More Than Just Fun and Games

In his first Thursday Night Insight, Alex Clements illustrates perfectly how keeping a close eye on the competition and being quick to spot opportunities can really strengthen your own market position.

Atari, Spectrum, Commodore, Sega, Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox. Regardless of your age, you are highly likely to have heard of at least one of these, possibly even all of them. Games consoles have been around for many years and as time goes by the systems become more sophisticated and the games become more complex and realistic.

I remember text-based adventure games on the Atari and Commodore 64 which required the player to type a keyword into the console, which would in turn prompt an action on the screen. I remember Bubble Bobble; a game featuring two small, brightly coloured, 2D characters (in fact, little more than a blob of colour) that were supposed to be dragons, where the aim of the game was to blow bubbles which could trap and eliminate enemies such as ghosts and flying purple sharks (yes; flying purple sharks!).

Games developers certainly were creative all those years ago and although games are more realistic these days, it doesn’t mean that people in the games industry no longer need to be creative.

The video games industry is one which has grown and grown over the years. More users, more games, more consoles, more money and, for the manufacturers, more competition.

Now that there is so much on offer to the public, we have a huge amount of choice in the types of video games we play: We can choose a favourite genre, a favourite series of games and we can even choose which console we would prefer to use to play them. Companies who are in competition over the same market need to think very carefully before every move. The games industry is an interest of mine and I commend some of the marketing strategies I have noticed recently.

In 2005, the world was due the start of the next generation of video game consoles. There was, predictably, much hype and speculation over what each one would have to offer. The battle had started long before they were released. To this day, the Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PS3 still battle for sales, offering similar types of realistic games and modern online services. Meanwhile, Nintendo released the Wii. The Nintendo Wii was released for a unique target market, offering an experience to consumers which was not available from either of its two potential rivals. Instead of competing to be the console with the best graphics, most functions and most realistic games, Nintendo made a console which was for light-hearted family fun: The games aren’t trying to be realistic but, instead, boast colourful cartoon worlds and let users embrace an unusual controller unlike any other, which can be waved at the TV like a magic wand to operate.

There is much to think about when marketing a product, but before you even start to plan, you need to understand your product and your target market, and it will be highly advantageous to know the competition. Some very careful (and intelligent) decisions were made over the period of time mentioned above and Nintendo’s adaption to the available market means that more Wii consoles have been sold to date than either the Xbox 360 or PS3, despite being released last.

I will conclude my first ever Thursday Night Insight with one more example of an opportunity that was promptly taken. It was, once again, Nintendo and their online marketing strategy for a new handheld console called the “DSi”. Nintendo were aware of their competition at the time, which happened to be Sony’s “PSP go” which was due to be released in the forthcoming months. The two products are similar and have a very similar target market. Upon realisation that Sony had not bought the UK domain name for their new product’s website in preparation for its release, Nintendo decided to step in. The result was that any consumer visiting www.pspgo.co.uk, looking for information on Sony’s product, would be taken directly to the main page of its rival, the Nintendo DSi. Try it yourself and see by clicking on the link above!

Underhanded? Or a stroke of genius? It’s probably a bit of both, but the fact still remains that all PSPgo customers aiming for the UK website will land directly on Nintendo’s website, faced with a fresh new product they were not expecting which will undoubtedly only mean positive things for Nintendo’s sales.

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