Thoughts on Nintendo’s convention demo stations

TastyWhale June 15, 2014 0

At PAX Prime 2013 I discussed with a few friends our thoughts on the lines at the Nintendo booths. In short, we don’t like them. Now, note that it was very on topic as we were in line to play the Nintendo exclusive Bayonetta 2. A very long line to play it. A 2-3 hour long line.

Bemused con-goers.  I mean, wouldn't you be bemused if you were reduced to the size of a Pikmin??

Bemused con-goers. I mean, wouldn’t you be bemused if you were reduced to the size of a Pikmin??

Don’t get me wrong, I think Nintendo is one of the few companies doing cons (mostly) right! (Uggggh, I’ll write a follow up about what exhibitors are doing wrong later…) They have swag (tee-shirts, lanyards, stickers, friggen’ kickballs, and crazy photo-ops). They have their locations spread out; for PAX Prime 2013 they had two floors in the escalator area, a photo-op of the King of Red Lions near the entrance of the exhibition hall, and the large section they carved out near the indies on the booth floor.

If you haven’t been to PAX or a big convention, let me expand on the basic mechanics of any booth with demos. Tri-force so hard you LINK. That should give you the background information to understand my issue.


Now, at San Diego Comic-Con Nintendo routinely rents out a large part of the near by Marriott hotel in addition to any panels or booths they may have on the main floor. This gives them the ability to set-up and tear-down their demo stations, advertising set pieces, and general décor at their own pace. Additionally, I would guess it is a bit cheaper to rent their own room than try to bid for and organize adjacent booth sections on the main floor. The Nintendo room is probably bigger than the venue you had your Sadie Hawkins. From my last two years at SDCC I remember dozens of demo stations set up in this room. The 3DS and Wii-U took the spotlight with whatever was the hot game coming out; be it New Super Mario Bros, Pikmin 3, or that year’s Wind Waker HD.

Here is the basic (though admittedly abstractly/absurdly drawn by yours truly) layout of the Nintendo booth at this past PAX exhibitor hall.

I drew this, don't judge!

I drew this, don’t judge!

At the Bayonetta 2 location there were 3 demo stations set up. The line is represented by the pink arrow. You can see the start and finish, with some estimated time markers.

Let me boil this down:
For both Wind Waker HD (not shown) and Bayonetta 2 there were only 3 stations each.
These stations have a demo with an estimated completion time. For Wind Waker HD it was about 10 minutes, for Bayonetta 2 it was 15 minutes. Remember, these two are single player games. (Mario 3D land was 4-player and much quicker to get through)
That means you have to wait about 10-15 minutes per three people in front of you. That is an hour for every 16 people. This doesn’t sound like much. But, the line is easily 80 people. Luckily there are enough people that opt to “just watch” someone else playing the demo (as long as the booth-rep is cool with giving them a tee-shirt).

Compare this with other studios that get 60-100 people through their line an hour like clockwork. Kind of a meat-grinder, but they aren’t bogarting your time, they aren’t making you devote a quarter of your day to see one thing.

This seems ridiculous. I think the line issues at any convention is terrible, but Nintendo’s booths just seem to clog it up worse. I’ve already covered that paying for a ticket to stand in line sucks, but I think a simple solution would be for Nintendo to triple their demo stations. Admittedly Nintendo has a very Japanese sensibility showcased by their polite line uniformity, flowing open spaces between main attractions, and having direct one on one interaction with the workers; adding more workers or worker-free booths would crowd the space and reduce the direct 1:1 customer interaction they have.

Nintendo, if you are reading this, please please please reevaluate your booth lay-outs for locations with less space. Try to have more warm bodies to assist attendees, have faster-flowing lines, shorter demos, or multiple demo types with the same rewards. If a user wants to play the 15 minute demo, have a separate line for that than the majority 5-7 minute demos.

Just do something to mix it up. Your content is great, and while I appreciate the hands-on approach this isn’t a beneficial technique when people are trying to cram as much videogame related information and experiences into the few days they may have there.

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