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    Fanning the Flames- Sony King of the Casuals?
    Sunday, 31 August 2008

    Whilst Nintendo revel in their paradigm shifts and Microsoft desperately try to pander to the casual, are Sony secretly the real kings of the casual of market? We take a little look at the evidence.

    Much has been made of the so called Casual Market and how new it is to gaming. The truth is they have existed for a long time and it is not a wonderful new phenomenon. Granted there are new people playing games that may not have bothered previously but there is nothing new about this, it happens every generation brings as something new is offered that appeals to different types of consumers.

    Nintendo may offer the likes of Wii Fit and Wii Sports but in terms of real casual gaming experiences there is very little else and the motivation for buying both of these games is more "hey let's get fit without leaving the house" rather than for primarily playing games. They have also seemingly abandoned the hardcore gamers that have been their customers through the years. Microsoft meanwhile have tried desperately to get the casual interested in their previously hardcore console. Their efforts almost smack of desperation however as they borrow ideas from everyone else in an effort to pander to a new market they want a part of. Who can forget their top executives prancing around on stage at E3 demonstrating At the Movies, Lips and Scene It. Sony however almost seem to capture the casual with very little effort. Their E3 conference showed plenty of hardcore offering but very little in the casual arena. However Leipzig showed Sony's duality in catering to both markets. This is what truly makes Sony the King of the Casuals as they do not do so whilst dismissing and jeopardizing the other customers.

    Sony's love affair with the casual is not a new thing and became particularly prevalent during the PS2 era. First the decision to launch with a DVD player as standard and integral part of the console. DVD players at the time had not hit the mass market and were not apart of everyone's TV set up like they are now. This coupled with the already popular branding of both Sony and Playstation plus a competitive price compared to other DVD players on the market. Sony have boldly followed on from this strategy with the Blu Ray drive being at the forefront of their PS3 plans. But most importantly it was in the software and the games they offered.

    Casual Gamers can be many things, not just the typical image that companies like Ubisoft keep making countless Imagine games for. Casual can mean somebody who typically plays games casually, this is something Sony realized when they wrapped up timed exclusivity on titles such as Pro Evolution Soccer and Grand Theft Auto. These are titles that captured the imagination of a wealth of different types of people, Pro Evo overtook FIFA as the premier football title and GTA has become a cultural focal point of its own thanks to its huge sales and violent gameplay.

    However lets not under estimate the importance of their more casual games, that did appear to the more traditional games as well as this new breed of casual games. Singstar and Buzz were two such titles which appeal to both sets. Buzz in particular succeeds as this, in particular new PS3 iteration Buzz Quiz TV which has everything you expect from a TV quiz show with its slick TV style presentation and quick fire questions format.

    The new version has included online play where some very hardcore high level play can be found as well as the possibility of an infinite number of questions as MyBuzz allows users to create their own questions. The game offers plenty for the casual whilst also including enough for the more advanced user to sink their teeth into. Singstar is another such example (my PSN friends list is full of people playing it. I am far to reserved to sing) with each version offering a great variety of songs and a wealth of features. Something crucial to both of these games is they come bundled with attractive looking peripherals that are more than just attachable pieces of plastic, Nintendo take note.

    However Sony are not prepared to rest of their laurels. First we have Little Big Planet a title that is going to enrapture everyone who witnesses its creative genius. There have been many column inches devoted to it already and it is eagerly anticipated by press and public alike. However let us instead talk about the delightful looking Eye Pet. Eye Toy is another of the PS2's triumphs with a a number of titles available that proved to be successful. It's younger brother Playstation Eye for the PS3 has not seen quite as many titles so far, but that is all set to change with Eye Pet. This newly unveiled title allows you to interact with a cute adorable animal friend by using the camera. This can be as simple as reaching out your hand to give him a stroke to far more complex actions. The game features image recognition software so you can draw 2D objects on a piece of paper point them at the camera which will take a snap shot and then render that object in 3D for the pet to play with. The demo shows a simple car outline transformed into a fully render wooden toy car that can race around with you pet when controlled by the Sixaxis/DualShock 3. What really impresses is the way Sony do not make is seem like the only part of their conferences but offer it as an alternative this is something the other platform holders seem to fail to notice. Yes Microsoft did devote plenty of time to hardcore games at E3 but in unveiled new titles they failed, preferring to pretend to run around wearing clown trousers than show off what Bungie are working on. The less said about Nintendo and hardcore gamers the better at this stage.

    Home deserves a little mention as its avatar and environment based system makes actions such as connecting to online games simpler and more enjoyable than your usual menu driven mechanics. It also draws heavily on social gaming which is a rapidly expanding and wide branching genre. It is clear that Sony have a clear idea about where they want to be with PS3 (and PSP to a certain extent, although that's another blog post all together) and that they intend to include all types of games along for the ride with them.


    posted by flameboy @ 10:33  
    • At 1 September 2008 at 23:57, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      Are you serious? It is so obvious you are a fanboy.

    • At 2 September 2008 at 10:07, Blogger flameboy said…

      I'm actually a Nintendo fanboy!

    • At 2 September 2008 at 19:50, Anonymous Anonymous said…

      In any case you're a misinformed one...

      Eyetoy, Buzz and Singstar were major successes in the UK and Europe during the PS2 cycle, indeed those are the main markets for those IP's. One part to this success is such titles are highly appealing but just as importantly they were released on an already dominant system that hit a highly affordable price (such as £150 but especially £100 here in the UK).

      However, the PS3 isn't dominant in any market, nevermind the UK and Europe and it also doesn't have the benefit of hitting a highly affordable price, and won't hit such a thing for a very long time.

      Moreoever, one of those properties (Singstar) has already released in the UK and Europe and it failed to do anywhere near the numbers of the previous iterations. Considering all of this there is little reason to believe Eyepet and Buzz will become as huge sellers as before, nevermind making Sony king of mass-market.

      The simple reality is the Wii has taken over the PS2's spot as the dominant force in the UK and European markets, as well as elsewhere and you only need to look at the weekly / monthly charts for software / hardware. This is not going to change any time soon.

      Nintendo is the leading force in mass-market success, not just in ideas and products but in marketing too (they've now outshone even Sony's prime era (PS1) of marketing). Thus, it is difficult for another to be king when they and others are forever playing catch-up.

    • At 7 September 2008 at 15:49, Blogger flameboy said…

      Ok so taking on some of those points. Sony's products are more innovative. Look at Singstar and Buzz and the user generated content/experiences they have helped create. They help creat communities online and deliver fantastic fun for the family. Whilst yes the Wii does do this, Nintendo don't have the history in recent years of doing this whilst Sony do especially last generation.

      Whilst yes at the end of the day sales do matter and are the bottom line, there is a lot more to the industry than just money.

      Is it really correct to say someone is misinformed for having a different point of view?

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