Nintendo UK head of consumer marketing James Honeywell is a true industry veteran, with a career stretching back two decades. MCV talks to this year’s MCV Awards Unsung Hero about how his dream came true
How did your career get started?
I was looking for a job during my first year at uni when fate stepped in and I saw an advert in my local paper recruiting for Nintendo; I couldn’t believe my luck. I promptly applied for a job as a customer service counsellor. I’ve never looked back.
At that time, the marketing team at Nintendo used the customer service department as a resource for understanding games, giving insights into the key features and helping to make marketing materials, like recording the gameplay footage for ads – my first TV ad was for Donkey Kong Country (pictured below). We really had to know everything about the games in order to find the very best footage, plus the game skills to capture them.
Being a fan, I imported my own early copy of Pokmon Red from the US, not knowing that the marketing team were trying to figure out if this new phenomenon could work in the UK. When they heard I was playing it, and knew all about it, they asked me to move into the marketing team and advise on the campaign for six weeks. 20 years later, I’m still here.
What has compelled you to remain employed in the games industry for two decades?
Working for Nintendo was my dream. Constant innovations in hardware and working on some of the best games ever created have made every day rewarding. Across the industry and, in fact, marketing, there is always something new to keep me coming back for more.
"Games have moved from being something that nerdy boys did in their bedrooms to a mainstream form
James Honeywell, Nintendo
How has the industry changed over the course of your career?
One of the best things about this industry is how it constantly evolves. New technology, experiences and audiences have meant I’ve had to keep learning new skills and ways to talk to consumers. It never stands still and I’m sure it never will.
The main thing I’ve seen is how games have grown to become the biggest entertainment industry in the world, moving from something that nerdy boys did in their bedrooms to a mainstream form of entertainment that touches almost everyone in some form. It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come and I’m humbled to think I’ve had a small part in that.
I’ve been really happy to see the indie scene flourish again – just like it did in the ‘80s and ‘90s when I first became enthralled. Seeing kids become interested in coding and produce whole new experiences makes me excited for the future.
What have been the biggest ‘highs’ of your career?
I get to work on amazing products made by amazing people, and for that I’m immensely grateful.
The things that I’m most proud of are the ones where people have been surprised; Brain Training is probably the campaign I’m most proud of. Bringing a product like that to completely new audiences, with diverse ads featuring Nicole Kidman and older, non-traditional gamers was very rewarding. Plus, it was also the first time my mum really knew what I did as all her friends were talking about it. I even used one of her friends in an ad as she’d become such a big fan.
What are the things that didn’t work out as you had hoped?
There are many things I’d like to have done better, and hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I only dwell on them long enough to learn from them. As long as I use mistakes to improve my decisions in the future, I don’t see them as lows.
What game campaigns have impressed and inspired you?
There are so many, I don’t think there are enough column inches. Working in such a vibrant industry means we’re all surrounded by fantastic campaigns that constantly push the boundaries.
What’s your top advice to prospective games marketers?
Getting a good education is a given, but never shy away from hard work. You won’t be given opportunities on a plate, you have to earn them. So always do everything you can to the best of your ability and you’ll get noticed.
What has you most excited for the rest of this year?
Continuing to work with an amazing team at Nintendo UK on amazing new products. I couldn’t ask for more.