Lego not long ago revealed a rather adorable set of Mario Legos in which Mario himself could talk and emote. He interacted with the legos around him and it was pretty cute. It seemed rather harmless. Except for the fact that Mario was only sold in the starter set and it was nearly impossible to find the thing which meant you had all these sets out there that had no inherent value without him and would leave kids begging for the Mario lego. Why one didn’t come with more sets is beyond me. As someone who has to shop for kids for holidays, this was a common complaint I heard from parents and non-parents alike.
As most electronic toys nowadays, Mario requires occasional updates. The latest update added a treasure hunt mechanic which seems fun for kids. It also added one other thing, some nugget snuck in at seemingly the last moment. Was it his Nintendo 64 sleeping phrases? Was it new expressions? No. Our portly plumber called out for his brother. What was seemingly a random addition that’s sure to spark a few creepy pastas has now been revealed to be a marketing ploy as the green Mario—I mean Luigi—now has joined as his own electronic figure to the line.
In a world where YouTube content creators have to worry about COPPA (an issue with YouTube advertising to children), is this not also a violation of COPPA? Is this ethical? Because that’s what this is; Mario was advertising to children directly for them to find his brother and beg their parents for more bricks. It raises a moral question as well as scumminess levels even the most die hard Nintendo fans can’t excuse. Now whether this was Lego’s idea or Nintendo idea isn’t important at the end of the day because the focus should be on the children who are being manipulated in a move that seems like a skit from Family Guy or South Park come to life.
Highly collectible toys are nothing new. Skylanders practically begged for shelling out green for more characters, but you knew that going in. You knew what to expect and knew there’d be more characters at the store tantalizing you and the little ones who were tired of playing as a tree man and wanted to be the cool crystal dragon now. The figures were also fairly inexpensive that an allowance could afford one of them. It’s a success model Disney and Lego also tried to hop on but never found quite the same success. It was a marketing dream. Card packs and blind box figures have also been in debate about gambling and children. And, heck, back in the 80s, children’s shows had to be allowed to market to kids and Hasbro built a whole empire around that when before it was taboo.
While this isn’t a new debate, having a toy cry out for its companion is something new. Especially after an update. Is this the first step to toys in the future mourning not having their companion? Where is the line of ethics here? I am a business major and one of the required classes across the board for all majors under the business umbrella was an ethics class. I can’t help but feel like my professors geeked out over skylanders, this incident will be a large point of debate in class.
I don’t support this move. I feel it’s pretty scummy, but I can only speak for myself. What do you think? Is this a slippery slope toward some new marketing normal? Should Nintendo remove this in a new update? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!