The Race For the “Non-Gamer”
So one thing I’ve been meaning to post on is the games industry push to capture those who would not normally play games. At E3 Microsoft and Sony launched their attempt to lure “non-gamers” to their respective platform. Microsoft announced Project Natal and Sony launched their Motion Control based peripheral. With Nintendo Wii having already been out now for over 2 years they have a lot of catching up to do but then again are they too late to the party?
Nintendo blind sided the games industry with the Wii. It wasn’t “nex-gen”, it didn’t have HD graphics and most importantly, it wasn’t expensive. What it was, was revolutionary. Nintendo’s gamble on motion based games which required some actual exertion was a hit with the masses, gamers and non-gamers alike. The console itself was like gold dust for many months after launch, I myself paid over the odds to get my hands on one for Christmas. When I opened it up on Christmas day 2006 it was instantly hook up to my parents TV and for several hours we made Mii’s and played Wii Sports. My parents who are without doubt non-gamers, took to the Wii with relative ease. Once the basics of Wii Bowling was acquired my Mother was almost unstoppable. For my parents having movement involved made it easy to learn, less complicated. They have their own Wii now, in-fact they have two, and they enjoy playing on it when they find the time. This was a revelation and the Wii was out-selling the other two by a country mile. Everyone wanted a Wii.
It was no surprise then that a couple years down the line Microsoft and Sony want in on the act. Lure those people of a certain generation who have the disposable income to buy their consoles but would normally be put off because of using a standard controller. Out of the two the Natal is odd one out as it’s a sort of camera based whole body motion controller. Sony’s effort does use the Playstation Eye but you still have a controller to hold. I watched the Natal demo video involving Milo and I was really taken with it. I have read Eurogamers hands-on and the fact that at the moment it’s pretty scripted but the possibilities are massive. What I was most impressed by was the passing of the picture to Milo. Think of an MMO with proper interaction, characters reading your body language and reacting accordingly, I’m honestly excited by what this could mean for the console.
On the flip side I feel that Sony’s effort is just their adaptation rather than a re-thinking. That’s not to say their wrong for doing so, I guess there’s only so many ways to introduce motion, but I guess I was looking for more after seeing Natal. Sony’s console is coming strong now and a lot of the most recent games are really starting to flex it’s muscles and adding motion control will aid in its goal to be an all-in-one home entertainment system. Want to watch a HD-movie? The PS3 has Blu-Ray. Want to play the latest HD games? PS3 has that too. Want to play interactive motion games? With a motion controller the PS3 will do that soon.
As the title of this post suggest all of this is in aid of capturing the non-gamer those who flocked to the Wii on launch. They’re also after those who have overlooked the Wii due to its lack of features like DVD playback. However I think in some ways both are a little late, at least, they are for those who already have a Wii. The non-gamers won’t want to have more than one console nor do I think they will sell one and buy another. They’ll be comfortable with what they have and don’t want to invest again in another formats peripherals and games. It’ll be about capturing those who haven’t made their choice yet and it maybe that Sony’s decision to imitate rather revolutionise that will help them. Many of these potential buyers will undoubtedly have already played on a Wii. The motion controller will be familiar to them and make it an easier adaptation. Couple that with Blu-Ray playback and Sony may be on to a winner here. However I also hope that Natal is taken on by the gaming fraternity. If it is used in an MMO context then it’ll sell, especially if it’s well implemented. The key for Natal is game support and innovative use and this depends upon game developers. Here again Sony has the upper hand as many have had experience with the Wii which will make the development life cycle a simpler issue. With Natal it’s a whole new concept and one would expect that it’ll take a while for developers to really push the envelope with it.
I’m excited to see where this will all go, who will do what and what the game developers will do. It’s an exciting time to be a gamer no matter which platform you’re on.