Now Nintendo is not usually a name that conjures up thoughts of rage, frustration and disappointment. No, Nintendo (or Ninty if you're feeling all sentimental) is a name that is synonymous with cute, colourful, back to the halcyon days of childhood, type thoughts – fun for all the family and all that sort of thing. Plus they have a blindly loyal fanbase, which is something to be proud of, I guess, slavering and fawning aside.
Fed up of playing catch-up with Microsoft and Sony, Nintendo are having a change of tack lately by trying to give themselves a more adult image. Nintendo is no longer the brand for kids"it's all growed up and stuff. And this is no more evident than in the launch of the GBA SP.
The GBA SP – for a start it doesn't look like "my first handheld." Oh no, it's all small and slinky and silver, unless you insist on getting a purple one, but why would you, when you can have it in, er"silver? Anyway, Nintendo have managed to make handheld gaming grown up, sexy and desirable (in a gadgety type way, nothing kinky). The SP is the gaming device for young, trendy types and the ad campaigns have done a good job reflecting this – until now that is.
Perusing the latest edition of Edge magazine (monthly gaming tome), I came across the latest GBA SP ad. Since launch, the SP ads have all been clever, black and white photography featuring a silver SP rising out of liquid silver, like Botticelli's Birth of Venus and arty photos of people's pockets, complete with SP.
This was all very well and good, until I was faced with a double-page ad that should frankly make Nintendo hang their heads in shame. First of all the strap line is "Game Boy Advance SP for men" – hmm, ‘kay.
On the first page you're greeted with an arty, black and white (true to SP ad form so far) photograph of five women. One is dressed all "street" and holding a skate board, another is kneeling in an army crop top and combats and curiously one is dressed in Joan of Arc style chain mail, complete with sword and high heels!? Then there's the girl dressed as a formula 1 driver, with the zipper on her boiler suit open to her navel and well what the girl in kimono bathrobe has to offer is anyone's guess.
Meanwhile, on the opposite page sits the diminutive, silver SP with "Which one takes your fancy?" written underneath.
Rest assured, I didn't take one look and sit spluttering in offended condemnation. I took a few moments to consider the ad. My first thoughts were"oh, the women are obviously there to suggest that actually, the SP is desirable for them too, making the whole "for men" slogan tongue in cheek. But unfortunately this isn't the case.
I'm sad to say this, but the women are purely there as some sort of assortment of hookers in a brothel, on display for a prospective client. And they will of course be rejected in favour of the SP, as it is after all "for men."
And then there's the "for men" thing. I'm sure Nintendo meant to infer that the SP is grown up, not for boys, kids, children, that kind of thing. Instead, faced with the seductive totty on the opposite page, it looks like they're just excluding 50 percent of the population by saying this product is not for women. Not only are they alienating women through this ad campaign, but they are also equating women to a mobile gaming machine which costs Â£89!
The most frustrating thing is that the launch of the SP was the ideal moment for Nintendo to present the GBA as a universally appealing gadget. This was such a wasted opportunity and it really gets my goat. Nintendo, you really need to wake up to yourself and the flagrant exclusion of women, or anyone just shouldn't be on your marketing agenda.
I know Nintendo isn't the only culprit when it comes to dubious use of women as sexual objects, so don't come at me with that one. You only have to look at E3, particularly a picture of a young girl in a bikini top with $299 scrawled across her stomach – all in aid of the Nokia N-Gage press conference. There are just so many sordid interpretations attached to this one that I'm not even going to start.
The fact of the matter is, Nintendo have wrapped their "sexist," may not be too strong a word here, advert up in clever, arty farty crap so that they can say they're just being post-modern or something. No, it's not some girl in a bikini sucking a lollipop. It's worse than that because it's pretending to be high brow and sophisticated, when really it's appealing to the lowest common denominator but doesn't have the balls to go through with it.