JIN-378 -- Game Machine as Vade Mecum: No Thanks

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The J@pan Inc. Newsletter
Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
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Issue No. 378
Friday August 4, 2006 TOKYO
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CONTENTS
@@ VIEWPOINT: Game Machine as Vade Mecum: No Thanks

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One customer that did switch is Guthy-Renker, featured
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If logistics are a key part of your success in Japan - get
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@@ VIEWPOINT: Game Machine as Vade Mecum: No Thanks

I've never understood the fascination of video games. Rather
than plunking yourself in front of the tube to play a game
of tennis against the Mario Brothers, get out on the court, work
up a sweat, and slake your thirst with a brewskie. Rather
than playing the game "Fishing Derby," go a-fishin'. True,
you may go home with an empty creel. But you will have
heard the chatter of the stream, squinted in the glare of
sunlight reflected in water, and maybe jawboned with a fellow
angler. True, video games open up a world of vicarious
experience inimitable in day-to-day life--battling zombies,
blowing away bad guys, taking on terrorist armies--the
sorts of behavior Alex described as "a bit of the old
ultra-violence" in "A Clockwork Orange." No, I've
never appreciated video games.

Now the "Nikkei" reports that in the six-month period
through June 2006 portable game machines for the
first time wrested from stationary game machines top
share of the home video game machine market in Japan.
Boosting hand-held gaming devices' share was Nintendo's hit
portable game console "Nintendo DS." Gamers are
no longer only sedentary souls rooted in front of the
television; they are also peripatetic players, capable
of tickling the console wherever they go. The "Nintendo
DS" seems certain to affect the fate of the next-generation
of stationary machines.

According to Enterbrain, a Tokyo-based game-research
company, portable game machines' market share jumped
from 20 percent in 2002 to 47 percent in 2005. Their
share reached 59% in the first half of this year. It was
the first time portable machines overtook stationary
machines since Enterbrain began tracking shares in 1997.
Handheld machines will perhaps preserve a 50% plus
share for the rest of the year. Shipments of the "Nintendo
DS" topped 10 million units in the 20 months from
commencent of sales through July. The "Nintendo DS"
achieved that shipment plateau in record time for any
sort game machine. Sales of Sony Entertainment's
"Play Station Portable" have been weak in comparison,
for which reason SEC is strengthening the machine's
non-game functions.

Portable games also dominate the game software
market. In the first half of 2006 five of the six game
softwares with sales over 1 million units were for the
DS. With the advent of brain-building games popular
among seniors, the age of one game machine per
person rather, than household, is dawning, says
the "Nikkei."

Behind the spread of portable game machines are
changes in the ways the Japanese spend their leisure
time. With the diversification of leisure activities, people
are too busy to sit back with a stationary video game
machine. They prefer the smaller machine that is a
vade mecum and geared to shorter periods of play
time. And these new upgraded machines give them
satisfaction.

The stationary game machine has been the mainstay
of the home video game machine market. The star of
that market has been SCE's Play Station 2. Today,
however, software companies are increasingly developing
games for the hand-held game machine market. Even
Microsoft, the manufacturer of staionary game machine
"Xboc360," has woken up and taken notice.

This fall SCE and Nintendo are scheduled to launch
next-generation stationary game machines,
PS3 and Wii, respectively. Whether they can gain
ground on the hand-held machines is anybody's guess.

The Nikkei describes the hand-held game machine
as the inevitable vade mecum of everyone in Japan.
That won't happen. I for one will never own one.
I'd rather go a-fishin'.

-- Burritt Sabin
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