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While the Nintendo name is most closely associated with a video game platform (the NES), the company's real focus has always been the games rather than the platform. Herein lies the true distinction between Nintendo and its two larger rivals. Nintendo seeks to make good games. Microsoft and Sony seek to control a distribution channel.

Nintendo is the only company among the three console makers that began life as an entertainment company - and it shows. Microsoft is known for software; Sony is known for hardware; and Nintendo is known for games.

American gamers are well acquainted with the Nintendo brand; but, American investors generally know very little about the company. That's unfortunate, because despite all the attention given to Sony and Microsoft's video game operations, Nintendo is the ultimate pure play video game company.

Nintendo is an interesting business to write about from an investor's perspective for several reasons. The company operates in an exciting industry with excellent long-term prospects. It's more reasonably priced than many public companies in that industry (although that's not saying much). It's a truly unique business (with a unique past), and it has a clear vision of what it is and what it isn't. Obviously, Nintendo's tremendous intellectual properties add to its appeal both as a subject of an article and as the object of an investor's interest.

Nintendo has been a good steward of its intellectual properties. It's been very careful to protect the image of its most beloved characters. In fact, some would say the company has occasionally been too protective of its strongest franchises.

For instance, between 1994 and 2002 there were no new Metroid games, despite the popularity of that franchise. The benefit of such a strategy is that when Metroid Prime was released in 2002, it received extraordinary reviews and sold over a million units. The downside to this approach is obvious. Nintendo effectively surrendered the revenue (almost certainly more than $100 million) that could have been milked from the franchise throughout the latter half of the 1990s.

Nintendo is an entertainment company; not an electronics company. Console sales are inextricably intertwined with games sales. Hardware sales account for a large portion of Nintendo's total sales; however, hardware sales don't drive a large portion of Nintendo's total sales. At Nintendo, the games sell the consoles. Of course, the console itself can affect the game play experience in its role as a

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