Nintendo banks on Pokemon

Nintendo banks on Pokemon

Games retailers ponder "post-Pokemon" hype, contemplate the "next big thing"Pokemon games account for more than 50 per cent of Nintendo's Game Boy software sales, according to market analyst Inform. But in an increasingly competitive gaming market, retail players are now wondering what will be the "next big thing" for the gaming vendor.

Although the phenomenal sales in Pokemon titles look set to continue - in the US Pokemon Gold and Silver game titles for the Game Boy colour sold 1.4 million copies in its first week - the industry has been left to speculate on how Nintendo will maintain sales once the hype has died down.

"Essentially, Pokemon games are accounting for 50 per cent of games revenues and also make up a large portion in the themed console market," said Inform analyst Phil Burnham.

"Eventually, Nintendo will have to find something to replace it. Next year will be an interesting year in the console market and I think Nintendo intends to put most of its weight behind the Pokemon phenomenon. They have to judge their audience correctly."

According to Kmart video games buyer Daniel Williams, Nintendo's success lay in strong franchising combined with clever marketing, such as the continuing introduction of new characters.

"I think the Pokemon popularity peaked at Christmas time last year and you will only see the longevity of the product on the gaming platform," he predicted. "The peripheral licences will start to diminish over the next 12 months."

Williams thinks the Pokemon phenomenon will mirror that of Nintendo's most lasting game title, Donkey Kong. Nintendo is still releasing new Donkey Kong titles onto the market.

"There are some other strong titles, such as Legend of Zelda and Banjo Tooie, which are very popular with kids - its main demographic," he said.

"Nintendo is very much a brand-based company. The titles tend to dominate the landscape for about 12 months so I guess we will see something like Digimon or Dragon Ball come along in the future."

Burnham said the vendor's niche product strategy puts the company at the mercy of the "next big fad". But he stops short of dismissing Nintendo as a major player, based on the company's 15 years in the market and loyal customer base.

"Whereas others aim their games players between six and 36, Nintendo focuses on the under 16 group. If they can't provide games that tap into the next big fad amongst that group, they could come unstuck. Having said that, the company has been around for a long time and in the past has had similar popular titles it has done very well with."

Rob Beaumont, from Adelaide-based retailer Berlin Wall Software Supermarket, agrees the Pokemon phenomenon will soon fade, but there is always something new to fill the gap.

"Pokemon is a fad. It is definitely not sustainable . . . but then again, another fad will probably save them," Beaumont said.

"Nintendo has always been at the bottom of our list in sales. If it were not for Pokemon, Nintendo would be dead and buried now."

Next year Nintendo will launch its new Gamecube console and a new version of its popular Game Boy device - the Game Boy Advance. The Advance will feature a 50 per cent larger screen with a 32-bit reduced instruction set computer (RISC), central processor and improved screen resolution.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the Cube emulates Game Boy Advance titles, so we will see more titles tie in with both the handheld and the static console," Burnham said.

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