But Nintendo was disappointed with Super Nintendo's early results, based on its prior success. Of the eight-bit systems it has sold in the United States, 9 million traded in a single year -- 1989. And Nintendo had never cut prices to build market share of its older, eight-bit system. But Nintendo slashed Super Nintendo prices, just four months after introducing its machine -- and Sega, which had once sold Genesis for as much as $179.95, followed suit.
In a story replayed many times in electronics retailing, a price war between two archrivals on competing hardware systems is an attempt todominate a new technology format -- and, therefore, to dominate software, the real moneymaker. In this case, that software is game cartridges like Sega's Sonic 2, which sells for $55.
"The more hardware you get out there more quickly, the more software you can sell," says Kay-Bee's Mr. Alfonsi.
And giants have learned the hard way, as in the case of Sony, which saw its Beta videocassette recorders fall into oblivion in the mid-1980s under the force of VHS equipment produced by other electronics companies.
If Nintendo lost momentum last Christmas, "we . . . have regained it," says Perrin Kaplan, a Nintendo spokeswoman. Nintendo has introduced its $60 Mario Paint and Mouse, a self-described "edutainment" game that uses an Apple MacIntosh-like mouse to create fingertip-control color animation, which can be stored on videotape.
The company plans to introduce new software built around the )) mouse control.
But the agenda in video this Christmas appears again to have been set by Sega, because of interest generated by its new CD system, which is crammed with $400 worth of software that includes an audio CD sampler of hit songs.
"Sega wins by default," says Mr. Rubenstein, the consultant and columnist.
But Nintendo, as ever, says it will have the last word next August, when it introduces what it promises will be a twice-as-fast, twice-as-brilliant 32-bit CD-ROM player, jointly developed with Sony Corp. of Japan.