Friday, May 21, 2010

What happened to the gaming industry?

I have been a gamer since the mid 90's and back then the gaming industry didn't seem as important in our society as it is today. I have just been thinking what happened to lead this industry to become hugely profitable and has made gaming a part of so many peoples lives.

My best guess is after the release of the Playstation 2, when its price point was fairly low; people started buying them like crazy. Also, by that time in the PS2's life cycle it had a massive game library, which catered to most people tastes in games. The combination of low price and a huge game library drew in gamers from many ages, children to adults. As a result the PS2 was a great success and had a ton of media exposure and in my opinion helped gaming become a larger part of pop culture. Now games are being advertised on TV very frequently and there TV shows geared solely towards gamers. I remember watching the news on the release day of Halo 3 or the day I waited in line to get my PS3 on launch day and the news was actually covering these events; before the success of the PS2 I doubt there would be as much news coverage on gaming and the gaming industry.

Ok, basically the PS2 attracted many gamers to buy Sony's console but in this generation of consoles something rather odd happen the release of the Wii. The success Wii really took me by surprise and I think many people probably feel the same way. When the Wii was first revealed it seemed like a huge gimmick with it's motion control and suffered from some arrested development with it's "past generation like" graphics, I was sure it would fail since it was clearly not up to par with the Xbox 360 and the PS3 . But to my surprise people were picking up the Wii's like hotcakes. I was indeed very puzzled, until I realized that the Wii was not really geared towards the "hardcore" gamers, but its purpose was to attract a new demographic, younger children and non-gamers. I feel the Wii got away with the sub par graphics, lack of HD and the lack of bells and whistles that the other consoles had because the target market of the Wii knew very little about gaming. The young children would get a Wii because they would see ads on TV containing games geared for their age group and tell their parents to get it for them. Since the children are young they may not fully understand all the differences between all 3 next generation consoles and chose the Wii only base on the ads they see. More importantly, I believe the success of the Wii mainly comes from the older (ie. parents and grandparents) non-gamers who are attracted to the the Wii. I think that these older non-gamers feel it will be fairly easy to pick up and play the Wii due to its simple "pick up and play" games and the motion controls which may seem intriguing and fun. Also, they may also feel that the Wii might be a nice addition to their home entertainment for those times when children are around so that the children can be occupied. One positive thing that the Wii has done for the gaming industry is introduce a vast amount of people to video games who never really had an interest in games.

All in all, I feel that the marketing strategy that Nintendo put together for the Wii was brilliant. I expect in this generation of game consoles and in the next other gaming companies will try to make their products create the "Wii effect" and become hugely popular, but will it come at the cost of sacrificing their "hardcore" gamers to attract non-gamers? Honestly, I believe if the Wii was geared towards "hardcore" gamers and not towards non-gamers and children, it would have little success since it lacks the thing that the other 2 next generation consoles have, great games.

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