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Stuck In My Underwear On The Biggest Day of My Professional Career

nintendo wii u launch toronto 2012 john early

How I Ended Up Being A Tour Manager for Nintendo


Nov 18, 2012

It’s the early morning hours before the biggest day of my professional career: Today I am in charge of Nintendo’s national product launch for their new Wii U game console. Our event site will take over an entire block along downtown Toronto during the city’s Christmas parade where a half million people will flock the streets. It’s going to be busy, stressful and Nintendo Canada’s VP and GM will be in attendance overseeing the launch. Today is a big day. Except, right now, all I can think is: How did I end up in charge of this huge production…and what the HELL am I doing in the street at 2am in my underwear with my guitar?!

You may be wondering, what in the world is a Wii U? I was asking myself the same question on my flight to Toronto only a month before. I had just been taken off a separate promotion tour across British Colombia to be promoted overnight by a large experiential marketing agency and flown to Toronto for a new gig. In an instant I went from a simple brand ambassador roadie to Tour Manager for Nintendo on a two month, nation-wide campaign. Apparently, I write an enthusiastic report…

On my direct flight from Vancouver to Toronto I had been forwarded top-secret Nintendo documents. I had to sign off promising I wouldn't share any information with the higgest bidding geek or I'd be sued by their Mario Lawyer (I envision him looking like Waluigi). The documents outlined confidential specifications, photos and insights into the international company’s unreleased video game console, the Wii U. After enormous success with the original Wii system six years earlier (which incorporates innovative interaction and physical activity into video games), Nintendo was trying to recreate themselves—this time with a totally different product competing against the cheap smartphone apps were flooding Nintendo’s demographic and gaming market. That’s great. Can I play Mario Kart now?

nintendo wii u launch toronto 2012 john early

Above: Luc, the trailer driver and my co-captain across Canada, cleaning our custom Nintendo trailer. Since we were demo'ing the console before it came out we had to fly in special 'Nintendo OPs' people to come in and install and store the unreleased console.

Below: The line to see the Wii U begins - two hours before we setup - here at Younge and Dundas Square in Toronto.

nintendo wii u launch toronto 2012 john early

While my eight-year-old self is stoked to be working for Nintendo, my professional self is starting to freak out—especially now that I have been kicked out of my Toronto hotel room at 2am of the official launch day. Some joker had started using the emergency fire extinguisher on my floor. It set off the fire alarm, which caused the police and fire department to evacuate the entire downtown Toronto hotel. In a sleepy panic I had grabbed my laptop and guitar (my beloved Norma) and run outside in my underwear. It’s been more than 30 minutes now. I’m freezing my Yoshi off and ready to throw a turtle shell at the idiot that created this whole mess. So much for ensuring a good sleep before I embark on the biggest day of my professional career…

- prevail |priˈvāl| -

verb [ intrans. ]

prove more powerful than opposing forces; be victorious, be widespread in a particular area at a particular time; be current

( prevailing)

Although I didn’t really get any sleep that night, the day went incredibly well. With the downtown streets packed for the Christmas parade we were at capacity all day with a line around the block. Our location along the procession route proved to be a major asset (we switched locations last minute after the original block I scouted was denied by Nintendo because there was a Hooters billboard looming in the background). Over 8000 people went through the footprint of our exhibit and trailer.

Both families and Nintendo fanatics got to sample the new console and several different games (putting up with the large crowds was easier than dealing with the mass of gamer geeks; on seeing the Nintendo emblem on my jacket they would ramble off endless questions about how to pass that level of whatever game or debate some storyline technicality—like I know or care what they’re talking about. That’s great. I only play Mario Kart.). At the end of the day, I even got a sincere handshake from Nintendo of Canada GM, Ron Bertram. With everyone hovering over him like he was some video game royalty, I think he was delighted I didn’t really care or know who he was.

nintendo wii u launch toronto 2012 john early

Looking back, having to stand sleeplessly in my underwear on the street the night before has became part of the overall experience. Just another obstacle I got to prevail over on a wild two month journey across Canada as a Tour Manager for Nintendo. Now, after all this Nintendo talk…does anyone want to play Mario Kart?

John Early November 2012

***Looking back five years later, don't blame me or my underwear for the (somewhat) failed take off of Nintendo's console. Blame the creepy Wii heads...

nintendo wii u launch toronto 2012 john early

~Toronto, Ontario~

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