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Outside The Box Can Be Fun

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Outside The Box Can Be Fun
I recently bought a Nintendo Wii for my kids, and so far they’re enjoying it immensely. Obviously it could be the novelty factor, so it’s still too early to know if it is going to be a keeper. Time will tell. In any event, I’m also happy with the Wii because of how my kids are playing with it – they play it standing up. With other game consoles they would always be sitting down, hunched over the gamepad. Their only body parts that would be getting any exercise would be their fingers. Now they are jumping around, waiving the Wiimote all over the place. After an hour of Wii Sports Boxing my son was actually sweating (and believe me, he’s in much better shape than I am). My wife, who is anything but a gamer, was playing Wii Sports Tennis with a big smile on her face.

It’s very interesting to compare the approach taken by Nintendo when they designed the Wii to that of the other seventh generation video game consoles manufacturers, Sony and Microsoft. Unlike Nintendo, both Microsoft and Sony were definitely thinking in terms of “more of the same”. I’m not belittling their achievements: both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 sport an impressive list of technical features and advanced technologies. But, ultimately no overall design breakthroughs in terms of gameplay. Note the adjectives they use to promote their respective products: better graphics, enhanced sound, greater processing power, larger storage, improved online experience. Everything is about enhancing an existing feature or capability. I can certainly understand their reasoning. From Sony’s perspective – why change a winning formula? And Microsoft has always been the best “me too” company. Where these consoles do show some unique design and true innovation is actually outside the video gaming realm: Sony’s Blu-ray and Microsoft’s Media Center concept.

Nintendo, on the other hand, has innovated in the gameplay itself (shades of Tetris anyone?) The company made an overriding decision to focus on on new gameplay experiences and new forms of interaction with games rather than cutting edge graphics and expensive technology. In fact, the Wii has been derided by hardcore gamers for providing a sub-par audio/visual experience when compared to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Nintendo is OK with this because their goal is to attract many non-gamers and lapsed gamers, a much larger demographic than the hardcore crowed. So far this strategy has paid off in spades. The Wii is much cheaper to manufacture than either of its competitors, so Nintendo is able to make a profit on each console right from the start despite having a lower price tag. Moreover, month after month, the worldwide Wii sales have been higher than the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 combined. The number of Wii units sold has surpassed that of the Xbox 360, despite a year’s head start, making the Wii the market leader in worldwide home console sales for the current generation. This has catapulted Nintendo from the status of an also-ran to that of the market leader, leapfrogging its much bigger competitors.

This story resonates deeply with me because we at Ericom find ourselves in a similar situation to that of Nintendo. Like Nintendo we are facing a much larger competitor who has effectively dominated the market over the past decade. Our approach to this problem is also similar to that on Nintendo – like the Wii, our PowerTerm WebConnect provides better value and innovation where customers have come to expect just more of the same. For example, our unique three-tier approach to Server Based Computing (SBC) enables us to provide a product that is more stable, scalable and performant. As with the Nintendo Wii, our approach of promoting choice and innovation has not always resonated well with the hardcore crowd. In those circles innovation is sometimes perceived as a threat, and the attitude is often “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. This can be a tough challenge but we are confident that as innovation proved to be such a boon for Nintendo, so it will be for us.

Profile:
Dan Shappir is responsible for all aspects of product design, software development and maintenance of the Ericom's product lines. Mr. Shappir joined Ericom in 2001 and brings over 15 years experience in computer programming, and in the design and architecture of software products. Mr. Shappir holds a B.Sc. in Computer Science (with honors) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel and an M.Sc. in Computer Science (with honors) from Tel Aviv University, Israel. | Ericom Software
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