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Crafting a Deployment
Strategy
Deployment Tactics in the Global
Video Game Industry
CHAPTER THIRTEEN
In the global video game industry, the introduction of each
generation of console has ushered in a new battle for market
dominance. New entrants have made startling entrances and
toppled seemingly invincible incumbents. Game develop ers,
distributors, and customers have had to watch the battle closely
in order to place their bets about which console would emerge
as the generation’s victor. Each generation has also revealed
which deployment strategies have paid off or proven fatal—for
the contenders.
Pong: The Beginning of an Era
In the fall of 1972, Nolan Bushnell founded a company called
Atari and intro duced Pong, a Ping-Pong-like game that was
played on a user’s television set with the aid of the Atari console.
Though considered to be the “second gen eration” of home
video game consoles (a console called the Odyssey, released by
Magnavox early 1972 is considered the first generation), Pong
was the first home console to become known around the world.
In its first year, Pong earned more than $1 million in revenues.
Pong and over 60 similar knockoffs soon flooded the market.
The Emergence of 8-Bit Systems
Much to everyone’s surprise, however, two new companies from Japan
entered the U.S. video game market, initiating the home video game
console’s third generation: Nintendo, with its 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment
System (NES), introduced in 1985, and Sega, which launched its 8-bit Master
System in the United States in 1986. Unlike Atari, which had spent only a few
hundred thousand dollars on advertising, Sega and Nintendo spent $15
million promoting their systems. Both systems offered technological
advantages over the previous generation of video game consoles. Sega’s
Master System appeared to be slightly superior to Nintendo’s, but Nintendo
spent much more on the development of quality games and characters and
had more game titles available than Sega. The NES sold over 1 million units in
the first year, sold 19 million units by 1990, and could be found in more than a
third of the households in America and Japan.
The 16-Bit Video Game Systems
In September 1989, Sega launched the fourth generation of video
game console competition when it introduced its 16-bit Genesis
to the U.S. video game market.
The Genesis offered dramatic performance enhancement over 8-
bit systems.Further, Sega leveraged its popular arcade games to
the Genesis and made it backward compatible with its 8-bit
Master System games. There were 20 Genesis game titles
available by December 1989. NEC also introduced a 16-bit
system, the TurboGrafx-16, in the fall of 1989 and had 12 game
titles by December 1989.Though Nintendo had its own 16-bit
system in the works, it delayed introducing it to the United States
for fear of cannibalizing its 8-bit system sales.
Like Nintendo, Sega made little profit on the consoles and
focused instead on increasing unit sales to drive game sales and
software developer royalties. Sega, however, used less restrictive
licensing arrangements than Nintendo and rapidly lured a large
number of developers to make Sega game titles. Further, though
Nintendo could have made its 16-bit system backward
compatible, thus linking the value consumers possessed in their
8-bit game libraries to the new system, Nintendo chose to make
the system incompatible with the 8-bit games.
32/64-Bit Systems
The late 1980s and early 1990s, new competitors were attracted
to the video game market, with fifth generation machines that had
either 32 or 64-bit systems. In 1989, Philips announced its 32-bit
Compact Disc Interactive (CD-i), an interactive multimedia
compact disc system that would serve as a game player, teaching
tool, and music system. However, the CD-i was very complex,
requiring a 30-minute demonstration. Furthermore, it was
expensive—introduced at $799 and later reduced to a below-cost
$500 (more than twice the cost of Nintendo or Sega systems).
While the product was actually much more than a video game
console, customers compared it to the popular Nintendo and Sega
systems and were dismayed by its price and complexity.
The company was founded in October 1993 by Trip Hawkins, formerly
of video games developer Electronic Arts. However, 3DO’s unique
strategy of licensing out all game and hardware production made it
impossible to achieve the low console prices of Sega and Nintendo by
subsidizing console production with game royalties. The hardware
producers (Matsushita and Panasonic) for 3DO did not sell games and
were unwilling to sell
the consoles without a margin. Sales of the machine never took off,
and 3DO exited the market. Atari also made a surprising return to the
video game market in 1993 with the technologically advanced Jaguar.
However, Atari’s long struggle had not inspired great confidence in
either developers or distributors, and several of the large retail chains
chose not to carry the product.
Though Sega’s Saturn had beaten Sony’s PlayStation to market
by several months, it was shipped to only four retailers due to
limited supply: Toys “R” Us, Babbage’s, Software Etc., and
Electronics Boutique. This aggravated retailers such as Best Buy
and WalMart, which had long supported Sega.Developers also
felt that it was easier to program for the PlayStation than the
Saturn, causing it to lose crucial developer support.By the end of
1996, the installed base of Sony PlayStation in the United States
(2.9 million units) was more than double that of the Sega Saturn
(1.2 million units).
128-Bit Systems
In September 1999, Sega launched the first sixth-generation
console, its 128-bit Dreamcast, a $199 gaming system that
enabled access to the Internet. Before the Dreamcast release,
Sega was suffering from its lowest market share in years at 12
percent. The Dreamcast was the first 128-bit system to market,
and 514,000 units were sold in the first two weeks. An installed
base of 5 million was achieved by October 2000. Sega’s success
turned out to be short-lived, however. In March 2000, Sony
launched its 128-bit PlayStation2 (PS2) in Japan and introduced
the
Sony’s PS2 was an unprecedented success. Not only did it offer a
significant technological advantage over the 32-bit systems, but it
was also backward compatible, enabling gamers to play their
PlayStation games on the console until they amassed new game
libraries.During the opening sales weekend of March 4, 2000,
PS2 sales reached about 1 million units, a figure that eclipsed by
10 times the amount of original PlayStation units sold during the
three-day release period in 1994. Demand for the new unit was so
high that on the opening day of pre-orders on Sony’s Web site,
more than 100,000 hits in one minute were received, and Sony
was forced to briefly shut down the Web site.
Microsoft had previously produced PC-based computer games (such as Flight
Simulator and the Age of Empires series) and operated an online gaming
service (Microsoft Gaming Zone) and thus had some familiarity with the
industry. However, it did not have either the arcade experience of Sega or
Nintendo or the consumer electronics experience of Sony. By the time the
Xbox hit the market, PS2 already had a significant lead in installed base and
availability of games (more than 300 PS2 game titles were available at the end
of 2001), but Microsoft was counting on the technological advantages offered
by the Xbox to tip consumer preferences. The Xbox offered a faster processor
and more memory than the PS2. Furthermore, customers did not have to trade-
off technological advantages against price: The Xbox launched at a retail price
of $299, significantly less than its production costs (it is estimated that
Microsoft lost between $100 and $125 per unit).
Both the Xbox and Nintendo’s GameCube were launched just in time for the
extremely important 2001 Christmas season and sold briskly. By the year’s
end,
it was estimated that 1.3 million GameCube units had been sold, and 1.5
million Xbox units had been sold.However, both of the new consoles were
outrun by PS2, which sold 2 million units in the month of December alone.
This market share pattern remained remarkably consistent over the next few
years. By the end of fiscal year 2005, Microsoft reported it had shipped a total
of 22 million Xbox consoles, which was slightly more than Nintendo’s 20.6
million GameCube shipments, and far behind the Sony PS2’s 100 million
consoles shipped.
The Seventh Generation: A Second Round
of Competition in 128-bit Systems
In late 2005, Microsoft was first to introduce a seventh-generation console:
Xbox 360. Though severe manufacturing shortages resulted in only 600,000
units being sold in the 2005 Christmas season, Microsoft was hoping its head
start over Sony and Nintendo (both of which would not debut their next
generation consoles until late 2006) would enable it to attain a dominant
position.
The console was designed around a custom IBM processor that had three
Power PC processors on a single chip, and a custom graphics processor from
ATI. The result was a powerful console that generated high-definition video
with stunning graphics. The Xbox 360 was also backward compatible with a
portion of the Xbox game library (though not with all Xbox games). At launch,
buyers could get a basic model for $299 or a premium model for $399.
Sony launched its Playstation3 (PS3) in November of 2006. The console had a
powerful IBM cell processor; it included Sony’s Blu-ray disc player (for
playing high-definition DVDs) and launched with a hefty price tag of $599 for
a 60-gigabyte model, or $499 for a 20-gigabyte model. Estimates put the cost
of the components used to produce the consoles at $840 and $805,
respectively, meaning that Sony lost more than $200 on every unit. Sony
claimed that the PS3 was backward compatible with all games written for the
Playstation and PS2, but it turned out that not all of the older games would
play on the new system. Though the console sold out within minutes of its
launch, by early 2007, Sony had sold only 3.5 million PS3s worldwide—
significantly less than it had forecasted.
In fall of 2008, Microsoft slashed the price of the Xbox 360 to $199,
making it the cheapest console of the generation. However, even Don
Mattrick, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment
Business admitted that the Xbox 360 was unlikely to overtake the Wii,
noting: “I’m not at a point where I can say we’re going to beat
Nintendo.we will sell more consoles this generation than Sony.” Sony
followed suit by lowering the price of its starter model to $399. The
years 2009 and 2010 were worse for all of the console companies—the
recession lead to a significant drop in sales and profits for all three
companies and they responded by dropping the price of their consoles.
However, the pattern of sales remained the same. By December of
2010, over 75 million, Wii’s had been sold worldwide, compared to 45
million Xbox 360’s, and 42 million PS3s.
The Eighth Generation: Increasing
Competition from Mobile Devices
The eighth generation saw the video game console makers
focusing on further integration with other media and connectivity.
In late 2012, Nintendo launched its Wii U, a tablet/controller
hybrid with an embedded touch screen that would enable users to
get a different perspective than the one on the main display. The
Wii U was backward compatible with most Wii games, but the
initial lineup of games written specifically for the device was
weak at the consoles launch. Fur-thermore, because Nintendo had
beaten Sony and Microsoft to market by a year, many customers
decided to wait until they could compare all three consoles,
leading to sluggish sales for the Wii U.
The eight generation also brought increasing competition from
new players. Mobile device platforms such as Android and
Apple’s iOS were beginning to account for significantly more
gaming. Though the devices were small and the games lacked the
high fidelity and motion-based play offered by the home
consoles, they made up for it—at least in part—by a rapid
proliferation of free or low-cost games (Angry Birds had over 3
billion downloads worldwide by mid-2015), and the fact that
their owners tended to have them available at all times. Despite
the increasing pressure, sales of the home video game consoles
were reasonably strong. By early 2015, Sony had sold 22.3
million PS4s, Microsoft had sold 10 million Xbox Ones, and
Nintendo had sold 9.54 million Wii Us.
OVERVIEW
The value of any technological innovation is only partly determined by what
the technology can do. A large part of the value of an innovation is determined
by the degree to which people can understand it, access it, and integrate it
within their lives. Deployment is not just a way for the firm to earn revenues
from its innovations; deployment is a core part of the innovation process itself.
Deployment strategies can influence the receptivity of customers, distributors,
and complementary goods providers. Effective deployment strategies can
reduce uncertainty about the product, lower resistance to switching from
competing or substitute goods, and accelerate adoption. Ineffective
deployment strategies can cause even brilliant technological innovations to
fail.

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IS STRATEGY Crafting a deployment

  • 1. Crafting a Deployment Strategy Deployment Tactics in the Global Video Game Industry CHAPTER THIRTEEN
  • 2. In the global video game industry, the introduction of each generation of console has ushered in a new battle for market dominance. New entrants have made startling entrances and toppled seemingly invincible incumbents. Game develop ers, distributors, and customers have had to watch the battle closely in order to place their bets about which console would emerge as the generation’s victor. Each generation has also revealed which deployment strategies have paid off or proven fatal—for the contenders.
  • 3. Pong: The Beginning of an Era In the fall of 1972, Nolan Bushnell founded a company called Atari and intro duced Pong, a Ping-Pong-like game that was played on a user’s television set with the aid of the Atari console. Though considered to be the “second gen eration” of home video game consoles (a console called the Odyssey, released by Magnavox early 1972 is considered the first generation), Pong was the first home console to become known around the world. In its first year, Pong earned more than $1 million in revenues. Pong and over 60 similar knockoffs soon flooded the market.
  • 4. The Emergence of 8-Bit Systems Much to everyone’s surprise, however, two new companies from Japan entered the U.S. video game market, initiating the home video game console’s third generation: Nintendo, with its 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), introduced in 1985, and Sega, which launched its 8-bit Master System in the United States in 1986. Unlike Atari, which had spent only a few hundred thousand dollars on advertising, Sega and Nintendo spent $15 million promoting their systems. Both systems offered technological advantages over the previous generation of video game consoles. Sega’s Master System appeared to be slightly superior to Nintendo’s, but Nintendo spent much more on the development of quality games and characters and had more game titles available than Sega. The NES sold over 1 million units in the first year, sold 19 million units by 1990, and could be found in more than a third of the households in America and Japan.
  • 5. The 16-Bit Video Game Systems In September 1989, Sega launched the fourth generation of video game console competition when it introduced its 16-bit Genesis to the U.S. video game market. The Genesis offered dramatic performance enhancement over 8- bit systems.Further, Sega leveraged its popular arcade games to the Genesis and made it backward compatible with its 8-bit Master System games. There were 20 Genesis game titles available by December 1989. NEC also introduced a 16-bit system, the TurboGrafx-16, in the fall of 1989 and had 12 game titles by December 1989.Though Nintendo had its own 16-bit system in the works, it delayed introducing it to the United States for fear of cannibalizing its 8-bit system sales.
  • 6. Like Nintendo, Sega made little profit on the consoles and focused instead on increasing unit sales to drive game sales and software developer royalties. Sega, however, used less restrictive licensing arrangements than Nintendo and rapidly lured a large number of developers to make Sega game titles. Further, though Nintendo could have made its 16-bit system backward compatible, thus linking the value consumers possessed in their 8-bit game libraries to the new system, Nintendo chose to make the system incompatible with the 8-bit games.
  • 7. 32/64-Bit Systems The late 1980s and early 1990s, new competitors were attracted to the video game market, with fifth generation machines that had either 32 or 64-bit systems. In 1989, Philips announced its 32-bit Compact Disc Interactive (CD-i), an interactive multimedia compact disc system that would serve as a game player, teaching tool, and music system. However, the CD-i was very complex, requiring a 30-minute demonstration. Furthermore, it was expensive—introduced at $799 and later reduced to a below-cost $500 (more than twice the cost of Nintendo or Sega systems). While the product was actually much more than a video game console, customers compared it to the popular Nintendo and Sega systems and were dismayed by its price and complexity.
  • 8. The company was founded in October 1993 by Trip Hawkins, formerly of video games developer Electronic Arts. However, 3DO’s unique strategy of licensing out all game and hardware production made it impossible to achieve the low console prices of Sega and Nintendo by subsidizing console production with game royalties. The hardware producers (Matsushita and Panasonic) for 3DO did not sell games and were unwilling to sell the consoles without a margin. Sales of the machine never took off, and 3DO exited the market. Atari also made a surprising return to the video game market in 1993 with the technologically advanced Jaguar. However, Atari’s long struggle had not inspired great confidence in either developers or distributors, and several of the large retail chains chose not to carry the product.
  • 9. Though Sega’s Saturn had beaten Sony’s PlayStation to market by several months, it was shipped to only four retailers due to limited supply: Toys “R” Us, Babbage’s, Software Etc., and Electronics Boutique. This aggravated retailers such as Best Buy and WalMart, which had long supported Sega.Developers also felt that it was easier to program for the PlayStation than the Saturn, causing it to lose crucial developer support.By the end of 1996, the installed base of Sony PlayStation in the United States (2.9 million units) was more than double that of the Sega Saturn (1.2 million units).
  • 10. 128-Bit Systems In September 1999, Sega launched the first sixth-generation console, its 128-bit Dreamcast, a $199 gaming system that enabled access to the Internet. Before the Dreamcast release, Sega was suffering from its lowest market share in years at 12 percent. The Dreamcast was the first 128-bit system to market, and 514,000 units were sold in the first two weeks. An installed base of 5 million was achieved by October 2000. Sega’s success turned out to be short-lived, however. In March 2000, Sony launched its 128-bit PlayStation2 (PS2) in Japan and introduced the
  • 11. Sony’s PS2 was an unprecedented success. Not only did it offer a significant technological advantage over the 32-bit systems, but it was also backward compatible, enabling gamers to play their PlayStation games on the console until they amassed new game libraries.During the opening sales weekend of March 4, 2000, PS2 sales reached about 1 million units, a figure that eclipsed by 10 times the amount of original PlayStation units sold during the three-day release period in 1994. Demand for the new unit was so high that on the opening day of pre-orders on Sony’s Web site, more than 100,000 hits in one minute were received, and Sony was forced to briefly shut down the Web site.
  • 12. Microsoft had previously produced PC-based computer games (such as Flight Simulator and the Age of Empires series) and operated an online gaming service (Microsoft Gaming Zone) and thus had some familiarity with the industry. However, it did not have either the arcade experience of Sega or Nintendo or the consumer electronics experience of Sony. By the time the Xbox hit the market, PS2 already had a significant lead in installed base and availability of games (more than 300 PS2 game titles were available at the end of 2001), but Microsoft was counting on the technological advantages offered by the Xbox to tip consumer preferences. The Xbox offered a faster processor and more memory than the PS2. Furthermore, customers did not have to trade- off technological advantages against price: The Xbox launched at a retail price of $299, significantly less than its production costs (it is estimated that Microsoft lost between $100 and $125 per unit).
  • 13. Both the Xbox and Nintendo’s GameCube were launched just in time for the extremely important 2001 Christmas season and sold briskly. By the year’s end, it was estimated that 1.3 million GameCube units had been sold, and 1.5 million Xbox units had been sold.However, both of the new consoles were outrun by PS2, which sold 2 million units in the month of December alone. This market share pattern remained remarkably consistent over the next few years. By the end of fiscal year 2005, Microsoft reported it had shipped a total of 22 million Xbox consoles, which was slightly more than Nintendo’s 20.6 million GameCube shipments, and far behind the Sony PS2’s 100 million consoles shipped.
  • 14. The Seventh Generation: A Second Round of Competition in 128-bit Systems In late 2005, Microsoft was first to introduce a seventh-generation console: Xbox 360. Though severe manufacturing shortages resulted in only 600,000 units being sold in the 2005 Christmas season, Microsoft was hoping its head start over Sony and Nintendo (both of which would not debut their next generation consoles until late 2006) would enable it to attain a dominant position. The console was designed around a custom IBM processor that had three Power PC processors on a single chip, and a custom graphics processor from ATI. The result was a powerful console that generated high-definition video with stunning graphics. The Xbox 360 was also backward compatible with a portion of the Xbox game library (though not with all Xbox games). At launch, buyers could get a basic model for $299 or a premium model for $399.
  • 15. Sony launched its Playstation3 (PS3) in November of 2006. The console had a powerful IBM cell processor; it included Sony’s Blu-ray disc player (for playing high-definition DVDs) and launched with a hefty price tag of $599 for a 60-gigabyte model, or $499 for a 20-gigabyte model. Estimates put the cost of the components used to produce the consoles at $840 and $805, respectively, meaning that Sony lost more than $200 on every unit. Sony claimed that the PS3 was backward compatible with all games written for the Playstation and PS2, but it turned out that not all of the older games would play on the new system. Though the console sold out within minutes of its launch, by early 2007, Sony had sold only 3.5 million PS3s worldwide— significantly less than it had forecasted.
  • 16. In fall of 2008, Microsoft slashed the price of the Xbox 360 to $199, making it the cheapest console of the generation. However, even Don Mattrick, senior vice president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business admitted that the Xbox 360 was unlikely to overtake the Wii, noting: “I’m not at a point where I can say we’re going to beat Nintendo.we will sell more consoles this generation than Sony.” Sony followed suit by lowering the price of its starter model to $399. The years 2009 and 2010 were worse for all of the console companies—the recession lead to a significant drop in sales and profits for all three companies and they responded by dropping the price of their consoles. However, the pattern of sales remained the same. By December of 2010, over 75 million, Wii’s had been sold worldwide, compared to 45 million Xbox 360’s, and 42 million PS3s.
  • 17. The Eighth Generation: Increasing Competition from Mobile Devices The eighth generation saw the video game console makers focusing on further integration with other media and connectivity. In late 2012, Nintendo launched its Wii U, a tablet/controller hybrid with an embedded touch screen that would enable users to get a different perspective than the one on the main display. The Wii U was backward compatible with most Wii games, but the initial lineup of games written specifically for the device was weak at the consoles launch. Fur-thermore, because Nintendo had beaten Sony and Microsoft to market by a year, many customers decided to wait until they could compare all three consoles, leading to sluggish sales for the Wii U.
  • 18. The eight generation also brought increasing competition from new players. Mobile device platforms such as Android and Apple’s iOS were beginning to account for significantly more gaming. Though the devices were small and the games lacked the high fidelity and motion-based play offered by the home consoles, they made up for it—at least in part—by a rapid proliferation of free or low-cost games (Angry Birds had over 3 billion downloads worldwide by mid-2015), and the fact that their owners tended to have them available at all times. Despite the increasing pressure, sales of the home video game consoles were reasonably strong. By early 2015, Sony had sold 22.3 million PS4s, Microsoft had sold 10 million Xbox Ones, and Nintendo had sold 9.54 million Wii Us.
  • 19. OVERVIEW The value of any technological innovation is only partly determined by what the technology can do. A large part of the value of an innovation is determined by the degree to which people can understand it, access it, and integrate it within their lives. Deployment is not just a way for the firm to earn revenues from its innovations; deployment is a core part of the innovation process itself. Deployment strategies can influence the receptivity of customers, distributors, and complementary goods providers. Effective deployment strategies can reduce uncertainty about the product, lower resistance to switching from competing or substitute goods, and accelerate adoption. Ineffective deployment strategies can cause even brilliant technological innovations to fail.