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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Nintendo As Competition

From our man in Siam (not really), Dean:

At that point, they will stop paying for more and more features in their products and then decide to buy a cheaper product that is good enough. The danger for both Sony and Microsoft is that the Nintendo Wii offers good enough graphics and some additional features that are missing from the other consoles, such as the new controller. This has happened in industry after industry, from steel to personal computers, according to Christensen. Now Christensen's book was a bestseller in the business book category and it has been cited by numerous executives such as former Intel CEO Andy Grove for its insights into the state of competition among tech companies.

Nintendo's bet is a big one. What if, for instance, the game developers come up with outstanding games that require all of the horsepower of the PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360? Grove, in his own book, "Only the Paranoid Survive," says it's hard to judge when an industry reaches a point, which he dubs an "inflection point," where the trend in the industry changes. When people start to complain about too many features, devices that are too complicated, and technology that they just can't utilize, that may be the sign of the inflection point.
-- A+E Interactive: Does Nintendo Really Compete With Microsoft And Sony?

Pretty dead on, I'd say - although I'm not sure that the risks are quite as big this generation as everyone would like to make it seem. I could eat crow on this one a couple years from now, but I think singing funeral hymns for Sony or assuming Nintendo will suddenly capture a massive amount of the market is fairly premature.

If anything, each of the console makers has made a distinct strategy - but much of the strategy in any camp is merely defensive. Despite Microsoft's claim that half their 360 base is brand spanking new (that claim dubious at best, since they consider Target and Best Buy shelves to be "users") - the 360 is largely a replacement device for their earlier offering. Sony is trying desperately to defend their consumer electronics by hitching their post with Blu-Ray and Nintendo is capturing on the success they've had with the DS.

Plates might shift - in fact I'm sure they will. For instance, I'm hoping the DS will bring handheld games more into the mainstream (Dragon Quest DS is a start there). Evolutionary spikes, however, I'm not holding my breath to see.

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