Coming to an Adult Demographic Near You: The Nintendo Fusion Tour

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Kyle Ackerman
New York, New York

The tour's official site:

It's no wonder Nintendo is sponsoring a tour headlined by Evanescence. The band is certainly popular – enough to completely fill Webster Hall in New York City with a screaming crowd – but that alone doesn't explain Nintendo's interest in sharing the marquee. Amy Lee, vocalist and front woman for Evanescence, strode onto the stage in a dress like Alice's (of Wonderland), but in pink and white, with sneakers and a single striped stocking on her right leg. The white parts of the dress were defaced with magic marker words and phrases such as "psycho," "slut," "I Will Endure," "woman" and "Insane." She described her outfit to the crowd as innocence destroyed and defaced. To the crowd at Webster Hall, she was more than a music idol – she's part of Nintendo's bid for adulthood.

While Amy Lee and Evanescence broadcast an aura of disaffection, they simultaneously convey a sense of hope underlying their anger that had the crowd chanting "don't turn away" during Evanescence's encore performance of Whisper. The band has gotten generous radio play and had two songs in the recent film version of Daredevil. They have the kind of multi-dimensional appeal that draws gothic kids in full regalia to the concert, and still gets them air time on Christian Rock radio stations. All of this makes Evanescence a brilliant choice for Nintendo's tour. Whatever the band may be, it does not evoke a seven-year-old playing Legend of Zelda on the NES. The band has a decidedly adult appeal (by which we mean folks over age sixteen) to a widespread demographic that (if the New York audience is any indication) enjoys more than its share of disposable income. Better yet, if the concert crowd is any indication, Evanescence has more than the usual share of female fans.

Nintendo Inserts Itself Into the Music Scene

Evanescence may have been the biggest draw, but it was hardly the only recognizable band. Bands such as Cold and Finger Eleven put on strong performances and drew crowds (albeit smaller crowds) of their own. One of Finger Eleven's guitarists made Nintendo's point that this was not an event for kids by flinging about his long, greasy hair, bugging out his eyes and doing his best to capture the image of violent insanity. Nintendo's most obvious presence was in a room downstairs from the main venue, with several game kiosks showing off some of their adult line-up. Super Mario Sunshine and Pikmin were nowhere to be found. Instead, the games set up for play were titles like Soul Calibur II, 1080º, Avalanche and Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike.

I have to profess some initial skepticism concerning Nintendo's efforts. When I first encountered announcements concerning the Nintendo Fusion Tour, I assumed their sponsorship would be quickly forgotten, and was surprised they had abandoned last year's Cube Club efforts, in which they put out GameCube kiosks in a club setting with free alcohol. Talking with folks in the crowd between early bands didn't do much to change that impression. When asked about Nintendo, one woman who had traveled from central Pennsylvania said, "Yeh, my little brother likes it." Other answers included "No, I don't play the stuff," and "I'm just here for the bands."

My initial impression was wrong. Very wrong. By the end of the show, the young man who said he was just there for the bands was wearing a gray shirt thrown from the stage with only the Nintendo Fusion Tour logo on the front. Nintendo had someone to energize the crowd between each of the four bands, getting the crowd to scream for tour T-shirts and giveaways. Perhaps the ultimate effort made at reaching an adult demographic was the raffle (which required filling in informational slips for Nintendo) giving away a Game Boy Advance SP (GBA SP) autographed by Evanescence. The "adult" version of the GBA, signed by a band – try explaining that to the sixty-three year old man on the plane next to you. Perhaps you can't, but it isn't meant to appeal to a ten-year old, either. By the time the headlining band was ready to enter, that same pep guy had the crowd screaming enthusiastically that they would go to Nintendo's website to sign up for an autographed guitar raffle.

Metallica Rocks!

My surprise was redoubled on the way out of the venue. The crowds were thronging in the exit stairwell when someone threw two fists in the air and screamed "Nintendo Rocks!" It doesn't matter if it was genuine enthusiasm, a sarcastic jibe or a Nintendo shill – it got the crowd talking. Of course, it was immediately followed by the cry of "Metallica Rocks." Metallica may have signed their own game deal with Vivendi Universal Games, but I don't think the man in the Iron Maiden shirt had that in mind. Another young man, speaking to his date who was enthusiastically gushing about Amy Lee, said that "The GameCube stands were, like, the best part – tryin' out the games and stuff." Given the crowd's obvious passion during Evanescence's performance, it's hard to believe everyone shared that sentiment, but there's no denying Nintendo's "lifestyle" tour made an impact.

The biggest problem with the tour, from the perspective of promoting Nintendo products to a new demographic, is that the bands started as soon as the doors opened, and everyone was shooed out as soon as the bands stopped more than four hours later. Given that the crowds were densely packed, pressed shoulder-to-shoulder, no one was going to give up a prime location to check out the game displays between bands at the cost of losing their place. That said, a college age couple admitted they would be interested in checking out some Nintendo stuff in another setting where they wouldn't miss the bands.

Don't get me wrong – the crowd was there for the music. First and foremost, they came because they were fans of those particular bands. Still, Nintendo made headway with a new crowd. They had an impact on the audience that none of the other sponsors (Blender magazine, Circuit City and Launch, Yahoo's music portal) can claim. The others went virtually unnoticed, but Nintendo raised their profile a notch with a highly desirable demographic. Nintendo is broadly perceived as the third-ranked console in the United States, so it remains to be seen if their efforts will pay off, but they made a clever marketing play to harvest a bit more of the multi-billion dollar console market.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on September 17, 2003 7:28 PM.

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