From an article by Susan Moffat in Fortune {Nov. 5}:

Nintendo is the shogun of the home videogame, a phenomenon that has captivated millions of children and adults in America and Japan. The Kyoto company's sales have multiplied nearly tenfold in as many years, to some $2.5 billion in the year that ended in March. Estimated profits: an electric $350 million.

Toy industry analysts are saying that this Christmas could be Nintendo's biggest ever in the United States, which accounts for two-thirds of videogame demand. Even in the face of a slowing economy, U.S. sales are expected to exceed last year's by 30 percent or more. ...

Super Mario Brothers, the all-time best-selling series of games (39 million copies), involves quests through fantasy realms by an Italian plumber who can transform himself into a raccoon. So powerful is Mario's charm that he has become an international cultural icon. In a recent poll of U.S. schoolchildren, he proved more popular than Mickey Mouse. Game industry experts -- some of them Nintendo addicts -- believe the company could be the next Disney.

Just as Mickey Mouse helped pioneer the animated picture in the 1930s, so might Mario help establish a new medium called interactive entertainment. Says Jim Willcox, a columnist for Toy and Hobby World magazine: "We are seeing the rapid evolution of play, from board games to videogames to electronic games in polygraphic forms." Already Nintendo's competitors are experimenting with powerful combinations of computers, laser disks and high-definition TV screens, as well as games that use human actors rather than cartoon characters. Possible in this decade: videogames in which the viewer manipulates his own image, in effect becoming simultaneously director and star.