During the span of the Game Boy and Game Boy Color’s existence, Nintendo launched an ad campaign that lasted for over a decade making the handhold console’s commercials and advertisements some of the most memorable in video game history. That is not necessarily a good thing, but these ads and commercials have continued to make gamers laugh well past their initial reveals and some ads are infamous for their bizarre and questionable one-liners.
This is that time Nintendo used weird ads for the Game Boy.
Right out of the gate, Nintendo went all out in the grunge style of advertisement used for teenagers in the late 1980s and early 1990s, so the look and feel of the commercials from 1989 until 2000 are a relic of a time past but also a staple of a style that dominated televisions for a long period of time.
Because the target audience was the 12 to 18-year-old range, Nintendo heavily geared its Game Boy, and later Game Boy Color, commercials towards this group. Since teenagers were becoming more and more infatuated by punk and grunge culture, Nintendo needed to make their first handheld feel like a punk product, especially compared to the SEGA Game Gear, which released only a year after the Game Boy and touted a colored screen.
Nintendo knew that they were not going to be beating SEGA on the hardware front, so they needed to win the old fashioned way: aggressive advertising. This did not just include televised commercials. No, no. The ad campaign in magazines and such was even weirder, even claiming that playing Game Boy is more fun than a ferret down your trousers (I was not aware that this was a fun thing to do).
The advertisements clearly helped in some way, because in the end, the Game Boy sold a whopping 118.69 million units worldwide over the course of its 12-year span. Compare that to the Game Gear, which only sold 10.6 million units, and it was clear who the winner of the handheld war was in the 1990s. Sure, success did not solely rely on the unique and bizarre advertising, but it is undeniable that it worked.
SEGA even had their own ad campaigns that featured some really sketchy stuff that I am honestly shocked was allowed back in the ’90s, but considering the playing field, SEGA’s ads really were not so risque compared to the slew of ads from Nintendo.
Some ads and commercials were straight up sexual while others teetered on the line of racist, but the punk attitude was on full display and definitely showed Nintendo’s desperation to win against their rival of the time, even if that meant displaying a woman tied up in a bed waiting for her seriously distracted lover, telling their fans to “keep it in your pants”, or showing off the Game Boy Pocket’s “tasty colors” in one of the most provocative ads ever released by the Big N.
In the year 2021, seeing some of these ads and commercials from the family friendly Nintendo is a bit alarming, but we also do need to remember that the times have changed tremendously, even in the past 30 years.
In recent years, Nintendo has completely revamped their advertisement for worldwide appeal and professionalism, but during their early years in the video game industry, Nintendo did dabble in the obnoxious and showed that they are fully capable of bringing the big guns to a fight if they need to. Printing money is not the only thing their handhelds can do, because apparently producing weird ads also seems like commonplace.
Just remember that the Game Boy was a platform chock full of controversy, although these advertisements are a bit tamer than the prison labor accusations, amirite?
Thank you for stopping by Nintendo Link and enjoying this “That Time” article. What do you think of these weird Game Boy commercials and ads? Are you surprised? Not at all? Let us know what you think in the comments below! Happy gaming, everyone.
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.