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Executive Summary

Nintendo Company LTD.

The Wii and its Supply Chain Process

Distribution Difficulties

Next Nintendo Steps


Works Cited/References
A primary video game manufacturing company, Nintendo Co. LTD, has always been one
of the major competitors in the video gaming hardware and software industry. By understanding
the company¶s history and development over the years, one can better understand their business
strategies and development. In November and December of 2006, Nintendo launched its latest
console for the seventh generation of video games globally called the Wii ( It was
extremely successful in sales and had an enormous demand due to its new technology, its
minimal price and uniqueness against the other competing consoles (Sony¶s PS3 and Microsoft¶s
Xbox 360).

However, for some reason the Wii (in its early years of its generation) was always in
short supply and as well as continuously out of stock. Some believed that Nintendo was not a
company that was capable of efficient distribution, nor had the production capacity or sufficient
resources to meet the high demand of its product. Other critics believed the Wii was withheld
purposely to continue be highly demanded on the market. In either case, the company¶s supply
chain needs analysis in order to fully comprehend the difficulties (or dodgy tactics) Nintendo had
in terms of its production and distribution of its Wii console. Also, Nintendo plans on launching
a new console product in 2012, and thus should look at its past experience in order to improve its
supply chain management.


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The video gaming industry has been around for over 50 years, where presently the only
surviving three competitors are Nintendo (with the longest experience in its field), Sony, and
Microsoft, the newest entrant to the field. By understanding the current aspects of the industry,
one can better understand the necessary supply chain strategies just to survive within this volatile
and ever changing industry. In order to cover the R&D costs of making a new console as well as
software, and just to be considered a profitable player in this industry, the companies all have a
global market, split into regions, each with their own supply chain strategies and distribution
centers. The lifecycle of each product within the industry is termed a ³generation´ where each
generation usually lasts from 5-7 years. Thus, right off the bat, one knows that on an average
every 6 years, a new product must be launched in order to survive and shift to the next
generation of the industry. (For Nintendo product history and generation cycle, see exhibit A)

Nintendo started out as a card manufacturing company producing Japanese Hanafuda

cards, briefly entered the toy making industry and failed miserably, then decided to enter the
video gaming industry around the mid 1970¶s, but hit major success a decade later
( Nintendo¶s strict translation from Japanese to English is ³leave luck to
heaven,´ but it seems luck is on earth as well for Nintendo. After discovering their creative and
competitive talent in video game manufacturing, the company has since been the third most
valuable company in its nation, and has sold 565 million hardware units coupled with 3.4 billion
software units (

On Nintendo of America¶s corporate website, it begins

its mission statement and philosophy acknowledging and being
proud to be the world¶s leading company within the industry,
where emphasis is placed on the quality of their products and
respective services, the assurance of their delivery, and placing
great value to the customer. The second part of their mission
states that their employees are just as important, where they
define and set the standard of quality of their products and
services. From this mission statement and corporate beliefs, Nintendo highly values the quality
of products they distribute, the importance of delivering those products, and the satisfaction of
the consumer. Therefore, Nintendo places a higher importance on vertical integration of the
supply chain as opposed to horizontal.

With this being said, it makes clear sense, and follows with their corporate beliefs to have
an extensive and thorough distribution network. Although this multinational company is based in
Kyoto, Japan, Nintendo has carved up the globe into 6 regions: North America (which has its
own domestic distributor list), Africa & Middle East, Asia, Australia & South Pacific, Europe,
and Mexico/South America/ Caribbean as mentioned on their corporate website. Nintendo has a
major key distributor for each of its regions, along with certified sub distributors for specific
countries within that region. With this distribution layout, Nintendo can easily cover the globe
and supply its products to almost any country on all seven continents. With 10 distributors in the
US alone, plus an additional 29 distributors to cover the globe, Nintendo was not joking when it
emphasized the delivery of their products ( Also, it is primarily Nintendo and its
sub companies (ex: Nintendo Europe, Nintendo Australia) that handles distribution of over half
the world. (To see the overall distribution list, see exhibit B)

With so many distributors shipping to retail stores, Nintendo successfully covers shipping
to actual stores and wholesalers, but what about online purchasing and retailers you say? Well
according to Nintendo¶s home site, it has exactly 25 different certified retails from
and to Toys µR¶ Us and Wal-Mart. These retailers, where most have both a
physical store and an online shop, have helped Nintendo efficiently hold its products across the
States, and even internationally as well. Retailers replenish their Nintendo product stock via a
process of pulling. Each retailer gives their demand of the products they want and Nintendo
delivers. In cases of a new launch product or software, Nintendo of America follows a push
strategy in terms of delivering the product to different retailers that may be interested in
purchasing it. Thus Nintendo pursues a mix when selling its products: that is, they can be found
primarily in the mentioned retail stores, or be purchased online. Nintendo neither favors nor
disregards its outlet options, and sells both to wholesalers, retailers, and online stores!

In terms of pricing, the industry usually has high prices for each generation due to the
heavy costs of R&D, testing and production of each console. Each console, depending on its
internal hardware and cost of production (labor, materials, overhead, etc), will be priced
differently. However and even more so in the video gaming industry, some companies pursue
Freebie Marketing otherwise known as Razor and Blade Business Model. This model, which is
being followed by all 3 major competitors, entails selling the main console at a loss, while the
complimentary component (the software) is the profit generator. It is also coined Freebie
marketing, because the company sells its product below cost, with hopes that the product will
penetrate consumers and increase in popularity, therefore accumulating enough sales to become
profitable again.

Another major trend in the video gaming industry that became a norm (at least for
Nintendo) was the idea of backwards compatibility. Consumers have long wanted to be able to
play older games from the same company, and with the latest-to-date technology and hardware,
many consoles now have the ability to play previous system software on that system. However,
some versions of the Xbox 360 and PS3 have enabled backwards compatibility at an additional
cost, while other versions have not built in that feature at all. Looking at the Wii console in terms
of a ³worth your money/long lasting´ product, it certainly wins. Not only is Wii built in with
backwards compatibility in every system, it provides a download service that enables customers
to purchase software from any platform of Nintendo as early as 1985! The Wii console, can thus
be looked at as a more standardized product, with its functionality, its superior product design
(which includes light weight and compact size), as well as its services. By having one product,
with a design and system capable of being adjusted to the preference of the customer, it attracts
more people to buy it and also helps Nintendo in terms of costs.

..  .

Nintendo, when it came to pricing of its 7th generation console, was extremely clever.
The main strategy was to build a much less powerful system (in terms of hardware, graphics,
system components, etc) as compared to its competition but can be sold at a much cheaper price
than the others. Also, with the Wii¶s motion sensing and innovative technology, it was able to
attract not only hardcore video gamers, but also casual and infrequent gamers as well. The idea
implemented by Nintendo for its Wii that video gaming should not be limited to young adult
males, (which is often the main target market for the industry) but also included adults, elderly,
women, and families as well. By creating the Wii to suit all these segments, Nintendo geared
itself for a much better sales return overall than its competitors. (See Exhibit C for specific
amounts shipped to retailers).

Unlike the Xbox360 and PlayStation 3, the Nintendo Wii, whose internal hardware was
less powerful, yet much cheaper, was able to bring down the consoles price a few hundred
dollars compared to the others. The prices of each console were as follows at launch (and have
followed price cuts as the generation continued):

ÚM Nintendo Wii, Date Launched: November 19th 2006. Launch Price: 250 USD
ÚM Sony Playstation 3, Date Launched: November 11th 2006. Launch Price: 600 USD (60
ÚM Microsoft Xbox 360, Date Launched: November 22nd 2005. Launch Price: 400 USD

This not only helped out in terms of number of sales and popularity, but allowed
Nintendo to be accumulating profit from the start. Thus although all 3 competitors used a razor
and blade marketing strategy, it was solely Nintendo that was in the black from its first sale of its
Wii on a per unit basis. Of course, it would take countless of millions of Wii sales to actually
start making a profit on the entire consoles launch. However, again due to its cost efficiencies
and ability to exploit savings, with every Wii sold, Nintendo made a marginal profit off it, from
its original unit cost. (An example to clarify, exact numbers sourced at and
confirmed by, would be that it cost
Nintendo approximately US$ 158 [raw material,
technology, manufacturing, labor, overhead]
equivalent in Jap ¥, yet sold for an initial price of US$
250. Thus for each Wii, Nintendo had made a $92
marginal profit).

Not only that, but it was Nintendo that had the

least SKU¶s in the 7th generation. Both Microsoft and

Sony launched around 9 and 10 different versions of their console respectively. This made
purchasing f the two consoles a hassle to customers, where they would not find the specific
version they wanted or the memory size available, where as Nintendo, only had two different
versions of the Wii, the only difference was a single price cut and a sleek black colored
system.(For a detailed table of the different console versions and prices, see Exhibit D)
Therefore, it was only practical that setup and production costs for the other two competitors
were extremely higher than that of Nintendo¶s, due to the numerous versions of their consoles,
each with different components (7th Generation Consoles).

Kotaku, an online video gaming news site, has reported that in Dec. 2007, only a year
later after Wii¶s launch, the production run (at that time) was 1.8 million a month and still
experiencing shortages within America. Brian Crecente, Editor in Chief of Kotaku explains his
talk with Nintendo of America¶s (NOA) president and COO, Reggie Fils-Aime who confirmed
that the distribution workforce (within America) has tripled to meet demand. Only half a year
later in April 2008, Kotaku reported that although the Wii only sits on retail shelves for about an
hour, Nintendo was playing it safe with a production run of 2.4 million a month, keeping the
downward economical trend of America in mind. With steep demand not letting up, and a high
production force in its early years, many criticized Nintendo for withholding its supply, in order
to sustain a fabricated popularity and high demand throughout the generation¶s years. Whether
the Wii system was in short supply and simply could not meet its demand or Nintendo
purposefully withheld its supply to counterfeit an extremely high demand, either case led to a
negative response from both supply chain and distribution analysts, and Nintendo fans/critics

Thomas Wailgum, of CIO News looks at both situations and deemed that whatever the
case was, Nintendo has given an image to its global market that it either was not prepared for
such drastic success of its 7th generation console product and did not have the sufficient
resources, or that Nintendo had practiced a ³shrewd marketing strategy«to artificially keep
demand high,´ (Wailgum). However, within the same article Wailgum explains that Nintendo
was indeed playing it safe in terms of leaning toward rather succumbing to not meeting demand
entirely, aka underestimating demand. It makes logical sense, as Wailgum continues that,
demand be met bit by bit not only to stretch out the life cycle of the product at the expense of a
slightly lower service level, but also to avoid the dangers of overestimating demand, and having
excessive inventory costs as well as unwanted obsolete product that cannot be sold. Thus the
withheld supply, and slow steady increase in production of the Wii console was done to counter
two negative effects within supply chain management: the build-up of high amounts of
inventory, which accumulate to unwanted inventory costs, and avoid the costs of having surplus
product, or in this case, the excess cost.

Although Nintendo is generally a more efficient company in terms of supply chain
strategy, it has portrayed its ability to be slightly more responsive in terms of supply-demand
forecasting. After the Wii hype was gone Nintendo started cutting back tremendously on
production. This was an example of its responsiveness to the markets demand of the Wii.
However, usually in the beginning of each gaming generation, by accurately forecasting its sales,
the company can focus primarily on efficiency within production and distribution, due to the fact
it has studied the market for quite some time. Although responsiveness is important in the video
gaming industry, such as choosing when to launch a product, Nintendo clearly favors its
efficiency strategies over having superior responsiveness. Due to the industries nature, and rapid
improvement of technology, a new product typically comes out every 5-7 years. In this respect,
responsiveness is essential, but over the course of the 4th to 7th year of the same product, it
becomes a cash cow on the BCG matrix, where the company milks sales. In order to actually
have this cash cow beneficial, it¶s essential that the company be efficient in the costs of its
production, distribution, advertising, etc. For example, if we look at Nintendo¶s next steps, it has
moved the Wii into the cash cow section, with its latest price cut dropping the Wii¶s cost to $150,
trying to squeeze out the last of its sales. If Nintendo was not following an efficient supply chain
and favored a responsive one, it would have long launched its next generation product. Instead,
due to its practicing an efficient supply chain strategy, which is being cost effective, or
production efficient, it has successfully captured the profitability and benefits in the Wii¶s
current life cycle stage.

Confirmed in 2012, Nintendo will be launching a new console product to begin the 8th
generation of video gaming industry. Although the product specs¶ are highly speculated, it is said
to be even more advanced and tech-creative than the last. This brings new opportunity to
Nintendo, as well as another task it must successfully accomplish: producing a high quality
product, making sure it is delivered efficiently, where customers are regarded as to priority for
the success of its launch. By looking at Nintendo¶s past history, especially the slight criticism it
had when facing imbalance between the Wii¶s demand and supply, it is essential that Nintendo
do more accurate forecasting and consumer research so that it can better determine the trend of
the new products demand and sales. According to its most recently released financial statements,
Nintendo has poured a lot of capital and R&D funds for this progression project and future
launch, so let¶s see where this investment takes them in the future.



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3   4 
1985 Nintendo Entertainment
System (console)

1989 Game Boy (handheld)

1991 Super Nintendo

Entertainment System

1996 Nintendo 64 (console)

Game Boy Pocket


2001 Nintendo GameCube

Game Boy Advance

2006 Nintendo Wii (console)

Nintendo DS lite (handheld)

2012 ??? Confirmed New ???

Console to succeed Wii





United States & Canada 78

, Jack of All Games,
Mecca Electronic Industries
Africa & Middle East Active Boeki, Core Gaming Systems Ltd.,

Asia Active Boeki, Mani Ltd., 
Australia & South Pacific 

Europe Nintendo U.K, 
Stadlbauer Marketing
Mexico/South America/Caribbean   4 


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Xbox 360 (9 Versions) Playstation 3 (10 Versions)

US $299.99 (Core) US$499.99 (20 GB)[91]
(discontinued) (discontinued)
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US$249.99 (Premium - 60 GB) US$499.99 (80 GB - old)[92][93]
(discontinued) (discontinued) -:<%!!!/0
US$479.99 (Elite) (120 GB) US$399.99 (40 GB)[94] US$199.99 (white console or black console with Wii Sports, Wii Sports
(discontinued) (discontinued)
Resort and Wii Motion Plus included; red console packaged with Wii Sports and
US$299.99 (Arcade - 256 MB US$399.99 (80 GB - new) Super Mario Bros. Wii)

internal memory) (discontinued) (discontinued)

US$199.99 (Arcade - 512 MB US$499.99 (160 GB)
internal memory) (discontinued) (discontinued) US$149.99 (white or black console with Mariokart Wii)  
US$299.99 ("Super Elite") US$299.99 (120 GB "Slim")  
  *$ <"**
(250 GB) (discontinued) (discontinued)
US$299.99 (Xbox 360 S - US$299 (160 GB "Slim")[95]
250 GB) US$349.99 (250 GB "Slim")[96]
US$199.99 (Xbox 360 S - 4 GB US$399.99 (320 GB "Slim".
internal memory) Only with PlayStation Move)





Ashcraft, Brian. sNintendo to Increase Wii Production to 2.4 Million a Month.´Kotaku

April, 2008

Crecente, Brian ³Nintendo Triples Wii Distribution Workforce, I Talk with

Reggie.´Kotaku December, 2007

Hodgdon, Jeff. sState-of-the-Art Direct Distribution at Nintendo of America.´ Grainger

Center for Supply Chain Management. May 2001

Nintendo Corporate Website © 2011


Wailgum, Thomas. ³Nintendo Wii Repeats Gaming History Again: Defeats Supply Chain
Critics.´ CIO News.