When the Nintendo Game Boy came out in 1989 it easily became the most successful handheld game console. It appealed to both kids and adult alike. The latter mainly because there was no other alternative until 1990 when Sega released its weak competitive console.
Nintendo then released the Nintendo DS in 2004 to counter the competition from Sony with its PSP (Play Station Portable) game console. Nintendo quickly released a revised and much improved version called, “Nintendo DS Lite” in 2006. It is this latter version that took off is masses throughout Asia, mostly the adult players; both males and females.
In Hong Kong the Nintendo DS Lite phenomenon is quickly surpassed Sony PSP in just six months after its release, with Hong Kong electronic stores receiving large quantities of old Sony PSP as trade-ins for new Nintendo DS Lite consoles.
From my unscientific observation, most of the appeal appear to be females. One can see women playing the NDS Lite while walking on street, taking the MTR (subway), on the bus, in the tram, and in Starbucks. basically everywhere you can think of. At Starbucks one will see group plays (a group of players playing the NDS Lite over WiFi connection).
The Nintendo Wii or as Nintendo officially refers it as simply “Wii”, is no exception. With its launch in the North America, UK and Japan late 2006, it had not met the overwhelming demand on the console. Even after 9 months after the official launch it is still very difficult to purchase a Wii console in North America and UK.
The would be players in the rest of the world did not stand idle by their counter parts in North America, UK and Japan. Grey Market units become available in Australia, South Korea, Europe and Hong Kong. In Hong Kong the USA version cause less than the Japanese version by about HKD700.00 and both versions can come modified to allow them to play games from both regions. It is now almost a year after the official launch in North America and Wii are still flying off shelves here in Hong Kong.
In the mean time Sony and Microsoft both suffered massive loses in their respective division for the Sony Play Station and XBox consoles.
Nintendo took a very different approach compared to Sony, Microsoft and Sega, when its console the Nintendo Gamecube and its predecessor Nintendo 64 was arguably unsuccessful. It focused on the gaming experience and more importantly the game play rather than the graphics and realism of the scenes in the games like Sony and Microsoft.
With this approach Nintendo came up with ingenious approaches to game play, demonstrated by their Wii console and the titles that had been released. Similarly they have similarly unique gaming experience with their Nintendo DS Lite titles. Both of these consoles have player interacting with the console in ways that cannot be found on Sony’s PSP, Playstation or Microsoft’s XBox 360.
The phenomenon is further validated by the number of titles available for the Nintendo DS Lite and Wii compared to the Sony Playstation 3, Sony PSP and Microsoft XBox 360. Also the sustained resell value of both the Wii and Nintendo DS Lite consoles compared to the Sony Playstation 3, Sony PSP and XBox 360. The latter is dropping even much faster now that Microsoft has officially acknowledge defects in almost 50% of the consoles sold worldwide. As a result costing Microsoft 1 billion USD for extended warrantees for the consoles.
Will Nintendo enjoy this success forever. Of course not. Both Sony and Microsoft will not stand idle by watching Nintendo chips away their respective market shares. A sign that Sony is not standing still can been seen in its Little Big Planet project. But we have yet to see any innovations from Microsoft.