By TrulyAlive 4 Comments
So just over a week ago, I took part in your regularly scheduled Luchacast with Aurahack, GoranP, Pepsicolaboy & Pepsicolagirl. Don't remember it? That's because a technical fuck up stopped our collective screeches and bickerings from ever reaching your ears. Regardless, amidst the utter chaos came an interesting albeit unplanned discussion about the role mascots play in video-games today.
Pierce through the veil of simplicity, though and it becomes quickly apparent that console sales rely less and less on specific characters as time goes on.
Sony's prioritized ad campaign for over a year now has been the 'It Only Does Everything' scheme, starring Kevin Butler and the title says it all. It's about pushing past the conceit of one system, one sales pitch and broadening the horizon. Microsofts marketing focuses more on games and a wide span of titles at that. Even pushing past that, the seemingly constant inclusion of new applications (facebook, LastFM, Netflix etc.) implies a similar willingness to expand away from the idea that relying on a single system-seller is the way to go.
Even look to Nintendo and you'll see that they're relying on Mario less than they ever have before. The Wii is not 'the Mario console', it's the family console, the mini game console and (up until recently) the motion control console. Based on the reputation they've built for themselves, even after Kinect & Move drop, they'll still probably be the motion control console.
All of this sounds distinctly anti-mascot but I assure you, it's not. Although mascots are invariably less of a surefire way to hit their mark, there is certainly still a place for them. After all, we're still snapping up units of every Mario game that comes out, it's just not necessarily why we bought a Wii to begin with and the same probably applies to Microsoft and Sony's respective mascots. I generally have no problems with mascots, I just think their appeal has lessened somewhat over time. I couldn't say whether that appeal will continue to diminish or not.
I have no doubt that in another 25 years, we'll remember Mario. Like Sonic & Pacman, even if there are no more Mario games we'll still remember Mario because he's become such a mainstay of our culture. And there's always a chance that Master Chief and Sackboy will be just as memorable in that space of time. I just feel that as a sales tool, mascots fail to perform their function as well as they might have in the past. It's a different world.
How about you guys?