How The iPad Is Like The Wii – Beyond Gamers And Techies

by Randy Murray on February 11, 2010

So much heat is being generated over the iPad. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. And it may be a sign of true market changes taking place.

Let’s consider the Nintendo Wii game system for comparison.

The Wii was released in 2006 and remains the top selling console in the market – this last holiday season it sold more the Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 combined and a total of 67 million units sold world wide, making it the best selling game console, ever.

And yet the “gamers” revile the Wii – the hard-core market that considers themselves to be the true market for video gaming. It’s comprised of a largely male, teens and young adults audience. They’re vocal and connected and ready to express their opinions online. They dislike everything about the Wii. It’s not high definition. It uses wireless motion controllers, not complex controllers with buttons and joysticks.

On the other hand, the very young and the not-so-very young alike embrace it. And the bulk of the games available for it are aimed at fitness, mental health, and more gentle pursuits, not the traditional first person shooters with over the top blood and gore (although those exist for the Wii).

The gamers claimed from the start that it would be a massive failure. No one would want it. It didn’t have the features they expected and wanted and it didn’t align with their very narrow image of what a game system should be. And they were wrong.

My Mom bought one last year. My wife asked for one for her birthday last month and we’re enjoying using it. Even Penny, my editor, has purchased one. We all bought the unit and the Wii Fit (now Wii Fit Plus). And we’ll purchase very few, if any, additional games. And we’ll all likely keep these units for many years with no plans to upgrade.

Nintendo has successfully enlarged its market by broadening and expanding the definition of the market.  And they also dominate the handheld gaming market with their DS systems (I have a DS Lite), although signs indicate that they’re losing this battle to Apple. Gamers are flabbergasted at the whole thing. They still don’t understand why anyone would want a Wii or a DS. And the reason they don’t understand this is because they have failed to look away from their own reflection in their computer screen. They have failed to ask, “Do my narrow interests describe the entire marketplace?”

Does any of this sound familiar?

Apple is charting a very similar path for the iPad. It doesn’t appeal to that sliver of the highly technical market. It doesn’t have the features that they consider required. It’s not festering with ports, access panels, and replaceable, customizable parts. It’s a sealed unit that requires very little special knowledge to operate. It’s designed to consume media, play games, and manage your life.

And it’s poised to completely dominate the market, sweeping away competitive offerings like the Kindle, Nook, and the entire Tablet PC genre. It’s targeted at an older and younger market, a less technical market. A bigger market. It’s not designed for the road warriors and technical hobbyists. It’s aimed at people who subscribe to and read magazines and newspapers. It’s designed for people who order from catalogs. It’s designed for a very big market, one with disposable income.

I have some advice for those who are currently aghast at the iPad, those who are confused and angry about it. Step back. Look away from your computer screen. Go talk to someone outside your typical circle. Look out into the world. Try and imagine all of those millions who don’t carry around laptops or spend hours in front of computers everyday. What kind of digital device would be attractive to them? How would they like to interact with it? What drives them?

And once you’ve asked those questions, why not cool off awhile and ponder how a device like the iPad might really fit into that very large marketplace.

The How The iPad Is Like The Wii – Beyond Gamers And Techies by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Hal Brown February 11, 2010 at 9:09 am

Great observation. I just can’t wrap my mind around the name, iPad. It sounds so ummm.. like a woman’s product. Of course a joke draws attention.

I never buy the first generation of a product. The next one will have some of the features this one is missing. And the entire system will be better.


Randy Murray February 11, 2010 at 9:15 am

Yes, but if you remember, the name “iPod” was strange and awkward at first. The same for the name “Wii”.

I’m in no rush to buy, but then again, who knows. It is a very attractive device.


Lucinda Sage-Midgorden February 11, 2010 at 11:25 am

Randy, your observations have an even wider implication. We all tend to keep our focus quite limited and think that we know what is best for the rest of the world. We all could take your advice, even if we aren’t great tech geeks.


Randy Murray February 11, 2010 at 11:34 am

Thanks, Cindy (does anyone still call you Cindy?)

I hope to speak to a wide audience, but my fellow geeks are in my sights at the moment.



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