A low price and innovative controller could push Nintendo’s Wii console to the top spot in Japan’s multi-billion dollar video gaming market, two industry watchers say.
The Wii goes on sale in Japan on December 2, a few weeks after the November 11 launch of Sony Computer Entertainment’s PlayStation 3 console. The PlayStation 3 is based on the Cell microprocessor, which was custom-developed for the console, and promises to deliver graphics that are unprecedented in consumer video games. It also packs a Blu-ray Disc drive for playing back high-definition movies.
Nintendo’s Wii is an altogether different machine. It runs on lower-specification hardware and will not do high-definition, but it does have an ace up its sleeve in the form of its controller. Fitted with motion sensors and a wireless link, the controller can be waved about to control the game, giving a new type of gaming experience. It can be swung like a bat in a baseball game or jabbed like a fist in a boxing game, for example.
The controller’s intuitive handling is likely to allow Nintendo to attract people who have never played on a games console before, says Hirokazu Hamamura, president of Enterbrain, which publishes Japanese gaming magazine, Famitsu.
If one member of a family is a gaming fan, others in the family will be easily drawn into trying out computer games, he says.
"I believe there will be big sales (for the Wii) from the very beginning. I feel this growth will slow a little from the third year, but altogether the sales will exceed 10m units," he said. The figures are based on an Enterbrain survey of 2 500 people in Japan.
"The impressive feature with the PlayStation 3 is the outstanding graphics and outstanding price," he says, referring to the console’s ¥59 800 ($510) price tag. The Wii will cost ¥25 000.
"Brand image (for the PlayStation 3) is very high, and half the people we surveyed said they wanted one, but when we ask if they will buy one many say that it is too expensive and that they will wait until the price drops," Hamamura adds.
The result will be that the PlayStation 3 sells at about half the rate of the PlayStation 2, and many gamers wait until the end of 2007 to purchase it, when Hamamura predicts a price cut and a new ‘Final Fantasy’ game to attract more buyers. He expects the PlayStation 3 to rack up total sales of between 9m and 10m consoles by 2010, he says.
The third console in the market, Microsoft’s Xbox 360, was launched last year. It will get a boost from new software titles and a low-price HD DVD drive add-on. But total sales up to 2010 are likely to lag behind competitors at one million and two million units, according to Enterbrain.
"It looks like Nintendo is giving everything they possibly can for the Wii console," says Hiroshi Kamide, director of the research department at KBC Securities Japan, who also spoke at the correspondents’ club. "Nintendo has not had a successful machine for the last 10 years, so for us analysts it is quite difficult to imagine a scenario where Nintendo is actually going to win. But for me right now, especially in Japan at least, Nintendo does seem to have the upper hand."
"It does not look completely unrealistic that Nintendo could get the dominant market share this time round," Kamide says.
"Unless we hear some fantastic pieces of news at the Tokyo Game Show from Sony, it is playing catch-up to Microsoft and Nintendo," he adds.