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Tips for Buying EarthBound

April 14th, 2010 | EarthBound, Images, Uncommon Knowledge

Shigeru Miyamoto once made a statement about EarthBound:

We had high hopes for Earthbound, the Super NES version, in the US, but it didn’t do well. We even did a TV commercial, thinking, “Hey… this thing could sell three million copies!” But it didn’t.

The weird thing is, if they did make a commercial, they must have decided not to air it. I always wondered what the deal with that was.

Anyway, it was always apparent that Nintendo had invested a lot in trying to market EarthBound in North America, but we had no real idea how much. But the new owner of those recently discovered EarthBound photo slides also found some other inside marketing stuff:

click to enlarge, also more info about this here

It looks like Nintendo was going to spend $2 million in “national advertising targeting teens and young adults”. My guess as to where this money went:

  • Subsidizing a lot of stuff (like EarthBound Player’s Guide and the giant box) so the game didn’t end up costing $100 or something.
  • The scratch-n-sniff advertising. From personal experience, I found one in Nintendo Power, one was mailed by itself from Nintendo to me, and I came across two others in other magazines. So they must’ve made a lot of them and placed them everywhere.
  • Maybe Miyamoto was telling the truth and they worked on some commercials that never aired, thus being a big waste of money?
  • Some of the money probably went to the coupon campaign that let people get the game for $10 less.
  • Other promotional stuff like the scratch n sniff stuff in the guide, the Mach Pizza air freshener promotional contests, the pogs, etc.

I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of things, and it’s possible that budget might’ve been changed after that was printed. But still, $2 million is a lot of money. What’s even more eye-opening is that this clearly shows that the target audience of the ads was teenagers and older. But the whole “this game stinks” marketing campaign had a 7-10 year old “ha ha smelly gross stuff is funny boogers fart” mentality to it. The marketing guys must’ve had some miscommunication problems or something.

The fact the game’s sales fell so short of expectations probably meant the game made a huge loss for Nintendo. And that’s probably why Nintendo ignores the series outside of Japan now.

And for some reason, I’m compelled to link to this comic again: EarthBound’s Marketing


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17 Comments to EarthBound’s Marketing $2 Million?

jesse said on Apr. 14, 2010

What came of the “preview in march” and “review in april” did either of those ever get printed in nintendo power?

Mato said on Apr. 14, 2010

The preview and review came out, just at different times I think. It actually sounds like maybe they were planning for the game to be released in April? It’d make sense for the review to come out the same month at least.

Skulryk said on Apr. 15, 2010

There was some commercial on it, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYAY_hZu_To

It really doesn’t seem like a TV spot, though — it looks more like a commercial they air on a video in game stores or something. Not sure. It’s a pretty crappy commercial, though.

neonix said on Apr. 15, 2010

That was displayed in video game stores, not on TV. But maybe Miyamoto was referring to that, but said TV by mistake?

And reading this just depresses me. It makes me so sad to constantly remember what big hopes Nintendo had for this amazing game that we’ve all grown to love more and more each time we play it. It had so much potential and well.. wrong place and/or wrong time, or who knows what, but everything went wrong. *le sigh* 🙁

Kyoo said on Apr. 15, 2010

it makes me sad to think that the games failure in the USA market is due to poorly budgeted marketing. I blame part of it also on it being an RPG not made by Squaresoft or Enix, lets face it it was the mid 90’s, and in the USA. most RPG’s not made by squaresoft or Enix were horrible (I say most as there was some magical non squaresoft/enix titles)

but they sure did market it wrong. I remember wanting the game from the NES blurb in the old Nintendo Power. I was hooked since then, but the Scratch sniff adds almost made me not want the game (in fact it did stop me from buying it) but luckily a friend stole me a copy and I got to enjoy it anyway.

resetsurvivor said on Apr. 15, 2010

They probably would have sold more copies if they used your “ha ha smelly gross stuff is funny boogers fart” slogan. I would’ve bought one.

Unfortunately, I never even heard of EB until SSB 64 came out, and I was trying to figure out ‘Who the hell is this Ness?!’This was one of the biggest bungles in Nintendo advertising history.

Anonimooos said on Apr. 15, 2010

Why don’t we just all agree on the fact that Nintendo deliberately screwed the game over? They should kind themselves lucky with us fanboys still spamming cash in the game after all the harm done to it.

Mato said on Apr. 15, 2010

Skulryk: Yeah, that was just the standard in-store video made for toy stores and the like. Most every game at the time had one like that made, so I don’t think that’s what Miyamoto was talking about.

Onion said on Apr. 15, 2010

Yeah….something definitely went wrong. It probably could have been a million seller at MSRP if things had gone a little better for it.

Hell I remember I was a Nintendo maniac when I was a kid and had a subscription to Nintendo Power and played RPG’s like crazy. I didn’t even know this game existed until I saw the huge box up on the shelf at the local game store.

Dr. Hobo said on Apr. 15, 2010

I used an inflation calculator and it said 2M in 1995 dollars would be $2788272.69 today.

Roo said on Apr. 15, 2010

The sad thing is, I can totally see the budget being this high. It’s not like Nintendo didn’t advertise the hell out of this back in the day (c’mon, EB pogs?) – they just sucked at it.

But I agree with Mato, I’m willing to bet a lot of the money also went to reducing costs to the consumer in order to make it more palatable for parents to buy it for their kids. Imagine how much it might cost without that!

SmaMan said on Apr. 15, 2010

Hey, Pogs were big back then. It was shortly after, as we began to drift into the later 90s, that the Pog fad faded and they tried too hard to make it cool again. Kinda like what Crocs are doing now…

But back on subject. This is proof that you can’t just throw money into a game and expect it to make back that investment. It all depends on HOW you use that money to market the game. It wasn’t the game that stinks here. It was the marketing, which sadly broke this game.

Now if only Nintendo would look back and realize that that’s why it didn’t sell, maybe they’d be alright with giving it another shot on VC or DS.

Ninji said on Apr. 15, 2010

Wow, 2M for EB, I guess Nintendo of America despises EarthBound because they lost a huge sum of money to try and advertise the game, and in the end, it became the 7-10 year old mentality on how stinky stuff is funny, quite a graphic death for such an amazing game, wouldn’t you say? 😛

Bound2Mother said on Apr. 15, 2010

Now I can’t argue that EB is a bad game cause, well, I don’t think so at all and that’s why I’m here. But I do believe that a large part of Earthbound’s failure lies within the humongous boxes and overpricing. Sure you get a free guide and all, but from what I’ve seen, most first impressions of the game usually end with “what’s up with the graphics?”. We can all agree that the advertising certainly didn’t help though XD

neonix said on Apr. 16, 2010

The price was a huge disadvantage. Of course, my theory is that NoA looked at it from a kid’s point of view without fully assessing what a parent who likely did not play video games in their childhood thinks of a $70 game. I mean, honestly, not even I would pay $70 for a game today.

A random game with a name that you’ve never heard of, of a genre that was still a small niche so you likely have not dabbled into or didn’t like it.

I think maybe a TV commercial with a lot of fast/impressive flashy graphics and lots of movement in it (battles with crashing PSI attacks being shown, the screen shacking, lots of sound effects, and the trippy backgrounds) would have helped a LOT. In fact, I believe if they had done that one thing instead of all the other stupid smelly crap, the game would have been a huge success. You can’t argue with TV’s impact on a child’s mind.

NoA’s marketing division just made a lot of mistakes. They didn’t advertise EB appropriately for a game with no previous reputation. They threw a large sum of money at a marketing campaign and expect it to work. You could call it “pay and pray” 😛

starstormer said on Apr. 17, 2010

If there really was an unaired TV commercial I’d like to see it. I guess that could be the next big EarthBound mystery does an unaired comercial exist. Also I think a lot of the marketing stuff they did for the game was a bit excessive I mean did we really need to have a players guide packed in with the game, though I’m glad the game didn’t cost like $100 or I bet it would’ve sold even worse.

Husky said on Apr. 17, 2010

> “Subsidizing a lot of stuff (like EarthBound Player’s Guide and the giant box) so the game didn’t end up costing $100 or something.”

Kind of ironic that that’s about the price it goes for nowadays 😛


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