OPINION: Kinecting with the market

Ben Parfitt
OPINION: Kinecting with the market

We’re here for you, the reader. Any publication or website is. Without readers we die, and if at any time we forget that we’re here to serve you then that’s when the proverbial muck hits the fan.

But the relationship between a publication, and more specifically a writer, and its reader is more complicated than it might first appear. Any in no sector is this truer than in gaming.

Those of us who spend our lives reading and writing about games more often than not also spend huge chunks of it thinking about games, talking about games and playing games. We are, by nearly all senses of the word, hardcore gamers. But in recent years this admirable devotion to the sector has in lots of ways worked to our detriment.

The hardcore gamer is still a very important part of the market, but it’s now outweighed by another rapidly growing sector – the casual gamer, or the mass-market. And while the target audience of gaming has evolved rapidly over the last five years the specialist press hasn’t always done a great job of keeping up.

DIFFERENT STROKES

I’m not saying that the big consumer games sites should necessarily be reviewing Mastertronic’s America’s Next Top Model or Black Bean’s NewU. But they should certainly understand their worth and significance in the market – and sadly far too many don’t.

This is possibly the biggest problem that Kinect faces. For the time being at least it’s not for the hardcore market. That’s not where it’s being targeted. As a result its games are not necessarily games that I, or most other games journalists, would want to play were it not in the job description.

That in itself is not a problem by any means. That this has too often become a negative for Kinect in the eyes of specialist journalists, however, most certainly is.

I’ve spoken to retailers about their Kinect allocations. There seems to be a belief in the industry that stock is hard to come by. And indeed, some retailers’ allocations are low. But others are high. Incredibly high, in fact. And these very same retailers are desperately scrambling for more stock as launch allocations sell out.

There’s only one reason for this – the consumer demand for Kinect is huge.

But for whatever reason this truth appears to anger some people. I’ve written lots online recently about the expected success of Kinect on the High Street. And, as big a surprise as it was to me, I’ve been greeted with huge scepticism. Even anger and confrontation in some cases. One industry veteran even called me “a willing pawn” in Microsoft’s marketing assault.

OPEN-MINDED

Some of this is of course down to the unavoidable negative reflex reaction toward any successful company launching a new product. But much of it is simply because the story MCV has been telling does not fit in with the script that many media outlets and rival companies have already finalised – that Kinect is late, expensive, has no good games and is destined to fail.

Of course, we don’t know how things will pan out. Kinect could revitalise the market in very much the same way as Nintendo did with the Wii or it could fall by the wayside and expediate the launch of the next Xbox. Time will tell.

But either way, the press has a professional obligation to keep an open mind. Furthermore, its duty should be to reflect the genuine mass-market hunger for what is a very impressive piece of technology. There are no hardcore games for launch, of course, and yes, over a quarter of the launch titles are fitness games.

Report that, by all means.

But at the same time remember that for every Gears of War fanboy scoffing at Kinect Adventures there’s a dozen kids, office workers, mums, plumbers and Wii owners reading about the ability to turn on their console by speaking to it and controlling a games with their arms and getting very excited.

Kinect, genuinely, could be huge. Let’s give it a chance.

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Tags: Microsoft , Media , kinect

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