Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975 but dropped it for fear it would threaten its film business. If they hadn’t have done so, they could have dominated the industry and still have a thriving business. Kodak once said, “We don’t sell film, we sell memories.” The company who made “the Kodak Moment” part of American culture forgot who they were.
In a recent article, GigaOM identifies Kodak’s fatal mistake: “it forgot the true purpose of its business and instead focused on features, SKUs and products.”
Kodak continued to define itself by “film” when all it should have done is define itself with “photos” or moments.
In his book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek says that “when an organization defines itself by WHAT it does, that’s all it will ever be.”
The Nintendo Koppai Card Company
Unlike many younger, “cooler” gaming parents, when my boys start talking Team Fortress 2, Portal, and Left for Dead, they might as well be speaking a foreign language. Yet recently, my oldest son said something about the video game industry that did make sense—Nintendo originally made playing cards.
I checked it out, and discovered that Nintendo was founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi as the Nintendo Koppai card company in 1889. Based in Kyoto, Japan, they produced and marketed a playing card game called Hanafuda. The handmade cards soon became so popular that Yamauchi had to hire assistants to mass produce cards to satisfy demand.
In 1956, Yamauchi’s grandson realized the limitations of the playing card business and began experimenting in other business ventures. Between 1956 and 1974, Nintendo, like Kodak, forgot who they were. In a series of misadventures, they launched a taxi company, a love hotel chain (don’t ask), a TV network, and a food company. They eventually stumbled upon a new market after developing a light gun machine that could be used in the emerging arcade scene.
Their big break came in 1974, when they secured the rights to distribute Magnavox’s Odyssey video game console. A few years later, Nintendo began producing its own home video game consoles. And the rest, as they say, is history.
It seems Nintendo rediscovered who they were all along—a game company.
Still, no company can afford to rest on its laurels. In spite of the relative success of Wii, Nintendo is getting its clock cleaned by Apple and Android in the mobile gaming arena. Smart-device game sales grew by more than 60 percent last year, while Nintendo lost 13 percent market share. Still, Nintendo has “no intention” of developing apps for these mobile gaming platforms, and Nintendo president Reggie Fils-Aime claims Apple has it “all wrong” by selling inexpensive, disposable games on the Apps Store.
Has Nintendo become too enamored of its own products and forgot who they are? Only time will tell…