Archive for June, 2009


After the dust has settled on E3…

June 11, 2009

So the doors have closed on another E3, and once again I didnt get to go – but then again, I’ve never been so I don’t know what I’m missing!!! Which is probably for the best!

So, what did E3 tell us about what to expect in the next 12 months and beyond?

Of the big three, Nintendo was largely a case of more of the same. Their current direction is working very well thank you very much, so for them to say anything other than “we will continue to plough this furrow” would have been insane. Follow ups to Wii Sports, Wii Fit, and Super Mario Galaxy prove that they arent going to change anything. They know their market and they are sticking with it. During their E3 press conference and since, they have said that they would like to re-engage with hard core gamers more as well, but I cannot see that happening. We know hard-core gamers and they are far too entrenched in the Microsoft and Sony camps. Even if they do look up from their GTA, COD or FIFA session, Nintendo dont seem to be offering anything along their lines.

As for Microsoft and Sony, well, I think Microsoft just edged it but both have a lot to offer the core market of gamers that we sell to.

The top ten list that IGN AU put together sums it up just fine for me – most games will come on both platforms, and where one has an exclusive like Splinter Cell: Conviction, the other has Uncharted 2. Customers often ask us which is best – 360 or PS3? And we always say “Neither – you have to have both, if you are a serious gamer”.

Exclusives will always be a part of this industry and so the only way to satisfy the addiction fully, is to make sure you get your drugs from both Microsoft and Sony. Purists like me will also say you need a Wii for the Mario/Zelda hit – and if you ask my brother, he says you need SNES, Dreamcast, NES, Megadrive etc etc etc – but that is getting off the point. This blog is about the future, not the past.

Coming back to that, both Microsoft and Sony gave tech demo’s on their answers to Nintendo’s Wiimote. Both very clever and both designed to bring more casual gamers into playing games. I have to admit – I think they both have missed the point. Although I didn’t really see it myself until earlier this week when I reflected on another presentation – Apple’s keynote at their World Wide Developer Conference. They have had huge success in a very short period of time, selling 1 Billion apps to an install base of 40 million users around the world. Not all these are gamers obviously, and certainly not hard core gamers. What some are and will increasingly be, are the casual gamers that Nintendo have succeeded in selling to and that Microsoft and Sony are courting with their tech demo’s.

As a little example, let me tell you about the picture of domestic bliss that is the Rowbotham household. I only tend to play games on 360/PS3/Wii and occasionally my PC – depending upon the latest hit that catch’s my eye. So I am core gamer – no question. My wife however over the last couple of years has drifted into the casual gamer sphere so well canvassed by Nintendo. It started with Brain Training and moved onto a bit of Wii Fit and a lot of Professor Layton – all games that have been squarely aimed at this new market that Microsoft and Sony said they are following Nintendo into. The point – well, my wife isn’t playing any of those games anymore. I bought her an iPhone for Christmas as her old phone finally died, and since then she has found a whole new world of casual apps – she spends more time on Facebook as it is convenient on her phone but she has discovered a whole new world of games from developers like PopCap that are quick and cheap to download. And now she sits happily chilling out at the end of a busy day, iPhone in hand. All of which means she has hardly picked up her Nintedo DS and the Wii Fit has got fat!!!!

And for me, this is the most interesting dynamic. Casual gamers are by their nature casual – so they will also be non-committed and transient – they will quickly move onto the next big thing. And I reckon it might just be Apple who will take all these non-core gamers away from Nintendo (and Microsoft and Sony too). A big prediction I know but no-one will hear me when I say “I told you so” in a few years – so I can pretty much say what I like really!!!

If it does happen, where does that leave our industry? And the big three of MS/Sony & Nintendo. Well, interestingly, the core gamers are still going to be here – still wanting their annual fix of COD/FIFA and bi-annual fix of GTA etc – the market may not grow by the double digit points that some shareholders might crave but it will still be strong at its heart, more than treading water thats for sure. And interestingly, Microsoft and Sony are more likely to have something to offer these guys than Nintendo. I don’t see Project Natal type interfaces opening up the market for casual gamers as much as reinforcing things for core gamers, adding more ways to interact and making games richer and more involving experiences – for those who are already hooked.

If this scenario does play out, the biggest looser here could be Nintendo – who has less to fall back on. I have played and finished every Zelda and Mario game to date, but they don’t come along often enough to keep a company the size of Nintendo going – their current market is much more reliant on casual gamers. And if Apple can distract other users like they have my wife, well who knows?