These are just a few of the comments Nintendo was confronted with while pitching the 11 year-old Game Boy to consumer and game enthusiast media. Even as the world’s most successful hand-held video game system in history, Nintendo was challenged to maintain media and consumer momentum and keep this stellar product “newsworthy.”
Game Boy was first released in the United States in August of 1989. Then, in November 1998, Nintendo introduced the Game Boy Color, a new twist on the already popular hand-held game system, but one that featured a color screen, increased processing power, and longer battery life. The popularity of Game Boy Color reached an all-time high with the now world-famous “Pokémon Phenomenon,” a series of Game Boy Color games that launched in the United States in September 1998. Pokémon quickly rose as the hottest toy franchise to hit the market in decades. However, after two years of unbelievable media coverage, the media became over-saturated with and began predicting its demise, and also taking along with it some of Game Boy Color’s luster.
Golin/Harris set out to develop and coordinate out-of-the-ordinary, strategic, and eye-catching public relations activities that would not only break through the “Pokémon clutter,” but would also entice the media to write about an 11 year-old product. Despite initial media reaction that Game Boy as a whole was “an old story,” Nintendo’s objective was to reinvent Game Boy in the eyes of the media, sustain interest, emphasize its “evergreen” media quality, and provide continuous visibility for Game Boy.
Golin/Harris targeted two age groups: 8-14, and 18-34. Since our target audience was so broad, we needed to reach virtually every type of media outlet, including: newspaper, television, radio, Gen X/”tween,” parenting, children’s, enthusiast, trade, teen, men’s, women’s, holiday gift guides, and travel publications.
Sales and TRSTS figures supported the fact that more than 100 million Game Boys had been sold worldwide – meaning, in theory, that virtually every child in America had a Game Boy. While this provided a rich market for game sales, it hindered Game Boy’s ability to appear unique and to attract new consumers. Also, in speaking with media, Nintendo and Golin/Harris learned that Game Boy’s dominance was “old news,” that it had conquered the market for so long, and it no longer held media value. It became imperative to creatively build on Game Boy’s established fan and consumer base.
To generate consumer demand and media coverage for Game Boy, Golin/Harris:
- Developed a “Tips on Trips” holiday travel matte release, featuring top travel journalist, Peter Greenberg
- Distributed Game Boy Color-ing books through top travel companies, such as Amtrak, Northwest Airlines, Hilton Hotels, SouthWest Airlines, Budget Rental Car, for holiday and summer travel seasons
- Affirmed Game Boy’s “giant” success at E³ 2000, the largest video game and hardware trade show, by coordinating a 16-foot Game Boy made entirely out of Lego’s prominently placed at the entrance to the Los Angeles Convention Center
- Celebrated Game Boy’s complete dominance in the industry with an E³ 2000 news release announcing
- Game Boy Color’s unprecedented 1999 sales
- Acknowledged Game Boy’s record-breaking history by celebrating its “100 Million Sold” milestone
- Declared that Game Boy undeniably “Rules the Road” and was the preferred hand-held entertainment system for the MTV Summer 2000 Beach House
- Leveraged the “cool quotient” with the Gen X/”tween” market by coordinating a charity outreach promotion with Game Boy fans and pop-sensation -- The Backstreet Boys
To garner substantial media and consumer awareness and excitement for Game Boy Color, we executed multi-faceted public relations programs:
Travel Outreach—“Tips on Trips” Holiday Travel Matte Release and Game Boy Color-ing Books
As part of a grassroots holiday outreach program, we drafted a matte release listing various travel tips from one of today’s most well known travel journalists, Peter Greenberg. He named Game Boy as one of the best ways to ease holiday travelers’ stress. This matte release garnered more than 22 million impressions. Golin/Harris also coordinated the production of Game Boy Color-ing books that were distributed throughout the United States via participating travel companies: USAir, Northwest Airlines, TWA, Omni Hotels and Hertz Rental Car. Nintendo received an enthusiastic response from kids who endured those long holiday travel hours thanks to Game Boy Color!
E³ 2000 – 16 foot Lego Game Boy and Game Boy lead sales release
The first thing media saw when they walked in the Los Angeles Convention Center on May 10, 2000 was a giant, 16-foot Game Boy Color made entirely out of Lego’s. The majestic size went hand-in-hand with the news release that was sent out the same day. In 1999, Game Boy accounted for 100 percent of the total growth in the video game industry and Game Boy sales increased 250 percent. This news was the focus of Nintendo’s media briefing and sales presentation prepared for media, analysts and retailers. Game Boy’s presence at E³ 2000 helped acquire more than 248 million media impressions.
Game Boy: 100 Million Sold Video News Release (VNR)
To showcase the dominance of Game Boy Color, we produced and distributed a video news release celebrating the June 16 shipment of the 100 millionth Game Boy unit. This VNR included: footage of Game Boy units on the factory lines, footage of hardware/software on retail shelves, footage of female consumers purchasing hardware/software, game play footage of past and present Game Boy titles, and interviews with analyst John Taylor, Game Pro Magazine’s Wes Nihei, and Nintendo’s vice president, marketing and sales, Peter Main. Total media impressions reached more than 12 million.
Game Boy Rules the Road” Summer Media Tour and Ultimate Game Boy/Girl Online Contest
For the Game Boy “Rules The Road” Van Tour, a Nintendo van was shrink-wrapped to create a virtual museum and “arcade on wheels.” From August 9 to September 15, the Game Boy van traveled to a dozen major U.S. cities, kicking off the tour at the MTV Summer 2000 Beach House in San Diego, on the “Hot Zone,” with host Ananda Lewis. To create an interactive aspect to this tour, we created the “Ultimate Game Boy/Girl” Contest on Gameboy.com. Game Boy fans of all ages were asked to answer 10 trivia questions and to describe, in 100 words or less, why they were the “Ultimate Game Boy/Girl” of their city. Successfully increasing awareness and maintaining momentum for the most successful video game platform in history - Game Boy - the tour generated more than 8,273,000 consumer impressions over five weeks.
Nintendo’s Game Boy and The Backstreet Boys Unite for Charity
Nintendo secured pop sensation and Game Boy fans, The Backstreet Boys, to autograph four Game Boy Colors, along with four group photographs. These items were part of the Interactive Digital Software Association’s (IDSA) annual “NITE TO UNITE” auction, benefiting the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Golin/Harris developed a news release announcing that the Game Boys would be available via an online auction held on Amazon.com from October 7 through October 20. This promotion raised close to $3,000 for children’s charities and resulted in more than three million media impressions (including MTV news).
These efforts resulted in tremendous media coverage, garnering more than 45 million consumer impressions. Coverage included:
- USA Today
- Los Angeles Times
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution
- Dallas Morning News
- Detroit Free-Press
- Seattle Times
- MTV’s “HOT ZONE” – Live from the MTV Beach House with host, Ananda Lewis
- CNN Cable, CNN Headline News
- CNBC “Market Watch,” CNN “In the Money”
- “First Business” – National Syndication
Radio coverage includes: CBS Radio News, ABC Radio News and KIRO—AM (Seattle)
Game Boy Color remains the most popular video game system in the world to date, selling more than 100 million worldwide and commanding 49 percent of the video game market.