There can be no doubt that the launch of the Nintendo Wii was a huge step forward for the in-home gaming market.
Its revolutionary motion controller-based system changed the games experience and opened up home gaming as a leisure activity to a new audience.
Although there are a large number of gaming consoles now in the UK marketplace almost a third (32 per cent) of people own a Nintendo Wii, and over half of these owners are female – traditionally not a core demographic for gaming.
It is now recognised that what attracts this new generation to Wii is the simple, intuitive design and its range of lifestyle games.
In a rapidly-changing and competitive home gaming market it is critical to understand consumer interest in new technologies. The popularity of the Nintendo Wii has enabled the games industry to identify ‘barriers-to-use’ for these non-gamers.
The first range of games that Nintendo launched for the Wii such as The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Call of Duty 3 were aimed at the traditional gaming market.
However, the potential of the new gaming market became apparent with the popularity of ranges such as the Wii Sports. What sets the new era of games such as Wii Tennis and Wii Bowling apart from traditional gaming is the multiplayer, social nature of its games; emphasis is on group enjoyment, rather than the solo participation which characterised traditional gaming. The success of the Wii, driven largely by its motion-control system, is as we know testament to the importance of social gaming in appealing to non-core gamers, especially female and older demographics.
RIVALS MOVING IN
Four years after the Nintendo Wii, other console manufacturers have now developed new technologies to take motion controller-based systems to the next level.
Technology is evolving faster than ever and only four years after Nintendo launched the first motion controlled console, Xbox will have no controller at all.
With the absence of any controller, Kinect wants to break down all barriers to gaming and open up Xbox’s appeal to an even wider audience than the Wii. Like the Wii, its games will be oriented to group enjoyment, with an emphasis on providing games for all the family – even Grandpa.
As products become increasingly complex, it is harder for consumers to visualise what these latest innovations offer and how they can enhance their gaming experience.
This can be a challenge for those marketing them as many consumers are no longer buying these products based on third-party recommendation, either by a friend or through advertising.
In the same way that the Wii became popular when consumers experienced it with friends and family, the success of Kinect will depend on consumers being able to experience it first hand and realise its potential for themselves.
The latest research from TNS Technology demonstrates that it will be critical for retailers to demonstrate new gaming technologies such as the Kinect in-store to drive sales.
When asked about the new Xbox console, just seven per cent said they would definitely/probably buy it. Respondents were then shown the Kinect concept. Following this test, the figure for those who would definitely/probably buy it rose to 19 per cent overall, highlighting the importance of manufacturers and retailers demonstrating new technologies to ensure their success.
STRIKING THE RIGHT BALANCE
While initial consumer reaction to the Kinect appears to be positive, it is too early to ascertain whether this new concept in gaming will revolutionise the market. Its social-oriented games are designed to appeal to the new generation of casual gamers whose entry point to gaming was the Nintendo Wii. 26 per cent of Wii users have already expressed an interest in buying Kinect at launch.
However, removing the controller altogether from the gaming experience doesn’t work for all games. For example, Call of Duty most likely cannot be transferred to a system with no controller at all, where any activity must come from the actual physical movement of the user and the accuracy of firing a gun is lost without a tangible object in hand.
One manufacturer that appears to have recognised the need to satisfy gaming enthusiasts while evolving its technology to offer new gaming experiences is PlayStation and its Move controller. Move offers more challenging games than the Wii to appeal to gaming enthusiasts, but retains the motion controller-based system that has proved popular with casual gamers.
While wider appeal offers real potential for the gaming industry and console development, manufacturers must be careful not to alienate gaming enthusiasts whose needs are not met by these new technologies.
The success of new gaming technologies must strike the balance between high-quality gaming which will appeal to dedicated gamers and fun and simple games that bring a broader demographic together. Only time will tell whether PlayStation’s Move has successfully struck the right balance, or whether the future of gaming lies in products that satisfy either gaming enthusiasts or casual gamers – but not both.
BIO: GED EGAN
Ged Egan manages a large team of consultants in the Technology Sector at TNS Research International. He has over a decade of research experience and a BA in Marketing. He is passionate about new technology and the resulting impact on the consumer.