For decades we have watched our children grow up with video games, and wondered what the draw was. Video games have progressed from machines in pizza parlors fed with quarters to $500 boxes that sit in living rooms and offer Internet, shopping and DVD players, besides the actual games.
When Mercedes-Benz announced this week that it was strengthening a partnership with Japanese company Nintendo, another page was added to this chapter of video games and our lives. Nintendo is the maker of mega-franchises like Super Mario Bros., whose featured portly plumber is one of the most-recognized icons on Earth. This past week, Mercedes-Benz agreed to let a virtual version of its GLA to be driven around by Mario and his friends in a video game.
What does this mean? Nintendo is not the juggernaut it once was. Microsoft and Sony have become powerful competitors who claimed huge chunks of the $20.5 billion in video game-related sales in 2013. Nintendo has tremendous brand cache, but its games are frequently noted for appealing more to children and young adults than the consumer base cultivated by its rivals.
We believe, however, that Mercedes-Benz is on the right track. Nintendo is famous for controlling all aspects of its business, from licensing to distribution, so to allow Mercedes-Benz vehicles into its virtual world is a highly-unusual opportunity. Many of the programmers and coders in Silicon Valley today grew up with a Nintendo controller in their hand, and given the increasingly high valuations of technology companies in the U.S., it would behoove Mercedes-Benz to increase awareness of its brand in the children who might make the Facebooks and Twitters of the future.
Technology is increasingly important to Mercedes-Benz as well: driverless driving, head-up displays, automatic parking—the most progressive integrations of technology in driving all lend themselves to virtual simulation, which is the bedrock of video games. Partnering more with Nintendo could give Mercedes-Benz a 1-UP (also known as an extra life).