Shake it Up!

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With the release of Nintendo Wii's Wario Land: Shake It! game, New York and Stockholm-based firm Fantasy Interactive joined Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in launching a quavering online initiative that included both a dedicated website and an innovative YouTube video. Seeing as the treasure-hunting game insists on one unique gesture, Fi developed the site where visitors must click, hold and shake their mouse to access the various areas of content and learn more about the game. Goodby, meanwhile, did its part by upending YouTube's template with a 45-second Wario teaser, that shows a clip of the game and manages to gradually tear apart the site structure as it progresses.

Creativity spoke with Fantasy's creative director David Hugh Martin, who not only touches on the Wario Land site but explains the ongoing creative interaction with Nintendo execs, the technological challenges FI faced and the joys of working alongside Goodby.

Is this the first time you've worked alongside Goodby?

We've been working with Goodby on Wii Fit as well. When we started that, Goodby was directing the print campaign and we were directing the internet campaign. We had to meet for the first time in San Francisco to shoot these actors that we needed to put on the Wii Fit site. The collaboration between the two companies was a match made in heaven. All I heard from the Fi guys was that [Goodby] was an inspiration. They really know their stuff as an advertising agency.

Was there a lot of input from the client on the Shake It site?

No. Typically with every Nintendo site we do, we have a requirement that each site has to be an award-winning site. Otherwise there's no point for us doing it. We don't really care about the cost or the money; it just has to be the best. Nintendo has a new [presence] up in New York with their digital office. They plan the projects and coordinate the assets from Japan. Basically, they let us define what we want to do which is fantastic. We run the content by them and so forth, but to be honest, there's not a bad word from those guys. The only thing they have feedback on is if Nintendo Japan is uncomfortable with how we make a character look or if we change any characters.

How it works is we go up to Nintendo, you sit around a conference table and they show us the games. We take the games home with us—they actually send all the games to us. So, we get to test the games and play them, which is fun. We just discuss the game and [Nintendo] says, Well, whatever you want to do and off you go. We go back home, get excited, design what we have and show it to them.

What is the concept behind the Wario Land site?

The whole Wario project speaks for itself. The whole "Shake It" concept was easy to come up with. No matter where you go on the site, you just have to know to click and that everything has to be shaken. We had to really go after an audience that was younger and those people would pass the site around virally, purely because it was cool to shake something rather than click.

With every site, Nintendo wants to just put basic info on the site, which is our biggest problem. We have to fight and fight to make the site look as sexy as possible. Nintendo is a very humble brand and they never want to say how good they are. That's a strict order from the top. When we did the Mario Kart site, the character sections and the navigation were all built by us from scratch, all the models and animations. But, Nintendo doesn't like when you come in and make anything cool unless it's on the Wii itself. They don't want to distract and they want a very simple message. All the Nintendo Japan sites look like newsletters and they get very upset when they see these very flamboyant sites. But that's the American market, so there's an internal struggle to say, Trust us, this is how it is in America. With the Wii Fit site and Wario, we pushed for something that's a combination of being tutorial and having sex appeal and that's what we came out with.

What was the time frame for creating the site?

For every microsite, Wario included, we have roughly six weeks. It's not very long. However, I love the fact that we can put so much detail into the work. We can double the budget internally because we see each one of these sites as an investment. We don't really see them as moneymakers. But it's great with a project like Wario where you can let the employees feel like, Wow, I grew up with Nintendo. I got inspired by Nintendo when I was a kid and that was the big reason I started this company. You're getting Wario and you're the first to play it. We have it in our machines here and it's just a feeling of, Holy crap! We're the only people in the world besides the developers that are looking at this game right now.

What were the major challenges in creating the site?

With every Nintendo site there's an obstacle. Each site has to work on a Wii browser so that means we have to build the site with a lesser technology. We can't build in Flash 9 or 10, for example. We have to build it in a Flash 7 format for the Wii browser and it really restricts what you can do. So, we have to really work hard to mimic as if the site was built with the tools you would get in a higher Flash player. We have to work twice as hard to create the same effect. It's really difficult because we have to put so much work into the graphics that Japan can easily just say, Sorry, that went too far or that's too much. But they don't ever get involved in direction; they don't care about that. They really trust us but it's like we need to over-deliver and they want to stay humble.

In terms of the technical stuff with Wario, we had to build everything in several different languages. To build a campaign site that is dynamic is very difficult to do. It limits how static you can make things. Typically with static things you can create much better effects. When it's not static, the limits are ridiculous. It's a big challenge trying to make something that feels like it's static, but it's in English, French and German. Things will move and not just stick there as a font.

From a look and feel standpoint, it was difficult to come up with something that didn't look too childish and would really reflect the brand. Wario is a huge baby for Nintendo so we had to make sure we developed something that stayed within the lines created by Nintendo. But instead of look and feel, we focused on making the interactivity fun where a twentysomething would go, Wow, look what you can do with your [mouse]. The site has to do something that people haven't seen before.

What are your thoughts on the Wario Land game itself?

When we first saw the game, we thought, Wow, this doesn't look impressive. We thought Nintendo took a few steps backwards on first impression just in terms of packaging, look and feel. It looked a bit too childish and 1980s. Then, when you actually start to play the game, that's where Nintendo has had their equity from Day One. It's all about the playability and these tiny, tiny details that make it much more exciting. With Wario, we couldn't get our guys off it. They were playing it overnight. But from the game, we got inspiration on what colors we should use for the site, the style and graphics and how it reaches our target audience. It was not just about having a site that represented the game officially, but it was how we can do a lot more than Nintendo expects. Nintendo just wanted to have a site that says here's our presence and here's the game site. We're trying to convince them to please put effort into the project and say, Look what it can do for you. Traffic just skyrockets.

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