Nintendo has quite a reputation in the gaming industry as video games have been this company’s forte for a long time. Although in the period leading up to the launch of the Wii you wouldn’t know that this company was once a giant in the gaming business. They were suffering from a distinct lack of buzz as other competitors spent more to drive the core gaming experience.

Nintendo is currently in the lead in the $30B game business (and correspondingly still generating a huge amount of buzz). This rather recent development was not anticipated by the other players in the industry: Microsoft and Sony bet on a continuation of better graphics and more processing power to sway core gamers over to their platform.

What made the Wii innovative is their intention to move beyond core gamers to casual gamers, which makes up a far greater sized pie. But first a few stats:

  • Nintendo has already sold 13MM of their devices so far (at the end of 2007) and expects to sell 35MM or more by 2012
  • In its first month on the market in the US (it launched on November 19th, 2006) retail market watcher NPD said the Wii sold 476,000 units, compared to 197,000 PS3s (launched on November 17th, 2006). It even came close to the X-box 360 which sold 511,000 in the whole month!
  • sold Nintendo Wii systems at approximately 17 per second when they were in stock

Here is a sales comparison:

Wii Sales

As you can see it appears that the X-box sales have leveled off (have they gone to the Wii?)  🙂

So what happened to the gaming market? As the leading edge moved to move the bar higher and higher on high-res graphics and detailed gameplay, the number of gamers that wanted a less intense (but still engaging) experience was growing. Whether for time reasons (no time to learn detailed combinations/ controllers) or intimidation (I don’t want to feel lame in front of highly accomplished players) the market was less visible (and vocal) than the core gamer community. And here is where it is really difficult to guess what was going to happen.

By listening to their core community, both Microsoft and Sony built some of the most advanced technology to deliver a superb gaming experience to their customers. Problem was that there was this growing (but less vocal) customer group playing Bejewelled and Tetris that felt disengaged from the core. This is where the Wii, with its intuitive gyroscopically controlled gameplay could succeed.

It really lowered the bar on console gaming, bringing casual games that did not require significant effort to understand (uhhh, bowling?) to a larger audience. (They also did a fantastic job at viral marketing. Because the Wii was new and different, it automatically attracted people that wanted to find out what made it tick). All of which drove Nintendo to increase production three times in 2007 . Still the devices are hard to get a hold of…

…Leading to the fact that we are in 2008 (almost 18 months after launch) and I still can’t get a copy of Guitar Hero for Wii!