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The Once And Future King: Nintendo

Everyone, and I mean everyone, has been impressed by the amazing success of Wii’s first six months at retail. Not many believed it was possible for a company to have success in three separate console generations, but Nintendo is poised to do just that.

Historically, it has been completely impossible for any hardware manufacturer to get past that little hump and become an industry mainstay. I attribute it to these companies being owned by executives and not gamers. Obvious, one would think. But these types of people have never been the ones to anticipate change and prepare. They see how they gained success in the first generation and they repeat it in the second...which works. But by the time the third generation rolls around, they think they’ve got a rock solid business model; in reality, gaming has changed and their plans seem outdated. Nintendo, however, has rediscovered the secret to what it is that made them an industry giant.

It’s their launch titles: When the NES launched there was Super Mario Bros. When the Super NES launched there was Super Mario World. When the N64 launched there was Super Mario 64. When the Gamecube launched there was…Luigi’s Mansion? “What the hell is this?” the gaming world thought collectively. Get the picture? Probably not, because the picture I just painted doesn’t accurately portray the correct answer. It’s not Mario, or the Mario Universe that sells systems. It’s having an amazing game available that all can play. Again, obvious. But the part that Nintendo missed during the Gamecube launch is that it isn’t enough to just have a really good game available that all can enjoy, you need to have something that sends the hardcore into a tizzy. It’s as I’ve written many times before; the hardcore gamers are the grunt-level front-line soldiers in the advertising battle and if they’re not freaking out and annoying all their friends and relatives by talking about this new thing, no one ever hears about it.

What Nintendo never realized, is that Mario is so amazing that he engages the casual gamer as well as the hardcore, leaving everybody happy. Then the Gamecube launch came around and they flopped, because hey didn’t have anything for the hardcore.

Flash forward to November 2006.

The Nintendo Wii is the must have Christmas gift of the season. Why? Wii Sports was by far the most talked about and widely played game of the year, but the success of Wii came a little bit before Wii Sports. Probably only days before actually. It was Zelda. See, the Nintendo hardcore were lined up around the block to buy Wii on day-one...as they always are. Not because they wanted to play Wii Sports, but because of Zelda. If I remember correctly, Twilight Princess had a downright ridiculous attach rate. Something along the lines of 75 percent of Wii systems were purchased alongside a copy of Zelda. What happens then, is any PR representatives wet dream. The Nintendo faithful got together with their families over Christmas dinner and, acting with the zeal of Christian missionaries, decided to try and get their families to enjoy gaming as well. Spurred on by the rock solid belief that everyone can enjoy the comedy involved in a spirited bout of Wii Boxing, Wii owners converted millions of souls that thanksgiving. By Black Friday the game was over and the stage was set for Nintendo to steam roll the competition in the coming months.

It’s the one-two punch knockout. Core and Casual side-by-side are unstoppable. I just hope Nintendo remembers this and prevents the gaming scene from getting mauled by a pack of Nintendogs.