Nintendo thinks outside the box for console launch strategy

Nintendo is planning to step up its assault on new and emerging markets when it launches the Wii console this year, and wants advertising that will create maximum impact.

The Japanese company has invited creative agencies, including incumbent Leo Burnett, to develop ideas for the launch campaign, and is also reviewing its media, currently with Starcom (MW last week).

Wii will cost around 130 and be sold with a wireless handset called the Wii Remote, which is movement sensitive. For example, it is swung like a tennis racquet when playing a tennis game, or drawn back like a bow and arrow to fire at a target. Reaction to the console at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in May was positive, and Nintendo is understood to be keen to capitalise on the buzz that is building around the product.

The company is currently third in the UK games home console market (by volume), according to games industry body Elspa. Sony PlayStation is market leader, accounting for 70%, with Microsoft Xbox in second place. Industry insiders say that as the market goes into a new cycle of launches, which happens every five or six years, Nintendo will be keen to win back share.

Games Investor Consulting analyst Nick Gibson says that, in the past, Nintendo has suffered with its home consoles because third-party games publishers have given them a cool reception. But the Wii is expected to be supported with exclusive games.

Gibson says: “Nintendo is one of the most successful software manufacturers in the history of the market, but has struggled for up to 15 years to get games publishers to commit to its platforms. The Games Cube, for example, did not do well because it was not well supported.”

Looking for a new niche

An industry insider says the early signs are that manufacturers including Sega will commit to the Wii because it offers novel game play. But Gibson believes that the Wii will out-sell Nintendo’s previous home console because of the company’s new tactic of targeting sectors such as women, older consumers and lapsed gamers.

The strategy has already been used for the launch of the handheld Nintendo DS and its Nintendogs game, which is aimed squarely at a younger, female market. Earlier this month, it also launched Touch Generations, a sub-brand that is intended to highlight to new audiences games that are easier to learn and play (MW June 1).

The insider says that Nintendo is trying to develop a new market to own, as it can no longer compete with Sony and Microsoft in the 16- to 24-year-old males market, which is core to the gaming industry.

He explains: “Nintendo has been forced to take this strategy. It can win some of that market back by not talking directly to it. The games for the core market are becoming dull and very similar, but new games like Nintendogs are attractive.”

Success is in consumers’ hands

While Nintendo has been the dominant brand in hand-held consoles for the past 16 years, Sony and Microsoft have squeezed it in the home consoles market. The insider says that it is essential for Nintendo to “articulate itself properly” in its launch advertising for the console. He says this must include getting consumers to try out the product for themselves.

Nintendo’s strategy of targeting the broadest possible market may well reap rewards, but the Wii will have to offer the most innovative games if the company is to build its share in a competitive games markets.

Caroline Parry

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