Back in 2004, Nintendo released a strange dual-screened handheld called the DS. The idea behind the DS was to carve out a unique place in the market; disrupting the gaming sector by evolving how we approach the way games are played – Instead of going head-to-head against heavyweight competitors such as Sony and Microsoft. As video game consoles were becoming increasingly complex and powerful, the DS and its touchscreen were meant to be simple to use. An instant way to bring in new players who were intimidated by complicated controllers. And it worked! Well, for a while at least.
The DS and the Wii initially sold more than 250 million units, becoming as iconic as the good ole’ Game Boy has been, but Nintendo wasn’t able to hold on to that audience. By the time Nintendo rolled out the hardware’s follow-ups, the 3DS and the Wii U, the more casual players had moved on to smartphones and tablets. By 2012 a new world of competitors had arisen, and Nintendo wasn’t keeping up…
Nintendo has been training it’s creative muscles lately though and this is beginning to change, and in a big way.
Tomorrow Nintendo will launch Super Mario Run on iPhone and iPad, with an Android version coming soon after. This will be the first time that a Nintendo game will be released for mobile devices only! Super Mario Run is a Mario game stripped down to its core elements while retaining much of what you’d expect from a Mario game. You can still wall jump and stomp on those iconic mushrooms, and there are coins and power-ups to collect.
I know what you’re thinking, what does this have to do with innovation, right? it’s ok we’re getting there.
Does Pokemon Go ring a bell? The mixed reality Pokémon spinoff has been a gargantuan hit, breaking Apple download records and at one point commanding an estimated audience of 45 million daily players. It’s no surprise then that Nintendo wants to build this incredible success with Super Mario Run.
Nintendo has a reputation for being a forward-thinking company, and a big part of that is taking risks. Sometimes it’s inventive ideas have lead to big successes, as with the Wii and DS. Other times, Nintendo has struggled to capture the imagination. But now Nintendo is making big movements toward mobile and the evolution of gaming with the mixed home/handheld console the Switch – pushing the industry towards a future where more and more people play games.
Throughout this process, Nintendo continues to be unafraid of breaking formulas, testing ideas and iterating. Ultimately, a large company still as daring and future-minded as Nintendo must be applauded, especially given lately output from Apple has been so creatively lacklustre (by way of comparison, sorry Apple fans!).
So what can we take from this brief story of disruptive innovation?
Nintendo is unafraid to take technological and creative risks, the approach has had as many hits as misses. The one principle the company seems to hold dear is that without high-risk business manoeuvres, the sector and entire industry can stagnate. Understand, calculate, embrace risk with a creative approach!
The Nintendo team know how and where to tug our childhood heartstrings. Whether it’s a remastered NES or with Mario Run. They understand the fans that were once kids still look fondly on the classics and will be early adopters and introduce these to new potential fans. Nostalgia is a powerful marketing and product tool; do you have an area of your product which can be intensified with the right piece of retro magic?
Create the future
Pretty opposite to the above. But actually it’s very relevant. Nintendo have never settled for their place with existing environments. Instead, they create their own landscapes. Hedging a bet and using warm fuzzy family feels and nostalgia. Nintendo are unafraid of carving their own path. Nintendo don’t compete very well, they know this. So they shift the competitive advantage.
Tying it together
Nintendo are experts when it comes to creative strategy. Pokemon Go and Mario Run, both global mass market mobile products ahead of the launch of the Nintendo Switch.. This mass mindshare is definitely likely to warm up the global buyer to expand their Nintendo experiences to consoles. Even if they don’t though, you’re still in the Nintendo universe. Take a Nintendo shaped note – Consider all the touch points creatively 😉
Nintendo’s commitment to disruptive strategies can pay off big, but also illustrates that in highly competitive markets, competitive advantage is transient.
Nobody said that being a disruptor would be easy.
Are you going to download the new Super Mario Run app? Let us know what you think in the comments!