Nintendo: Wii're tops

The Xbox 360 and the PS3 may have all the fancy toys, but it turns out the coolest kid in the class is the one that's just fun to hang around with. Research firm NPD looked at January's US sales figures and have reported that Nintendo sold 436,000 Wii consoles, while the combined might of Microsoft and Sony moved 538,000 PS3s and Xbox 360s.

Am I surprised? Not really. Nintendo has long stressed more family-friendly fare, which already makes it a no-brainer for parents. And with today's concerns about childhood obesity and physical fitness in general, the Wiimote's health benefits make it even more attractive.

But more than anything else, Nintendo has consistently focused more on fun that features. Their controls have generally been simpler than the competitions', but they've also come up with more intuitive controllers (I'm a fan of the GameCube's DK Bongos) and built highly enjoyable, often infectious games around them.

It's a simple rule, people: come up with a straightforward and compelling feature, and make it appeal to everyday people, rather than the hardcore members of your audience -- say, the longer recording time on a VHS cassette (which had a greater appeal than Beta's superior video quality and compact size) or the simplicity of the iPod (which has greater appeal than more feature-laden MP3 players). And it's not about forsaking the hardcore crowd, either; the Wiimote hacks started pretty much the instant the Wiis were on the shelves. It's just a matter of developers remembering to look beyond their geeky ivory towers once in a while. The sooner the consumer electronics industry learns from the Wii's example, the better.

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