Ugh, I can't believe anyone thinks that breaking even is the goal of manufacturers.
I'll put this simply. GreenMedic, if you think that it would be okay for a manufacturer to simply break even -- and that anything beyond that is simply "bragging rights" -- you're wrong, and clearly do not understand how industry works, particularly in growing fields. Unless the situation is extraordinary, shareholders will call for the heads of the executives rather quickly under those conditions.
Shareholders expect growth, and you do not grow without profits. To what extent they expect growth is dependant on the place, time, and economic circumstances, but that's always the expectation.
No reasonable person thinks GM is "beating" BMW right now. BMW is still a profitable enterprise, GM is hemmorhaging cash. And yes, they absolutely are compared by economic analysts, because economic analysts consider them to be in the same market. In other words, the example you've just given -- another car analogy -- does nothing but disprove you, since the companies you've mentioned are, in fact, frequently compared.
Read closer. Who said anything about "breaking even?" Being profitable is the ultimate goal unless you're just a niche hobbiest company that simply wants to stay in business to produce more games or product. Demonstrating growth, year over year is as you say it, "how the industry works, particularly in growing fields."
As for those shareholders you're referring to, you're referring to me; I'm a Nintendo shareholder, specifically because they've displayed the best fundamentals and the most growth as a company for AV consumer equipment since the Wii was released.
"So long as any hardware platform remains profitable, whether due to reduction in manufacturing costs or due to soft licensing fees, and continues to see growth over the previous year, that's all that matters to the companies producing them."
If you don't agree with the conclusion, that's fine. But read the previous statement.
The car analogy was simply to demonstrate that sales volumes of competing products (equal or greater) is not synonymous with competing in the same demographic. People that are shopping for a Benz are not comparing them with Ford products for the purpose of finding the better car for their purposes. If that disproves me, then tell that to the people who drive a Benz or a BMW. Tell them that a Ford would have been a comparable car for less money as two different makes that are frequently compared which must mean they are comparable and competing products.
The OP had nothing to do with competing financials, which is what you are in fact referring to. The topic was about comparing the company's products. Two different things. I buy Nintendo stock, but I buy more PS3 games. Apples and oranges.