Nintendo Launch Party Boosts Marketing For Retailers

Nintendo hosted a launch party on Sunday to celebrate the release of "Advance Wars: Days of Ruin." Hundreds of video-game enthusiasts packed the Nintendo World store in New York's Rockefeller Plaza.

Nintendo put on the event to thank hardcore, loyal followers. Recently, the company branched out promotional efforts toward casual gamers to reach into new markets. Passionate gamers with an appetite for virtual combat got a sneak peek at the latest "Advance Wars" title and a chance to win awesome prizes.

The first 25 to line up outside the store received a free copy of the game. There also were trivia challenges and an opportunity to create colorful "Advance Wars" battle maps and compete in a live, multi-player tournament.

New York-based media company UGO Networks has partnered with Nintendo to post live blogs and podcasts on its Web site, providing up-to-the-minute news on the store event, which delights independent online merchants and auction site eBay power sellers like Steve Grossberg.

Nintendo's grandiose marketing efforts help retailers sell products, too, according to Grossberg, president of Budget Video Games and founder of the Internet Merchants Association, a non-profit trade group. "Nintendo is the best game marketer in the industry," he says. "Their marketing creates incredible awareness for the new games coming out."

Grossberg typically sees a spike in sales at the time Nintendo markets specific products. "One day last week, 65% of my shipments for that day were for Nintendo console products," he says. "During Christmas, Nintendo heavily marketed games called 'Brain Age 2' and 'Flash Focus' for Nintendo DS, and these games just flew off the shelves."

In 2007, Budget Video Games generated $3 million in sales--up 30% from the prior year, with assists from Nintendo's marketing efforts, Grossberg says. "Nintendo helps us double demand for games because they do an effective job in marketing products," he says.

"Advance Wars: Days of Ruin" for Nintendo DS offers an updated combat series with a host of new characters, enhanced graphics and wireless features. In this sequel, players lead troops through a battle to save the planet, using their own strategy and the wireless function on the Nintendo DS.

Nintendo's idea to offer something for everyone has the company introducing a scuba diving game for casual gamers called "Endless Ocean" today, too.

Along with the 25 copies at the door, Nintendo plans to give away T-shirts throughout the event, says Eric Walter, Nintendo spokesman. "The world store in New York isn't just a tourist destination, but a venue to showcase our games. It has the space to pack in a lot of folks."

Walter says Nintendo did similar events when launching "Zelda: Phantom Hourglass" and "Super Mario Galaxy." "Advance Wars: Days of Ruin" will retail for $34.99.

Video-game retail sales reached $17.94 billion in 2007--up from $12.53 billion in the prior year, according to the NPD Group. Analyst Anita Frazier attributes the increase to demand for games like "Halo 3" and "PS2 Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock" along with next-generation consoles Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, Microsoft Xbox 360, and Sony PlayStation 2.

"Nintendo has certainly been the belle of the hardware ball this year, capturing the top two spots for hardware unit sales for the year with the DS followed by the Wii," Frazier tells Marketing Daily. "The DS has driven portable gaming to a new level, and for the second year in a row, the DS has been the top-selling hardware platform."

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