What’s Nintendo’s mascot? Mario, right? What about Microsoft’s? Master Chief? Is he just the mascot for the Xbox? What about Sony? Nathan Drake? Kratos? Crash Bandicoot?
Some of these questions may be hard to answer because we don’t necessarily brand our consoles with mascots anymore. Sure, Nintendo pimps out poor Mario like there’s no tomorrow, but the console has a more white, minimalistic, Apple feel to it, and it’s rare to see things like first party controllers branded with Mario unless they are collector’s editions.
The other consoles make this question even more complicated. While Halo is a great game and is a big seller for Microsoft, the Xbox was never really branded with Master Chief in mind. He was just sort of elected into mascothood.
And Sony has never had a mascot, despite its prominance on the console market since the PS1 era. It’s had many good-selling games, but once again none of these really fit a branding scheme. Crash Bandicoot did at one point, but he faded during the PS3 years. Then Kratos was looked at as an icon because he was a Sony-developed character, but his franchise has gone silent. Now, Nathan Drake is looked at as a mascot ’cause, well, he’s in one of the only ongoing Sony exclusive titles that has a recognizable character.
This is a lot different from the console war days when Mario and Sonic were everywhere!
Why is this? Well many would say it’s because video games stand on their own merits these days. Back during the days of the console wars, video games were still looked at as toys, so they were marketed as such. Consoles had mascots because the look of a big friendly inviting cartoon face made the console less threatening to adults and inviting to kids.
But now consoles are looked at more as an entertainment center, an expensive piece of electronics that the whole family uses. They’re more like a VCR (for those of you who remember what that is), a DVD player, or even a computer. Even back in the ’80s, VCRs didn’t really have mascots, and DVD players and computers don’t today. They simply don’t need them.
However, I wonder if we are losing something by abandoning our mascots. Mascots used to drive interesting design in a way. Their games HAD to be the best the system had to offer because they could make or break a system’s sales.
Meanwhile, Sonic became detached from his system and… well, we saw where that went.
We may be post the age of mascots, but are we going too far? Are we perhaps losing the spirit of what video gaming once was by losing its icons? You tell me! Let us know what you think in the comments.