Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Where in the Heart of the Big 3 are Adult Gamers?

Nintendo already made a pre-E3 video. Microsoft and Sony already have done their conferences at E3. While what they showed vary, and how excited you are about them depends on how much you want their products, it also show how they their customers and who they expect to gather around their platforms. But where is me, an adult gamer, who pays for my games with my own money, who have a job, who do other things than just play games, fit in their plans for the future? If their E3 speeches tell me something, is that...

...never wanted me to buy their consoles. Nintendo always wanted families to buy them. They always dreamed of mom,dad and children playing around their machines, playing with Mario and other Nintendo classic franchises. What they never expected is that those children who loved their games and consoles would grown up and still want to play their games and machines. Nintendo always believed that teens and young adults would be busy with whatever Nintendo believed they would do and would only touch a videogame when they had their own children.

Unfortunately for Nintendo teens and young adults still wanted to play games. Nintendo left for 3rd parties to fill the need of this audience, and kept focusing in children and families. While they were king of the hill, it worked. But once Sega, Sony and later Microsoft appeared focusing in this audience, Nintendo lost many of their consumers to them, in fact a chunk bigger than they ever expected.

The Wii was successful in short term, with the new found audience. Nintendo felt they still could be that company geared to families and children, but soon perceived that the Wii was just one of those novelty that everyone gets excited about and forget about it when something new and shiny appeared. The fast decline in sales and lack of software in the second half of the console's life showed them that the audience they had ignored is important. Their declining profits showed them. We are an audience too important to be ignored a second time.

So, Nintendo made their pre-E3 show all focused in showing that the Wii-U(maniacal laughter) will be a console for all audiences. They even showed a short video showing that. By using the worst stereotype people have of adult gamers. We see a socially awkward nerd type, whose best friend is Non-Specific Action Figure. That is how Nintendo see adult gamers. As people who only play games because they aren't social enabled to do other things except play games. Even his friend is clear socially awkward.

Nintendo, a long time player in the game industry, is the last company you would expect to have such stereotyped vision about adult gamers. And yet is how they see me, and every person who is not a kid or its family playing games. They still don't want teens and adults playing Nintendo consoles, but they know they need their money to keep profiting.

On the other hand...

... started in gaming by focusing exactly on the teens and young adults. They made a console to fill all the needs this audience had and filled it quite competently. They made games for them, they make a console and an on-line service who would completely fill all the needs of its audience and made it a undeniable success.

Them, as time passe Microsoft saw Nintendo gather at that new audience of people who weren't into games before and desired them. Badly. They saw that numbers Nintendo was pulling and decided that they wanted that money. And created Kinect and focused in it as a way to gather those players. And it have being somewhat a success in this. But they also discovered that a lot of people was using their consoles to see videos and movies, using services like Netflix to it. And Microsoft saw an opportunity.

By selling the system, the gold subscription and some TV and Movie services, they would have an opportunity. Making money would be easy, without the need to make expensive games all around. And Microsoft already had the teens and young adults cornered. So, why not just put them in the backseat and go after the new audience?

And that is what Microsoft E3 conference was all about. About what the 360 can do beside games. Sure, they showed lots of sequels for popular 1st party titles like Gears of Wars and Halo, and some 3rd parties too. But the focus was not in games, it was not in the audience they conquered in their first years. It was in attracting a different consumer, own where games is not that important, just a neat add-on to the product.

Microsoft is doing exactly what Nintendo did in its beginnings, believing that 3rd parties will keep the old players busy while they pursuit new audiences. It is not that Microsoft don't want my money, or any teen and young adult who loves games money. They want it. But they believe they don't need to make something to deserve it, that they already did enough and can focus their strength in those non-gamer consumers.

Which is not a good idea, as they will have to deal with...

...that focused their E3 presentation in games. Sony rise to fame started because they focused in a broader audience than Nintendo did. They wanted every gamer who was feeling left out by Nintendo offerings, with games more focused in an older audience, in people who wanted to play games who weren't just like Saturday morning cartoons. And they succeed, greatly.

Sony added many things to their consoles, audio CD in the PSone, DVD in the PS2, blu-ray in PS3. But in its first two generations, games were the focus. Not all the other stuff. Sony was focused in making a game machine that did some other stuff. But when they launched the PS3, they lost the focus. They tried to do too much from the start and it hurt them.

By trying to offer something to everyone, gamers and non-gamers, at a higher price point than it should be reasonable, Sony lost its position and have to play catch up. It lost many 3rd parties exclusives, and even have lost some support at its beginning in this generation. The lack of focus costed Sony too much.

Yesterday E3 conference showed that Sony learned its lesson, something they have being doing from sometime now. Yes, games love on-line services, love some extra stuff, but love games the most. That have being Sony's focus since them. They showed plenty of games and game-related stuff. Everything else took a backseat approach. We saw new IPs, demos and new features related with gaming.

This is were Sony can find themselves. In the company who make everything focused in games. Not in being a video service box, but in being the machine who do games better. By getting the gamers who feel that Microsoft forgotten them and that Nintendo have no idea who they are and what they want. All else must be treated as a secondary neat feature to have, but not the focus.

Can Sony pull that? Maybe. Sony have being hurt badly this generation of gaming, and have being in financial troubles for some time now. It needs to do it fast and right or run the risk of disappearing. It need to invest in a lot of PR to convince everyone who felt burned by them that they deserve this second chance, while trying to keep improving every thing they did wrong in the start.

In the end, Nintendo seems to recognize that they need adult gamers to keep steady sales but have no idea how to do it; Microsoft think they already have a firm grasp on them but are not seeing how unhappy they are; and Sony is trying to get them back, but have a difficult road to take, a road they made themselves. Their success on this will depend on how much they will be able to please adult gamers and convince them that they have a home in their consoles. And that is done with games. All else is just background noise.

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