After generations of trying to regain the magic it had as the number one console maker with the Nintendo Entertainment System, Nintendo placed its remaining hope on a 5-in-1 sports game. Who would have thought that, without a Mario hat in sight, Wii Sports would not only save the company from irrelevance, but make Nintendo a market leader once again.

Now that Wii Sports has sold over 45 million copies, Nintendo has the unenviable task of trying to follow it up with Wii Sports Resort, a sequel that isn t packed in with every Nintendo Wii. Not only that, but the game requires use of (yet another) Wii accessory, the Wii Motion Plus (included with every game).

Potential brand confusion coupled with recent consumer apathy in video games make this a bit of an uphill climb, but Nintendo started earlier this year laying the groundwork at E3 2009.

Introducing Wii Motion Plus

Nintendo has never held itself to be a high-tech company. The cutting edge tech behind the Nintendo Wii is at least several years old, and the surprising acceptance and adoption of the Wii had competitors Microsoft and Sony introduce their own motion peripherals, some of which are leap-years ahead of Nintendo.

So Nintendo headed off that concern at this year s E3 with the introduction of Wii Motion Plus and the new Wii Sports Resort. Here is the promotional video they showed to press in attendance.

What you see there is Nintendo trying to flip the tables and remove the notion that it was not interested in being on the cutting edge. The slick production and association with several of the games featured in Wii Sports Resort laid the foundation for consumer acceptance. It showed the new peripheral, it showed how people used it, and it showed how games were more sensitive with it. Most importantly? It looked like a lot of fun!

This led to long queues in front of the Wii Sports Resort portion of Nintendo’s booth, with thousands of players getting a chance to play the new basketball, archery and table tennis mini-games. Nintendo’s instructors calmly led journalists and other attendees in how to use the Wii Motion Plus effectively, including how to calibrate it and use it with other peripherals (like the nunchaku). Of course, it helped that the game was a lot of fun in action, and Nintendo allowed attendees to spend ample time at their booth getting acclimated to the action.So the initial formula was simple: cool, high-tech introduction video, lots of play time with a fun game, and thousands of excited bloggers writing about the awesome new Wii Sports Resort.

Beachlife In Times Square

Now that Nintendo had the gaming blogosphere atwitter with news about Wii Sports Resort, it was time for a big mainstream push, and Nintendo executed their next move beautifully. They took over the center of the universe, Times Square, and turned Military Island into its own personal beach. Wii Sports Resort branding and kiosks were everywhere, and fans and tourists came around to see what the fuss was all about. Again, here was Nintendo, engaging its consumers face-to-face by allowing them time in front of the fun, new Wii Sports Resort. Throw in a little celebrity action (Chace Crawford), invite a bunch of press and voila, you’re today’s top story.

Long Summer Days

Wii Sports Resort’s timing is as important as its initial launch period, and Nintendo is benefiting from a dearth of notable games in the first half of the year. With summer upon us, you now have lots of bored kids out of school, itching for something to do.

This makes Nintendo’s follow up television commercial perfect, both for the season and the demographic. It shows the familiar Mii characters in Wii Sports Resort events, along with people having fun (Wii Motion Plus in hand). The summer theme is in full effect here and, coupled with a familiar brand in Wii Sports, makes this a perfect introduction for those players who have a few bones to spend.

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And for that demo that just doesn’t watch television anymore, Nintendo has an Internet campaign that strikes the same chord.

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Already A Hit

A game like Wii Sports Resort benefits from having a long tail, much like Wii Play, a game that has racked up 23 million units sold (largely thanks to a Wii remote being packed-in).

So far, the early education of Wii Motion Plus and how it relates to Wii Sports Resort is paying off. Before Wii Sports Resort release on July 26, Nintendo had already moved almost 400,000 units of the Wii Motion Plus peripheral (169,000 alone, 205,000 with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10).

As for the game itself, NPD data for July should show a very strong introduction for Wii Sports Resort, but Japanese sales already place Wii Sports Resort as the third-fastest selling Wii game ever (only Mario Kart Wii and Super Smash Bros. Brawl raked in more unit sales in its first four days). Analysts expect Wii Sports Resort to top sales of 18 million by the end of the year.

Wii Sports Resort and Nintendo’s marketing machine show the importance of a good introduction along with tailoring your message to the season, demographic and mainstream consumer that has led to its dominance in the current generation. Now who’s up for a quick game of table tennis?