Offensive Marketing? Explaining the Aggressive Marketing of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

(Image Credit: Universal Studios)

So in case you’ve been living under a rock, you are likely aware that Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opens this weekend. Hell, even if you have been under a rock (I assume the rent price was too agreeable to pass up), you’ve likely seen an advertisement for the fifth film in the Jurassic Park franchise. The marketing for this film, a direct follow-up to the decent 2015 film with an amazing final sequence, has been inescapable. Last week, NBC dubbed its programming part of “Jurassic Week” (sadly, none of the dinosaurs ate Jimmy Fallon) and Dairy Queen is serving a “Jurassic Blizzard” (sadly, it is not made with pieces of actual dinosaurs) along with the inundation of commercials across NBCUniversal stations.

Aggressive marketing campaigns for studio tent-poles, especially big budget sequels, are nothing new, stoking interest among the general public and creating a sense of demand to see the new film immediately, with box office grosses relying on a substantial opening weekend. With two and three year gaps typical for movie franchises, advertisements aim to rekindle interest in the brand and ensure that fans show up for opening weekend.

But, the marketing for the new Jurassic World seems particularly saturated and largely unnecessary. After all, the preceding film opened to $208 million, the largest opening weekend at the time until the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens later that year, and went on to gross almost $1.7 billion dollars worldwide, the fifth highest grossing film of all time. Through nostalgia for the original film and the continued interest in the property through sequels, toy sales, and, umm, questionable video games, it would seem as though everyone is aware that of the Jurassic Park franchise, making the aggressive marketing of the new film superfluous and potential detrimental through overexposure.

Yes, the advertisements for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom are too much. But, rather than an attempt to capture new fans or spark interest among people unaware of the film, the aggressive marketing of the new dinosaur flick is a defensive measure by Universal Studios, almost an act of desperation to ensure a big opening weekend along with the viability of the studio’s immediate plans.

Turning the clocks back to 2015, and Universal Studios was sitting pretty. The box office haul of Jurassic World exceeded the studios lofty expectations, and the substantial grosses of Furious 7, Minions (collective eye roll), Fifty Shades of Grey (even harder collective eye roll), along with modest hits like Pitch Perfect 2 and Straight Outta Compton resulted in a very successful year for the studio. In fact, 2015 marked the highest grossing year for a single studio in history, with Universal eventually earning $6.9 billion from the earnings of all of its films.

However, just like the impressive box office records for Jurassic World, Universal’s massive success was short-lived. Star Wars: The Force Awakens broke the opening weekend box office record merely six months later, and Walt Disney Studios became the dominant movie studio a year after the best year in Universal’s history. The collective performance of all of its films surpassed $7 billion dollars in 2016, and another successful year in 2017 made Disney the first film to make $6 billion dollars in back to back years. Again, before Universal did it in 2015, no film studio ever made more than $6 billion in a single year, and the fact that rival Disney did it in back to back years nullified Universal’s breakthrough swiftly and decisively.

The future also looks to favor Disney. The company that owns the rights to Marvel Studios, the Star Wars franchise, along with many of the most successful animated films of all time, legally owning your childhood, looks to continue producing successful hits with reliable franchises and intellectual properties, the impressive box office haul of Avenger: Infinity War making up for the “disappointment” of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

Universal, does not have it so easy. While the films released by Illumination (the Minions people) will likely fare well, the interest in the Fast and Furious franchise appears to be waning, and that’s before the tension behind the scenes between Vin Diesel and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Launching the “Dark Universe,” Universal’s attempt at a sprawling cinematic universe by reviving the Universal monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, etc.) in the same manner as Marvel proved to be an utter disaster both critically and commercially.

Thus, the Jurassic Park franchise appears to be the most reliable property for Universal Studios, likely feeling encircled by the success of Disney as well as forthcoming agreement to purchase Twentieth Century Fox. Though the new Jurassic World will almost certainly be a hit, what Universal wants and arguably needs is for Fallen Kingdom to equal the box office haul of Infinity War, a movie still playing in theaters that has already surpassed $2 billion worldwide. Though the sheer volume of advertisements may seem offensive, it is purely a defensive strategy by Universal Studios to keep pace in the current box office climate.

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Guys, Waluigi is just Awful

(Image Credit: Nintendo)

At E3 2018, the annual event where video game studios subject themselves to immediate fan backlash and deliver awkward presentations to investors and shareholders that likely haven’t picked up a video game controller since skipping classes in favor of a house Goldeneye tournament, Nintendo announced the upcoming release of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, a brand new game in the long running series rather than a port from the less than successful version for the Nintendo Wii U. One of the biggest points of emphasis was the fact that every character from a previous version would be available on the new game. Characters like Mewtwo and Roy which were DLC characters in the Wii U and 3DS version, fan favorite Solid Snake (censored for the innocent among us), and even characters no one particularly wanted back like Ice Climbers and Pichu will be available in the new game, along with new characters like the Inklings from Splatoon, Princess Daisy from the Mario franchise, and Ridley from the Metroid series.

After the initial hype for the game died down, people of the internet took to their keyboards and gathered to complain about a character that was not announced for the new entry in the Smash series. While numerous characters from the Super Mario series, a collection of video games that has grossed more than the GDP of numerous countries, one character was left off the roster for the time being. This, of course, is the purple, altitudinous Waluigi.

First appearing in Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64 in 2000, Waluigi was to Luigi what Wario was to Mario, an evil twin alter ego. Waluigi has since reappeared in other Mario games and was even a non-playable ally (assist trophy) in preceding Super Smash Bros games. But, the decision not to include Waluigi as a playable character (again for the time being) sparked internet outrage, some protesting ironically (MEMES) while others seriously wish for the ill-tempered irritant to enter the fray in the new game.

Waluigi 2

(Look at him, he just wants to hit his companions repeatedly until they fly off a stage to their death. Credit to a Facebook friend for sharing this meme)

Guys…Waluigi is awful.

I mean…really, he’s really awful.

“Sir, we know that, we just like him for the memes.”

Doesn’t matter. The creation and celebration of Waluigi represents the same kind of “edgy” thinking that prevailed throughout the 1990s and 2000s to create other awful ideas like Venom, The Death of SupermanSpawn, and even Wario (Wario is also awful). Clamoring for a terrible character representing a terrible idea and terrible thinking, even sarcastically, rewards said terrible ideas and terrible thinking and encourages video game creators to continue terrible ideas and terrible thinking until all we are left with is anti-versions of the characters we actually like.

VenomBaneDoomsday

(I hate one-note “dark” and “edgy” villains Kif, it sickens me)

So Nintendo, don’t do it. Don’t put Waluigi in the new Smash game regardless of internet outrage or reducing stock prices due to a lackluster showing at E3. Waluigi is not a good character regardless of what the internet thinks. Ironic cult following or not, “Luigi but evil” represents the worst form of thinking rather than a creative character, a product of 1990s and early 2000s media trends rather than a true representation of Nintendo’s creativity.

 

The Three Kings of ‘Salem’s Lot

(Image Credit Cemetery Dance Publications)

(This article was originally published October, 2017)

Written in 1975, Stephen King’s second novel ‘Salem’s Lot answers the age old question, “What would happen if the story of Dracula occurred in a small town in Maine?” Both Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot were heavily influenced by Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a favorite of King’s when teaching high school, in tone, style, and subject matter in the latter case (by the way, if you haven’t read the original Dracula, do it, it’s really good). ‘Salem’s Lot centers around Ben Mears, a writer returning to the eponymous town where he spent a portion of his childhood in order to complete his next book. He reminisces about the horror of the Marsten House, meets and falls in love with Susan Norton, and eventually encounters true evil, as vampires decimate the town’s population.

Yet, the most interesting scene in ‘Salem’s Lot doesn’t involve vampires at all, but centers on King deep in self reflection. Many of his works are semi-autobiographical; for example The Body (which was later adapted into the coming of age classic Stand by Me) serves as King reflecting nostalgically on childhood. ‘Salem’s Lot represents another iteration of this trend, with three characters representing the author’s reckoning with his own psyche.

Ben Mears, the writer, arrives at the town bar and meets up with Ed “Weasel” Craig, a boarder renting a room in the same building as Mears who is friendly enough but also a raging alcoholic. “Weasel,” well into a drunken stupor, introduces Ben to schoolteacher Matt Burke before excusing himself to the restroom. Realizing that “Weasel” has been gone for some time, Ben and Matt discover him passed out, “propped against the wall between two urinals, and a fellow in an army uniform was pissing approximately two inches from his right ear” (‘Salem’s Lot, 194).

In Dickensian fashion, this scene depicts King’s past, present, and future. Matt, a schoolteacher, King’s profession before becoming a writer, and Ben, the famous writer and stand-in for the author in this book, look down on the passed out “Weasel” Craig, the possible “future King.” King’s struggle with drug addiction and alcoholism throughout the 1970s and 1980s is explored in greater allegorical detail in The Shining, but this scene serves as a brief “moment of clarity” for King, recognizing his fate if he continued on the path of addiction. As Ben, the “present King” looks down on “Weasel,

“His mouth was open and Ben thought how terribly old he looked, old and ravaged by cold, impersonal forces with no gentle touch in them. The reality of his own dissolution, advancing day by day, came home to him, not for the first time, but with shocking unexpectedness. The pity that welled up in his throat like clear, black waters was as much for himself as it was for Weasel.

Requiem For The Nintendo Wii

 

(Image Credit: Nintendo)

(This article was originally published August, 2017)

So the Nintendo Switch, the console/handheld hybrid from Nintendo, seems to be doing well, with sales surpassing industry expectations. Since its worldwide release in March 2017, Nintendo sold 4.7 million units of the new system, leading to higher stock prices due to investor confidence and an increase in revenue of $1.38 billion from April 1 to June 30. As a system, in the 30 seconds I got to experiment with it, it seems to be fine, deftly transferring the graphics and computing power of a console to a handheld but having cumbersome control scheme that takes some getting used to. The success of the Nintendo Switch is particularly interesting for its role in the narrative of Nintendo as a gaming company; some say it serves as the last chance for Nintendo to prove it can make a successful system, otherwise the company would have to resort to selling off its characters and brands to mobile developers and third parties in the same manner as Sega.

Common narratives of Nintendo’s history as a video game company cite the original NES as an icon of the Golden Age of video games, with the SNES and N64 as worthy follow-ups before a decline in console and game quality in the twenty-first century. Because of its failure to attract third-party developers and match the computing power of its rivals Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo needed to adapt to modern trends in video game sales and development, or else become a dinosaur stuck celebrating the glory of the past while failing to adapt for the present and future.

Yet, this narrative ignores or dismisses the Nintendo Wii, considering the 2006 console as an example of Nintendo’s faulty corporate strategy or a gimmick that made Nintendo a lot of money initially but hurt the company in the long run, as the casual fan base that made the system so popular ditched the Wii for mobile gaming, leaving Nintendo with its core fan base and a system of lower quality than the PS3 or Xbox 360. Rather than being a failure, I argue that the Nintendo Wii was a resounding success, a console vastly superior in sales to Sony and Microsoft that still produced quality games and led to a lasting impact on subsequent game development and gaming culture as a whole.

Sales

While the PS3 and Xbox 360 sold at an even clip compared to each other, with both systems selling about 84 million units according to company sales reports, the Nintendo Wii sold about 102 million units, surpassing its rivals by a significant margin. The curiosity of new motion controls and loyalism to the Nintendo brand led the Wii to outperform the Sony and Microsoft in sheer sales, a point often overlooked or in narratives of the success of seventh generation video game consoles or disregarded as consumers buying into a fad. Moreover, games released for the Wii vastly outsold games released for the Xbox 360 or the PS3, as New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Wii Sports Resort, Mario Kart Wii, and Wii Sports are in the top 10 video games of all time. These games benefited as bundled copies, but other games like Wii Play, Wii Fit, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and Super Mario Galaxy rank near the top among top-selling games of the seventh generation. Though remembered as better computing systems, the Xbox 360 and PS3 simply didn’t sell as well as the Nintendo Wii and its best-selling games. The Nintendo Wii mixed nostalgia with novelty, appealing to children and their families to create a unique gaming experience that should not be remembered as a failure.

Games

Sure, games selling well is one method of calculating success, but how good were these games? After all, the Transformers movies are a financial success, but no one thinks those movies are any good. While the motion control system and lack of computing power scared away third-party developers and titles that were adapted to the Nintendo system suffered in quality as compared to their PS3 and Xbox 360 counterparts (for example, Madden and Call of Duty), Nintendo managed to produce its own classic games, reusing characters and settings while simultaneously moving to new directions. Titles like Legend of Zelda: Twilight PrincessLegend of Zelda Skyward SwordSuper Smash Bros. BrawlSuper Mario Galaxy rank among the best in their respective franchises, while Nintendo capitalized on brand nostalgia by releasing a new version of Punch Out in 2009 as well as Donkey Kong Country Returns 2010. New Super Mario Bros. WiiMario Kart Wii, and Mario Party became local multiplayer favorites for families and dorm rooms, while games like Xenoblade Chronicles showed that Nintendo could still develop new characters and franchises.

The narrative of a supposed fall from grace and relevance among video game production cities Nintendo’s inability to develop a successful online multiplayer system and failure to attract third-party developers as examples of impending doom for the video game company. After all, how could Nintendo survive as a gaming company while only relying on Nintendo games and characters? However, Nintendo’s reliance on its own franchises and characters is nothing new, it is the same model that made the company the dominant force in video game production for decades. Nintendo boasts a greater stable of popular franchises than either Sony or Microsoft with Super MarioLegend of ZeldaPokemonAnimal Crossing, and Metroid among others, so why would the company rely on inferior Wii versions third-party franchises like Call of Duty, Battlefield, or Grand Theft Auto? Moreover, as Sony and Microsoft battle for a gaming audience largely composed of young males in their teens and twenties, the Nintendo Wii appealed to younger audiences and families, cornering a valuable demographic ignored by Nintendo’s gaming rivals. Rather than copying the tactics of Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo recognized its strengths and weaknesses, focusing on its own characters and franchises to appeal to a different consumer base and producing quality games for the computing power of the Wii as opposed to attempting to attract third-party developers.

Lasting Impact

The most obvious impact of the Nintendo Wii on gaming as a whole is the development of motion control. The initial popularity of the Nintendo Wii led Microsoft and Sony to experiment and produce their own iterations of the concept, resulting in the Xbox Kinect and the Playstation Move. Even the Playstation VR represents an evolution of the Wii’s interactive concept; a change to the gaming experience as a whole rather than simply a new system with better graphics and computing power. Sure, the Wii’s motion controls weren’t perfect and the control scheme led to awkward game play for certain titles, but the Wii was the first major step toward a dramatic change in gaming rather than the culmination of motion control gaming; nothing is perfect the first time. The Nintendo Wii attempted to bring the future to the present, to change the gaming experience by fusing exercise and interaction with video game play.

The promise of more active and interactive video gaming, especially the promise that the Nintendo Wii was a “healthier video game console,” led to curiosity and purchase by casual gamers along with Nintendo fans, boosting the console’s sales as compared to the Xbox 360 and the PS3. Yet, the doom and gloom teleology of the Wii and Nintendo argue that the motion controls were only a gimmick, as casual gamers ditched the console in favor of mobile gaming and its easy accessibility, leaving only a limited Nintendo fan base and a gaming system inferior to Sony and Microsoft. Yet, I believe that it is precisely because of the Wii’s appeal to families and atypical consumers that led to the popularity of mobile gaming we see today. Nintendo became the dominant company in video game production and development after the video game crash of 1983 by marketing specifically to boys in toy aisles, and console producers continue to target young males as their primary demographic. The Nintendo Wii, by contrast appealed to younger audiences as well as their parents, offering nostalgia for those that grew up in the 1980s as well as casual, easily accessible game play. Rather than a simple shift by casual gamers to mobile games because of easier access and short attention spans, the Nintendo Wii fundamentally influenced gaming culture. Video games were no longer only toys for children, as previously untapped audiences adopted casual gaming as a fun diversion while waiting for transportation or avoiding awkward silence in social settings. Games like Candy Crush and Clash of Clans, easier to pick up and play and more popular with adults (especially adult women) than console games, owe their rise to the Nintendo Wii, which made gaming accessible and fun for people of all ages.

Far from being a small blip of success in Nintendo’s downward trajectory or emblematic of Nintendo’s archaic game strategy, the Nintendo Wii was a successful console based on sales, games, and lasting impact on gaming culture. Though the console certainly had limitations and the motion controls scared away third-party developers, Nintendo thrived because of the Wii. Combining innovation with nostalgia and recognizing the strength of internal characters and franchises, the Nintendo Wii was not only a successful platform upon its release but a development that influences game development and culture today and into the future.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me as I begin blogging, writing, haphazardly throwing streams of consciousness onto the internet. On this site, you’ll find commentary and analysis of movies, video games, television, and pop culture in general. Some of the stuff here has been written (by me, relax) in the past, but it is my hope to provide new content and thoughtful pieces going forward. Thank you for stopping by!