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Wii: Power Rests In The Palm Of Your Hand

Market reality has fallen heaviest on Nintendo.

Nintendo hasn’t been first in market share since the early 1990s and its SNES platform. The gamemaker’s N64 system came in second after the Sony PlayStation. Worse, Nintendo saw its GameCube trail behind both the PlayStation2 and the Microsoft Xbox since 2001.

By April 2006, the GameCube held 18.37 percent of the console market share in the United States, compared with the PS2’s 55.36 percent and the Xbox’s 23.79 percent. So Nintendo determined it was time to appeal to a different class of consumers the next time around with its Wii console.

“For the future of the video game business, we have to expand the market. We need to get back to the basics. If we can’t expand the market, all we can do is wait for the market to die,” explained Nintendo president Satoru Iwata at the Tokyo Game Show in 2005.

Nintendo discovered that it could attract plenty of women, mainstream adults and people over 60 with fun, simple games for its DS handheld. But how to translate that success to a next-generation console? The solution was an innovative controller, a cross between an iPod and a TV remote control, that senses hand movements and translate those motions into in-game action. The Wii is little more than a beefed-up GameCube under the hood, but the Wii-mote makes the system easy to play for people who wouldn’t normally play video games.

Nintendo’s marketing is already reinforcing the theme that the Wii is for everyone, and playing is believing. Yet retailers need to go the extra distance to discern which customers don’t have HDTVs and those who won’t buy HD equipment soon.

Rather than try and overcome HD reticence, retailers can accept the position and explain how the Wii is the perfect system for them.

Nintendo of America marketing senior VP George Harrison told VB that the game maker won’t be making such a marketing appeal itself, despite recognizing that only 12 percent to 15 percent of U.S. homes have HD sets.

“The challenge for retailers of the Wii is to show off its various features,” said David Cole, president of research firm DFC Intelligence. “I think it takes more than a taped infomercial.”