Super Mario Galaxy has finally arrived to near-universal acclaim. EGM's Shane Bettenhausen calls it the game of the decade, and others have hailed it as the best platformer ever made. My copy arrives from Amazon tomorrow, and I can't recall feeling this excited for a new Mario game in years.
I saw a Wii-owner friend of mine the other day whom I would describe as a casual but devoted gamer. I asked him if he planned to play Galaxy and he replied, "There's a new Mario game?"
Where is the marketing push for this game? In Japan, mass transit trains are running Galaxy ads on LCD screens, and there are nine separate Galaxy commercials running on Japanese television. Perhaps I don't watch enough television, but I have yet to see a Galaxy commercial in English aside from the one posted on YouTube. What I have seen on television are several clever Brain Age ads running on various networks.
Even Nintendo's own web site lacks any meaningful promotion of the game. A visit to the home page reveals a flash animation ad for Galaxy that is replaced ten seconds later with an ad for the new Phoenix Wright game. No other information about the game appears anywhere on the page. Clicking on the Wii link takes you to a page that continues to announce that "Metroid Prime 3 is available now." Worse yet, the official website for the game (www.supermariogalaxy.com) isn't even ready yet. The page loads with the message "Official site coming soon!" The game is out now. Why isn't the website ready? [See update below]
I don't ordinarily concern myself with game company marketing budgets or strategies, but I'm unusually concerned about Nintendo's lack of push for Galaxy, and I'm trying to figure out where that's coming from. I'm sure there's a nostalgia factor at play. I actually care about the Mario franchise. I see it as a pivotal series that helped create an industry. I also see it as a franchise that has innovated gameplay more consistently than any other, and this new title is apparently a stellar example of Nintendo's genius for design and polish.
Perhaps Mario games sell themselves, and perhaps Nintendo knows exactly what they're doing. The soaring stock price would suggest they need no help from me bringing consumers to their products. Fair enough. I want Nintendo to succeed for admittedly sentimental reasons, but I have no personal stake in the corporation. I do, however, have a legitimate personal stake in the Mario franchise. It means something to me and to lots of other devoted gamers as well.
Placing the design for Galaxy back in the hands of the famed EAD Tokyo team indicates that Nintendo is serious about maintaining the franchise's high level of excellence. Failing to promote it vigorously makes no sense to me and raises questions about Nintendo's real commitment to the game.
Update: The Super Mario Galaxy official website is now online. Thanks Nintendo!