According to recent sales figures from vgchartz.com, Nintendo's Wii game console may now be this generation's sales leader. That's a heck of an accomplishment, given that the Wii has only been out since November of last year. The console is still hard to find in stores around the world, which implies their sales lead has legs that could last for quite awhile.
I find the accomplishment interesting, however, for the manner in which Nintendo achieved it. Sony and Microsoft were obsessed with topping each other from a technology standpoint, something likely to appeal to the hard core gamers that traditionally served as the foundation of the game console business.
Nintendo couldn't do that. They came in third in the last generation console war, and they certainly lacked the resources of a Sony or a Microsoft. Instead, they opted to expand the market by aiming for the casual gamers.
Casual gamers are probably less concerned whether or not their game console has HD capability (most people still don't have HD TV sets). Casual gamers don't want to have to deal with fiddly game controllers, as casual gamers aren't likely to spend hours mastering the ideosyncracies of first-person shooter game. Casual games are a Nintendo core competency, which is partly driven by its experience with Nintendo portable game systems (which are the epitome of casual gaming, as they can't compete on graphics), but also derives from a history of fun games populated by characters with names like Mario and Yoshi that have evolved through so many game incarnations that they are almost universally recognized even by those who aren't frequent players of Nintendo games.
Most important, however, is price. For casual gamers, price matters, as they are looking for something that will be fun to do on occasion, and thus, aren't willing to whack a huge hole out of their budget. The unobtrusive nature of the small form factor Nintendo Wii doesn't hurt, either...though that probably yields more post-purchase satisfaction than serves as a criterion upon which to base a game console purchase.
Interesting enough, the revenue injection Nintendo is getting as a result of their Wii success will help fund their ability to go after hard core gamers in future. Whether they need to do that is an open question. Given the Wii's low cost, many gamers seem willing to buy a Wii as complement to an XBOX 360 or PS3 console. That, at least, has been the case among gamer friends I know in LA.
I do expect that they will need to offer some form of HD support sooner than later. Nintendo, however, might be less constrained by the typical 5-7 year console shelf life, as they have made a profit from every console sold from day one.
Anyway, interesting times. Congratulations, Nintendo.