Posted by Tim on October 4, 2009

What We Have Learned About Gamers from This Generation

Here we sit, most likely at the mid-point of the lives of the current generation of console gaming machines. And while some can rest happy on the laurels of their previous achievements, others are going through a ‘mid-life’ crisis, looking for that flashy new gig to look sexy again. While there isn’t a Corvette convertible for gaming consoles, you do see new changes for some consoles in the form flashy add-on peripherals. It certainly looks like a mid-life crisis for those consoles, perhaps trying to add new elements to the experience each offers. But through any experience, the important thing is to figure out what we have learned; not about their specific consoles, per say, but about how the public, that is, the gaming community, reacted to each console.

Imagine if Xbox 360 came with this road hog

Imagine if Xbox 360 came with this road hog

So, what have console gaming companies learned about gamers over the past 3-4 years? When you look at it, there are a couple main things that stick out in terms of what has been successful, and what has not. Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony: Listen up, because this is a list of things to follow, or not do to, the next time around.

I’ll start with the most obvious fact first: A majority of gamers don’t like forking out over $300 of their hard earned cash for a gaming machine, no matter what it is billed as. There are a couple of reasons as to why this is true. Say what you will about Nintendo’s Wii, and give your own reason as to why it was so insanely successful, but considering its lack of quality games (especially outside of games developed directly by Nintendo), and its lack of graphics power, it should not have been as impactful as it has over the past three years. However, the oh-so-sexy $250 price tag, while its competitors were in the $400-$600 range, made the Wii and easy choice for any gamer or non-gamer on a tight budget. Blame the crappy economy if you will, but consider this the mantra for any future consoles to come: Cheaper is Better!

On top of that, you can look at both the Xbox 360 and PS3 to see that this is true. Last year, Microsoft dropped the price of all versions of the 360 and sales skyrocketed, giving them a distinct advantage by the end of the 2008 fiscal year. Sony followed suit not-so-shortly after, lowering their price with the recent release of the PS3 ‘slim’. Sony’s sales have also skyrocketed, proving that cheaper is better for both Sony and Microsoft. Even for a machine that can do ‘everything,’ $400 is asking a bit much from the pockets of gamers.

Wii wins the award for smartest price

Wii wins the award for smartest price

While price may have been the deciding factor for many gamers when choosing their consoles, some factors really don’t matter in the long run. Specifically, motion control. Now I will admit, there is a pretty good argument saying that the incorporation of motion controls in the Wii was one of the main reasons it sold so well (since it attracted non-traditional gamers), but I will respectfully disagree with that statement. Why? Outside of all the other reasons the Wii was successful, you can take a look at both the 360 and the PS3 to see how well motion control is received in the gaming community.

And that reception: nobody really cares! This year’s E3 gaming conference had both Microsoft and Sony showing off motion control capability of their own. But, while the conferences may have generated a lot of buzz at the time, the discourse amongst gamers about motion control has all but disappeared today. In fact, if you ask, many gamers will even say they don’t think motion control will be a big deal, or that they don’t care if it ever gets incorporated. Additionally, Sony’s six-axis controller, with its own limited use of motion control, has been all but ignored by most developers. The only game I’ve seen use it appropriately, where it actually added to the gaming experience, was Killzone 2, and it was only used when opening valves or planting explosives. If you still don’t believe me ask yourself this, if the next versions of the 360, PS3, and Wii release WITHOUT motion control, do you think there will be a backlash from the gaming community? The answer is NO.

Natal may seem like a cool concept, but ultimately gamers won't care

Natal may seem like a cool concept, but ultimately gamers won't care

We covered things that don’t really work, but what about something that did work well this generation across all consoles? Regardless of whether you are a die-hard Wii, 360 or PS3 fanboy, everyone this generation has bought a large amount of downloadable content, including a ton of retro-games. Some of the most successful and popular downloads from the XBLA Marketplace, PSN, and Virtual Console are older classics from consoles of the past. For whatever reason, gamers love playing classic games that they have already beaten twenty times and spent countless hours of their 1990 lives playing. Maybe its nostalgia, or maybe it is because their old consoles don’t work anymore. Whatever the reason, allowing gamers to purchase and download older games has been a staple for this generation console. When the new consoles come out, a big question is will the purchases made on consoles today be able to be transferred over to the next console? I would hope they would allow that transfer to occur, because if one company doesn’t and the others do, that would be a VERY bad decision.

Allowing gamers to buy old games turned out to be a wise decision for all parties

Allowing gamers to buy old games turned out to be a wise decision for all parties

There are certainly many other things to be learned from the mistakes and decisions of this generation than the ones I mentioned, but the above three are big ones that stick out easily as lessons to be learned for consoles to come. A successful console is a cheap console. Flashy add-ons, like motion control, doesn’t quite cut it for gamers today. And allowing gamers to play nostalgic classics from consoles of old has been a hit for gamers across all consoles. Perhaps a list such as this already exists at offices of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, and hopefully it does, because success in the future for all consoles will only help the gaming community as a whole.

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4 Responses to “What We Have Learned About Gamers from This Generation”

  1. John says:

    I wholeheartedly agree, although there are quite a few games that use the six axxis pretty good.

    High Velocity Bowling, Wolverine and Uncharted when crossing beams, and some less notable games.

  2. Mike says:

    High Velocity Bowling did use it well, but it was still awkward to hold the DS3 like so. My Wii got alot of attention when it first came out, and not so much anymore because at the end of the day, I just want to sit down and play with a controller not get up and tire myself out more.

  3. John says:

    Yeah after a hard days work I’m not trying to jump around my living room. LoL. Kids got the energy and thats why the Wii is great for them. I loved the six axxis in HVB, took a bit of time for the learning curve and at first hated it but it was done to great proportions there after.

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