‘Tis the season for the Nintendo Holiday Mall Experience. Every year, as the weather gets colder and the sales get hotter, Nintendo invades malls across America to showcase its latest software and hardware as part of a month-long mall tour. This year it’s arguably more crucial than ever as Nintendo fights for consumer mind share against the newly launched PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Is the 2013 Holiday Mall Experience up to the task? We stopped by Los Angeles’ Westfield Culver City mall on the tour’s opening day to see for ourselves.
While last year’s Holiday Mall Experience was themed around the Wii U (the booth was even shaped like the system’s ‘U’ logo), this year’s tour is more broadly focused on family-friendly gaming, the same angle as Nintendo’s current ad campaign. Two giant signs emphasize “family fun,” one of which is a large circular display that extends above the center of the booth. Surrounding this centerpiece are Wii U kiosks facing outward, as well as 3DS, 3DS XL, and 2DS demo units placed on themed tables (a DK barrel, a warp pipe, etc.) in each of the booth’s four corners. The booth also contains a sole wall that holds a large flat screen on one side for impromptu Just Dance 2014 sessions and signage that highlights hardware features and price points on the other.
Of course, the main attraction is the games and Nintendo brought plenty – 30 to be exact. Dedicated Wii U kiosks are set up for Super Mario 3D World, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Wii Sports Club, and Wii Fit U. The remaining kiosks can play an assortment of demos upon request, including Wii Party U, Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101, Mario & Sonic at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games, Disney Infinity, Sonic Lost World, Rayman Legends, Batman: Arkham Origins, Splinter Cell Blacklist, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and the aforementioned Just Dance 2014.
For 3DS, Nintendo has designated demo units for a ton of its own titles, including Pokemon X & Y, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Mario Party: Island Tour, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Mario & Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move, Super Mario 3D Land, Mario Kart 7, and somewhat randomly, the Virtual Console version of The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages. Demos of third-party titles such as Scribblenauts Unmasked, Sonic Lost Worlds, and Skylanders Swap Force are available as well, but only by request.
To top it all off, Nintendo will also have various characters stop by for photo-ops. Depending on where you live, you can expect to meet a costumed Mario, Luigi, or Pikachu on specific weekends. Between these character appearances, the demos, and even the giant signs reminding shoppers that Nintendo is all about “family fun,” the 2013 Nintendo Holiday Mall Experience does exactly what it needs to do: it keeps Wii U and 3DS in the gaming conversation. The tour will be open until December 22 across 23 different malls nationwide, a full list of which can be found on the official site. If you can’t make it or don’t have a tour stop near you, the below photos provide a taste of the experience.