A year ago it looked like game over for Nintendo’s storied console business. The Nintendo Entertainment System had ushered in the modern age of video games, but was not bleeding market share due to newer, more powerful systems from Sony and Microsoft.

Nintendo’s response was the handheld DS, followed by the Wii. The DS two-screen touch handheld was a test study that focused on gameplay and “fun” instead of trying to compete with Sony and Microsoft on graphics and hardware.  The DS was a success, so the Wii followed suit.

Nintendo built the Wii: a cuddly, low-priced, motion-controlled machine that focused on interaction and unique gameplay.  Their strategy was to expand the target market, because to compete with Sony and Microsoft to develop the best hardware would have been suicide.  Nintendo used a cheaper and lower-powered processor for their Wii console because they firmly believed that they could appeal to children as young as 4 and adults as old as 70 if they could:

  1. Make video games easy-to-play, interactive, and “fun.”
  2. Sell a complete gaming system at an affordable price point. 

This strategy was an astounding success!  Families, women, children, and all grandparents all embraced the gameplay of the Wii, and the low $300 price point increased sales volumes drastically.  And because of the decision to adopt older technology, they were able to sell the console with a $50 profit margin! (Sony and Microsoft both sell their consoles in the $400 to $500 price range at a loss)

Nintendo now projects that the Wii will take a 40-45% market share in this generation.

This case study illustrates the fact that innovation and R&D is a necessary part of any business’ survival.  Businesses are constantly competing to build the better mousetrap.  However, the business that figures out how to deter the mouse from entering the house (at an attractive price point) will steal market share from their competitors.

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