Every year, Nintendo hosts a mall tour around the continental United States. Demo stations are set up, attendants are on hand with information, coupons are distributed, mascots visit, and sometimes you can even get some rather neat swag. (I still have the Poke Ball 3DS cartridge holder from a few Nintendo Mall Tours ago.) This year’s tour sets out to accomplish the same goals, but feels more humble than efforts in years past.
I’m fortunate enough to be within driving distance of one of the Nintendo Mall Tour locations, so I headed out to Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, IL to see what Nintendo had to offer this year. The first thing I noticed is that this year, it seemed to occupy a smaller space. In past years, the demo stations and complementary decorations felt as though it was twice as large. Maybe that’s because of elements like Pokemon statues or Mario pipes? This year seemed more utilitarian.
It was effective. Each demo station was occupied when I visited on December 2. Super Mario Maker and Splatoon were clearly Nintendo’s primary focus, as they had the largest displays and most demo kiosks available. The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes, Yo-Kai Watch, and Skylanders SuperChargers were well represented as well. In fact, the Yo-Kai Watch station was particularly notable. It had buttons for kids (or the young at heart) to push to hear introductions from characters like Whisper, Jibanyan, Komasan, Cheeksqueek, and Blazion. Smaller titles, like Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash, Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, and Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash had smaller displays.
The downside is, this year’s Nintendo Mall Tour lacked some of the fanfare of past years. Last year, there was a grabbing machine filled with stuffed Nintendo toys. If you played all of the games and received the stamps, you’d have chances to try and win one. It was one of the few cases where I saw people actually winning great products from the game. During another Nintendo Mall Tour, Mario Kart 8 tournaments were held, with a prize belt distributed.
This time it was less of an event and more of an educational opportunity. The only “prize” people could earn was a Yo-Kai Watch tattoo from a prize machine. If you played two Nintendo 3DS and two Nintendo Wii U games and received stamps from an attendant, you’d receive a coin for the machine. Personally, I had been hoping for a Yo-Kai Watch medal, like the ones given away at the New York Comic Con, since those had QR codes that could be redeemed in-game on the back.
The promotional appearances were also different this year. In years past, characters like Mario, Luigi, and Pikachu showed up for photo ops. This year, Donkey Kong and Jibanyan, from Yo-Kai Watch, were appearing at the Woodfield Mall on December 5-6.
It was also interesting to visit the Nintendo Mall Tour to see where Nintendo’s priorities lie. Both Super Mario Maker and Splatoon were very visible. If someone was coming past with their kids after visiting Santa, the large displays would catch the eye. About eight amiibo were out for people to grab and examine, secured to displays via cords. Yo-Kai Watch is clearly a priority, with a large station, multiple units with the game, a Jibanyan mascot visit, and tattoo prizes. Other titles that were smaller and older, like Super Smash Bros. or Yoshi’s Woolly World, had stations where you really had to get close to find out what was going on.
The Nintendo Mall Tour this year is available at the following 16 locations around the United States.
- South Shore Plaza in Braintree, Massachusetts
- Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Illinois
- Stonebriar Centre in Frisco, Texas
- Cherry Creek Shopping Center in Denver, Colorado
- Memorial City Mall in Houston, Texas
- The Oaks in Thousand Oaks, California
- Dolphin Mall in Miami, Florida
- Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota
- Perimeter Mall in Atlanta, Georgia
- Queens Center Mall in Elmhurst, New York
- King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
- Scottsdale Fashion Square in Scottsdale, Arizona
- Washington Square in Portland, Oregon
- Westfield Valley Fair in Santa Clara, California
- Westfield Southcenter in Seattle, Washington
- Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Virginia
People have until December 20 to visit one of the malls before the Nintendo Mall Tour ends.