Nintendo kicks off Euro agency hunt

Nintendo Europe, which produces the GameCube console, is talking to agencies about its multimillion-pound below-the-line and digital accounts.

The company is understood to have approached agencies four weeks ago, requesting credentials for work which shows European experience.

The initiative is being led from Nintendo's European headquarters in Germany and comes amid a fierce battle for market share in the games console market. Sony's PlayStation 2 and the Microsoft Xbox both have more heavyweight advertising presence.

Nintendo Europe said it had been in contact with agencies to explore wider creative offerings, but claimed it was not gearing up for a review.

A spokesman for the company said: "To stay ahead of the continually evolving below-the-line marketing techniques, Nintendo continues to build and develop relationships within the direct and digital industries, and to explore creative opportunities and new ideas that could benefit the business."

The independent digital creative agency Lateral and Leonardo, Leo Burnett's digital and direct division, have handled online work on a project basis for Nintendo.

The creative rethink follows the ascension of Jim Merrick, most recently the network marketing director for Nintendo of America, to the post of European marketing director last October. He replaced Niclas Friese-Greene, who left after only a month in the role, citing personal reasons.

Leo Burnett handles the above-the-line account for Nintendo UK, with Starcom Motive handling its media planning and buying.

Earlier this week, Nintendo cut the price of a GameCube from £129 to £99, also including free games worth £40 in a bid to attract more consumers and steal market share from its rivals.

The move comes as Xbox prepares a marketing assault to promote the retail launch of its much-anticipated multi-player online gaming offering, Xbox Live!, exactly one year to the day since the console launched in Europe.

Sony has plans to unveil its own online gaming offering, called PS2 Network Gaming, at the end of the month.

Sony's PlayStation 2 is the market leader, with more than 2.7 million sales, compared with Nintendo's GameCube on about 260,000 sales and Xbox with 250,000.

Worldwide sales of games software will be worth £14.1 billion by 2004, according to Datamonitor.

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