Can the Wii aim at old people? Interesting little question that one, and certainly one that Nintendo are trying to answer. During the last week or two they have been busy upping their advertising campaign for the Wii here in the UK with some rather interesting placements. When might you expect to see the Wii advertised? During major sporting events like the football, during primetime TV, on Sky One during things like The Simpsons, etc. Whilst Nintendo have been aiming quite a bit at this ‘core’ audience they have also been showing off the Wii to a rather different group of people. And they are…
Old people. Terrifying and shocking as it may be, I have seen adverts for the Wii during both Countdown and Deal or No Deal on Channel 4 and been reliably informed by other people who have nothing better to do with their lives than watch daytime TV that it has been doing the rounds on a regular basis. Mystifying stuff. The demographical audience for Countdown is either the elderly (sixty and over) or students who sit around doing very little all day. No prizes for guessing whom Nintendo are aiming at.
But why the geriatrics? Well, for one, nobody else has ever really considered targeting them before, so it’s a bit of a free market. With software like Brain Training on the Nintendo DS, the Japanese company have already proven that they can target the older generations. Worldwide sales of Touch! Generations software have been phenomenal and what Nintendo are trying to do with the Wii is exploit this market.
As has been shown in their recent (and rather staggering) fiscal profits, Nintendo have worked out how to make their money. Whilst the disposable market of the young male market has kept the videogame industry alive and hugely profitable for quite some time now, Nintendo have recognised that they need to take a step away from that and look elsewhere. During their fiscal announcement they stated:
In addition, in less than five months since introduction, the company sold 5.84 million of its new Wii™ home video game systems globally, virtually every one snapped up immediately by consumers, along with nearly 29 million Wii games. Wii has taken a step toward becoming a cultural phenomenon, appealing widely to both avid and previously disinterested game-playing audiences.
For the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2007, Nintendo projects sales of 14 million Wii systems and 55 million games worldwide. The company projects sales of 22 million Nintendo DS hardware unit sales and 130 million software units sales. Nintendo forecasts consolidated sales increasing nearly 18 percent to 1.14 trillion yen, and operating profits growing nearly 20 percent to 270 billion yen.
What’s interesting about this is the ‘appealing widely to both avid and previously disinterested game-playing audiences’. I’m going to loosely translate this to old people and women. Shock horror. The rapid inflation in both sales and operating profit is a result of Nintendo’s expansion of the market. Whilst the company have always had excellent business sense (which made Hiroshi Yamauchi a very rich man), they have not always had the market application. Just ask the millions of people who purchased a PlayStation instead of an N64.
Now they have the eye for making money combined with the eye of knowing what will actually make them money. Everyone likes to be entertained and to play games. Be it cards, crosswords, sudoku, XBOX, Flight Simulators, football; whatever. People love to do things. In identifying this fairly simple fact, Nintendo have been able to do two things. First up, the Wii and DS both host a number of software products that appeal to people who like to play games. Sudoku on a games console, murder mystery titles on a games console, maths on a games console. We never saw it before, and by marketing it to the over forties, Nintendo are able to exploit a whole new market. The simple to use interfaces of the Wii and the DS and titles like, for example, Hotel Dusk: Room 215, are doing something extraordinary for Nintendo. The profits the company have announced paired with the profit predictions for the next fiscal year (which I expect Nintendo to beat easily) show that they are on to some-thing very important for the gaming market.
What’s most interesting for me is the aspect of the Wii Nintendo are pushing at the moment. During the aforementioned TV spots on daytime TV, it is the Wii Photo Channel that is being pushed. A bundled in feature of the Wii that many people ignore or play about with for a couple of minutes is being singled out by Nintendo as one of the best reasons to buy the system for certain people. Personally, I’m a bit confused by it all, but I can see Nintendo’s point.
For some, the Wii won’t be a games console. They’ll play games like Brain Training, Wii Sudoku (if that ever comes out), they’ll use the Photo Channel, they’ll play Wii Sports a bit, they’ll mess around on the Internet Channel perhaps. Who knows what clever software offerings and advertising schemes Nintendo have lined up for the future of the Wii. Whilst it was once the case that the tech-savvy, forum-posting young male (or in the case of Pokémon a lot of the time, small child) had the biggest say in Nintendo’s home console profits, the Wii is now showing a new way.
At all my local game and entertainment stores the Wii is still sold out. It continues to sell beyond expectations and even if Nintendo could produce twice the amount they currently are I am sure they would sell out all over again, and again, and again. People are going up to the counter at GameStation and asking when the Wii will be back in stock. But they’re not kids or teenagers, they are twenty-somethings, students, thirty-something couples and even the elusive ‘mature’ gamer of forty plus. Four years ago you’d have struggled to find a Nintendo advert on the TV, now they’re popping up during Countdown. Whatever next?