The word “competition” can stir up some rather unflattering images. If you watch the likes of reality TV, for example, the most competitive player is usually painted as “the jerk.” This person takes the competition too seriously and is the one that other contestants — and the audience — don’t like. Typically, they never win and are quickly booted off the show after learning that it’s not just about “competition” but about being a good person, or something along those lines.
However, at its core, competition is not only good for business, but good for your audience.
No Competition Leaves Little Room for Growth
Forbes has a slide show on their site that goes into the importance of competition. Something they said rings true in regards to marketing: “If you’re the only player in your field, it can be difficult to improve.” Can you imagine a world where there was one source, and one source only, for the things you want?
Let’s look at video games, for a moment. Once upon a time the leading company for gaming was Nintendo. What would the gaming industry be like if no one came around to give Nintendo some competition? What if your only source of gaming entertainment came in the likes of Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong? We’re not saying that these are bad games, but eventually you would want something more, right?
We want to take it a step further, though. Why are these Nintendo games so good? We dare say it’s because of the competition they were given, which leads us to our second point:
Competition Makes Companies Try Harder and Be More Creative
When thinking about the benefits of competition, Shaun Rosenburg feels that he would haven’t taken as many chances if there weren’t rivals to push him forward. “That is why whenever I want to get good at something I make friends with people who are already good at it.” You don’t have to take his word for it, there are big name examples that illustrate this point.
Namely Nintendo and Sega.
In 1989 Sega launched the Genesis and put it in direct competition with the NES. “The first wave of Genesis titles soared over the NES offerings (production value-wise) and made the generational gap easy to see. That obvious leap resulted in good early sales,” says Levi Buchanan via IGN. “SEGA also rolled out some aggressive marketing, calling out Nintendo by name in the famous ‘What Nintendon’t’ campaign. SEGA made the Genesis the ‘cool’ platform, while the NES — and, to a degree, the Super NES — were toys.” To top it all off, Sega revealed a direct competitor to Nintendo’s number one mascot, Mario, by introducing the world to Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991. The blue hedgehog sold a whopping 4 million cartridges in his first game and 6 million with his second.
Nintendo had to do something to fight back. And fight back, they did.
Buchanan’s article maps out staggering sale numbers for the games Nintendo released in response to its new competition. “The Super NES featured far more bestsellers than the Genesis. After Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the next top seller was Aladdin, which also moved about 4 million units. The Super NES featured several games that sold more than 4 million copies, such as Super Mario Kart (8 million), Street Fighter II (6 million), Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past (4.7 million), and Star Fox (4 million). And in Japan, Square was selling millions of Final Fantasy games, such as Final Fantasy VI, which moved more than 2.5 million cartridges.” In addition, Nintendo bundled one of the best Mario games of all time, “Super Mario World,” with the Super Nintendo, giving gamers more incentive to purchase the system.
“The great thing about having competitors is that you have to be more innovative. You have to think outside the box and go after new options in order to get ahead,” says Rosenburg. In this, he’s absolutely right. It’s no coincidence that Nintendo released so many great games after the Sega Genesis and Sonic the Hedgehog hit the market. And while the Super Nintendo did sell more units (49.1 million compared to 29 million Genesis units according to Buchanan), it’s hard to deny the final point we’re going to make:
Competition Gives the Audience Options
Because of this intense console war, gamers were given a variety of options in what they wanted to play. By giving them more options, the video game industry was able to grow into what it is today. Since the audience had more than Nintendo to choose from when it came to video games, other companies were able to try their hand at pleasing the gaming community. Namely, the console war we have now: Microsoft versus Sony versus Nintendo. It’s also no coincidence that, even after 20-plus years, Mario and Sonic are still big names in the industry, all thanks to a little bit of competition.