Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

October 23, 2012

Slate: How Nintendo saved itself from irrelevance

(Continued)

Nintendo, meanwhile, countered in 2001 with the Gamecube, a cute little device with a cubical purple exterior. It ran on miniDVD discs. It had no online play. Next to an Xbox, it looked like a lunchbox. Halo, an Xbox exclusive, outsold Nintendo's flagship first-person shooter, Metroid Prime, by a two-to-one margin. The Xbox and Playstation 2 offered immensely popular franchises sorely missing from the Gamecube's offerings, such as Final Fantasy, Gran Turismo and Grand Theft Auto. The Gamecube's most popular game, Super Smash Bros. Melee, sold 7 million. The PlayStation 2's sold 17 million.

By 2006, Nintendo was in last place. While Nintendo sold about 22 million Gamecubes, Microsoft sold about 25 million Xboxes, and Sony sold 150 million Playstation 2s. What's more, Nintendo sold about one-third fewer Gamecubes than it had sold Nintendo 64s.

Nintendo's share of the market seemed likely to shrink again in the next round of consoles. Microsoft and Sony could ultimately do to Nintendo what Nintendo and Sony did to Sega, which once peddled its keystone character, Sonic the Hedgehog, on its own consoles. Nintendo and Sony shouldered it out of the hardware market until it devolved into a mere software company.

Instead, like any smart company that knows it can't keep up with its bigger competitors, Nintendo changed the game. Nintendo came up with the Wii. The console had worse graphics and a slower processor than its rivals, yet it destroyed them in sales, and it drove the company to new heights of popularity, praise and profit.

Reggie Fils-Aime, chief of Nintendo's North American division, articulated Nintendo's new strategy at the 2006 E3 Conference. "It's no longer confined to just the few," he said. "It's about everyone." Those simple words spelled out Nintendo's strategy from that day forward: Get everyone. Get the kids. Get the teen-agers. Get the parents. Get the grandparents. Get boys. Get girls. Nintendo games would not just be the unhealthy addictions of reclusive, pockmarked teen-agers or aimless twentysomethings. Nintendo games would be for everyone.

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