By now, everyone has heard of the awesome success that Nintendo is having with the Wii game console. My wife bought a Wii and after playing with it, and seeing my parents play (and enjoy) it, it deserves a closer look.
Nintendo recognized that they were playing a losing game by continuing to spin in the cycle of features: faster processor, more memory, higher resolution. They went back to the core of why users play games – to have fun. The WSJ states:
…against the odds, Nintendo has become the company to beat in the games business, as the Wii flies off store shelves nearly as quickly as the company can make them…But since going on sale in November, the Wii has become the hottest-selling product among the latest generation of game consoles designed to be hooked up to TV sets, a group that also includes Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360. The product lacks the ability to produce sophisticated graphics on par with the Sony and Microsoft machines. But it has an innovative motion-sensing game controller that lets players swing tennis rackets, golf clubs and swords within games. The Nintendo console’s $249 price, too, has made it more appealing to some consumers than the Xbox 360 and the PS3, which start at $299 and $599, respectively.
In February, U.S. retailers sold 335,000 Wiis, compared with 228,000 Xbox 360s and 127,000 PlayStation 3s, according to NPD Group Inc., a sales-tracking firm in Port Washington, N.Y. Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., still leads the overall market with more than 10 million Xbox 360s shipped to retailers world-wide since it went on sale in November 2005, a year earlier than the Wii and PS3.
This reinforces a key Product Management lesson: in a feature war, only the leader wins. If you find yourself in a feature war, ask yourself why, and focus on the problem you solve. Most customers don’t care about the feature list, but if you solve their problem in an innovative way, they will take notice.