Nov 27, 2008

Business - Video Game Industry & Holiday season

Jennifer LeClaire

The video-game industry is gearing up for the holiday shopping season. Microsoft has reported that Xbox 360 sales have surpassed the original Xbox game console. Nintendo is bragging about its Wii hitting the seven million sales mark in Japan. And analysts are watching Sony to see if its PlayStation 3 can make a comeback this year.

Meanwhile, Nintendo is pushing out new DS game bundles. On Black Friday, Nintendo will release two limited-edition Nintendo DS bundles, each pairing a Nintendo DS game title with a handheld system in a new color.

"Nintendo DS is both the most affordable and the most popular video-game system in this generation," said Cammie Dunaway, Nintendo of America's executive vice president of sales and marketing. "These limited-edition bundles make great gifts for first-time Nintendo DS players and collectors alike."

Nintendo Pushes Value

The Mario Red Nintendo DS bundle includes a red system with an M for Mario, and a copy of New Super Mario Bros. The Ice Blue Nintendo DS comes with a custom carrying case and the popular Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day. Each bundle sells retail at $149.99.

Mario is a perennial favorite, and Nintendo expects the DS bundle to rank high on holiday wish lists among both first-time and veteran gamers. But Nintendo is also making available other popular game franchises for the DS.

Nintendo reports that Pokémon Ranger: Shadows of Almia and Kirby Super Star Ultra are already in demand among casual gamers and younger players. The new Personal Trainer: Cooking aims to help players become masterful chefs. And Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir offers a series of unique seek-and-solve puzzles.

Nintendo has seen strong results with its limited-edition devices and game bundles that provide a sense of value to consumers, according to Michael Gartenberg, vice president of mobile strategy for Jupitermedia. But Nintendo may have to get even more creative in the coming quarters.

"The DS is a great device, but it's facing increasing pressure from other devices, such as cell phones. More features are being integrated into devices, and gaming is one of them," Gartenberg said. "For example, you can play all sorts of games with the iPhone and the iPod touch. So it's going to be important for Nintendo to figure out ways to stand out in the marketplace as a stand-alone device."

The Video Game Report Card

Nintendo DS games are family-friendly, which sits well with groups like the National Institute on Media and the Family. The group on Tuesday released its 13th Annual MediaWise Video Game Report Card, highlighting the growing trend of gaming in family life, improvements retailers are making to keep inappropriate games out of children's hands, and efforts the gaming industry is making to fight childhood obesity.

The report card pointed to a recent Federal Trade Commission report that found only 20 percent of kids who tried to purchase M-rated (mature) games from retailers were successful. This is an improvement from 2003, when 55 percent were able to buy M-rated games. In addition to retailers' efforts, the Entertainment Software Rating Board recently launched online rating summaries that give parents additional information, available on a mobile phone-friendly Web site, explaining why the game received the rating.

"Now that we parents have the information and tools we need, we have to step up and do our jobs," said Dr. David Walsh, president and founder of the National Institute on Media and the Family. "There are still too many kids playing M-rated games and too many kids playing for too long. That's why this year's report card assigns a grade of 'Incomplete' to parents."