appears to be a desperate attempt where the company failed to actually understand that its fans who love Nintendo and who love Smash are not going to have difficulty accepting that Smash is not a character assassination program for the character images Nintendo has so tenderly built in its other franchisees.
Despite all the chaos created by Nintendo’s sudden decision and then back tracking on the same, the live stream of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament did happen as planned (after a green signal was received from Nintendo itself). The results were astounding. The live stream event hit 100 thousand concurrent viewers, breaking all records for the most watched fighting game. A new record was set when the stream peaked at more than 130 thousand concurrent viewers.
Perhaps the success of the event would serve as food for thought for Nintendo and its fans can expect more reasonable decision making in the future.