Bad Console_ Good Console

                                                     Written by Oren Horev and Niels Alberg| Fall 2008

                                                Bad Console, Good Console

                                       The Wii - an industry game changer with its work cut out for it.

T    he phenomenal success of the Wii
     has been credited to its ability to
appeal to a new gaming audience – the
                                                         of consoles will exist longer than the traditional
                                                         five-year cycle, and that Nintendo could end up
                                                         with a 50 percent share of the console market.
                                                                                                               play, (physical play supports motor skills and
                                                                                                               social skills; digital play - when not completely
                                                                                                               dismissed as unwholesome - facilitates literacy
casual gamer. For the gaming industry                    Aside from increased competition, Nintendo            and computer skill development) parents rela-
to repeat this success, it is critical to                also faces the challenge to address the needs of      tionship to digital products are often influenced
develop an understanding far deeper                      the casual gaming market that the Wii initially       by their own personal experience of the digital.
than the obvious appeal of physical in-                  helped unleash. In other words, they will need        For most parents, digital gaming interfaces
teraction. Insight from our studies of one               to create games that further grow the market          are unfamiliar, and present a cognitive barrier
segment of ‘casual gamers,’ families with                they helped to establish, which in turn highlights    to game play. In that respect, the gestural in-
5-9 year-old kids, offers surprising clues,              an important question: who are casual gamers,         teraction of the Wii, which draws directly
which have potentially broad implica-                    and what drives them?                                 from familiar physical world interactions, is a
tions for game and device developers.                                                                          parent’s entry ticket into the inaccessible digital
                                                         Who are casual gamers?                                playground their children rule. The Wii offers
                                                         Answering this question is no easy task, as a         parents an intuitive and natural way to play
Introduction                                             typical description of casual gamers is vague. A      a video game, and to participate as “equals”
                                                         quantitative demographic research claims that         alongside their kids.
The phenomenal success of the Wii                        “the casual gaming segment reached in 2007 over
By all measures the success of the Wii is phe-           145 million people aged 12-65, and of those over      Just another game controller
nomenal. Less then two years after its release           71 million play casual games 1 or more hours per      A predominant pattern emerging from our ob-
the console comfortably outsold both its com-            week” . Such description provides little insight      servations is that young kids between the ages
petitors, the Xbox and the PS3. In the summer            on who casual gamers are, what drives them            of 5 and 12 do not especially prefer the Wii
of 2008, Wii worldwide sales figures hit a record        and what their needs are. Tellingly, according to     over other digital play opportunities, nor over
29.6 millions units while the Xbox 360 and PS3           Nintendo, the Wii is a “console for everybody”.       other gaming opportunities available to them.
came in at 20 million and 14.4 million respec-           Over the course of several ethnographic studies       Kids in this age group have been exposed to
tively.                                                  on kids and play, ReD Associates has encoun-          technology from an early age, and technology
A common perception in the gaming industry               tered one segment of casual gamers – the family       is ubiquitous in their lives. As a consequence,
is that the Wii’s success stems from its appeal          – and developed insight into how gaming fits          their play is saturated with digital experiences
to a “broader audience,” an audience outside             into their lives. It is evident from our studies      through multiple platforms. For one 9-year-
the traditional gamers segment, often referred           that cross-generational play is a strong appeal of    old in London there are five game consoles, 3
to as “casual gamers”. Mike Doolittle, a video           the Wii. That said, it is also clear that parents     computers, an iPod and range of interactive
games critic for suggests                and kids have distinctively different aspirations     digital toys available for play.
“The Wii is doing a great job of capturing people        and needs that shape their perception of the Wii      What then, could be the reason for their lack of
who are either non-gamers, or people who don’t play      console, and to Nintendo as a brand.                  fascination with the Wii? As stated previously,
games on a regular basis — maybe at a friends’                                                                 parents see a difference between physical play
house here and there, maybe they have an old Play-                                                             and digital play, whereas our research suggests
Station collecting dust under the TV. It’s capturing     Who is the wii really for?                            that children see no such divide. Kids place
kids and, for the first time, parents who want to play                                                         digital play and physical play on a continuum
games with their kids...”
                                                         An entry ticket                                       and treat the playground as one. Raised with a
Building on the successful launch of the Wii,            Aside from the difference in developmental            game controller in hand, an XBox or Playstation
Nintendo believes that the current generation            value parents attribute to physical and digital       is as natural an interface as a Wii-mote: to para-

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                    ReD Associates A/S - Kronprinsessegade 20, 1306 Copenhagen K, Denmark - Phone: +45 3333 7044 | Fax: +45 3333 7045
                      PERSPECTIVE | Bad Console, Good Console | Written by Oren Horev and Niels Alberg| Fall 2008

phrase one child: “it does not matter whether it                      purchasing the consoles associated with them.                          extend their appeal by granting casual gamers
takes a button or a wave of the hands, as long as                     Advertising campaigns also contribute to the                           (especially parents) access to video game experi-
I can make Mario jump.”                                               negative parental perception: as one parent in                         ences. However, there is a real business danger
For kids, one of the thrills of playing a video                       Japan told us,“PS3 commercials are quirky and                          that kids will not develop a deep interest in the
game is being able to fully immerse in it. While                      odd”. The Wii, on the other hand, is associ-                           Wii. Without such interest can the Wii count
graphics play a big role in this, so too do the                       ated, content-wise, with the “Harmless content                         on the next generation of parents to continue
game controls. Take Guitar Hero, for example.                         umbrella” of the Nintendo brand. Nintendo’s                            buying Wii games, especially as digital savviness
The game controller looks and feels like a real                       historic string of non-violent game titles such                        increases?
guitar. And when played, finger gestures and                          as Mario, Zelda, Petz and others, appeals                              To stay competitive, Nintendo may need to try
body poses bring kids one step closer to the                          to parents, and familiarity with these games                           harder to capture kids’ passion when it comes to
experience. When one plays Guitar Hero,                               has created a halo effect for other Nintendo                           the Wii. But doing so will require Nintendo to
one actually becomes a rock star. For the Wii,                        products.                                                              take a tricky path - striking a balance between
however, the gestural style of the Wii-mote                           For kids the Wii is a Trojan horse bringing                            the needs and aspirations of parent and child
does little to actually help kids “get into’” the                     gaming into the living room                                            alike.
game. Using the Wii-mote as a Light Saber, for                        In the kids view, although the Wii may not                             A few key questions arise for Nintendo, as well
example when playing Star Wars, while a fun in-                       add much to the already thrilling digital play                         as other game developers:
teraction does little to enhance the Jedi Knight                      experience, in many homes we visited the Wii                           How, and what gestural interactions can improve
experience.                                                           was the only game console available, and by                            the gaming experience for kids?
                                                                      all measures, kids were extremely enthusiastic                         In our analyses, gestures can be successful in
                                                                      about having it in their living room. Kids think                       capturing kids’ attention when they signifi-
The wii: a parent’s ally, a child’s                                   of digital play as the most desirable form of                          cantly enhance the immersion potential of a
                                                                      play, but due to strict parental regulation, it is                     game. However, our study reveals that current
trojan horse                                                          the least accessible form of play in their lives.                      game titles popular with kids do not utilize this
                                                                      Most of the kids we visited have a strict 1-hour                       potential - and while some “casual gamers”
Parents perceive both the Wii and                                     screen time per day. Many kids make elaborate                          might find sport titles like Wii Sport, or Mario
Nintendo as allies                                                    calculations for how to make the most of that                          Olympics exciting, kids will mostly be indiffer-
For parents, the impact of digital play on their                      hour and how to extend screen time. In this                            ent. Making the Wii-mote a kid’s dream remains
child’s development is a major concern. Digital                       sense, as a parentally approved console, the Wii                       a task Nintendo has yet to accomplish.
play is often viewed as the least desirable form                      is often a “Trojan horse” for more gaming time.                        Where is the sweet spot, which appeals to parent
of play and in comparison to other types of                           Family play and physicality, so attractive to                          and child alike?
play, poorly fulfills many of their aspirations                       parents, does not offer the same benefit for kids.                     The viability of the Wii business model is
and needs. Among the negative perceptions of                          From the kids’ perspective having any game                             dependent on keeping both parents and kids
digital play are obesity, degradation of social                       console in the living room is a gain because it                        happy. Nintendo should juggle between games
skills and exposure to inappropriate content. As                      opens up extensive play opportunities not neces-                       that kids desire: highly immersive games that
a result, digital play is often restricted - or strictly              sarily inline with parental justifications: as one 9                   allow kids to stretch borders, and experiment
regulated. To overcome parents’ skepticism and                        –year-old American child told us about playing                         with emotions; while maintaining the positive
distrust of the digital, a justification is needed.                   Star Wars on the Wii - “I like to play this game                       position of a parental ally through games that
The Wii caters precisely to this need, offering                       because I can be a Jedi Knight… but sometimes I                        induce physically active play, promote family
parents three “good” justifications. First, its                       am the bad guy… [Why do you play the bad guy?]                         time and offer harmless content.
physical interaction style is considered to be a                      Because I can electrocute people!”
form of physically active play, which prior to

the introduction of the Wii was not associated
with video games. Second, the Wii provides an
opportunity for family playtime. The intuitive                        Making kids passionate about the
and natural way to play a video game allows                           wii is essential for nintendo
them to participate as “equals,” thus providing
a “game board” for the entire family to play on.                      Thinking longer term
And finally, it delivers age-appropriate content.                     Nintendo’s historic “kid friendly” strategy –
Parents view game content and game console                            achieved through products such as Nintendo
as part of the same system. Because of this,                          DS, game titles such as Mario, Zelda and others
games like Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto, which                         – has struck a chord with gamers for decades. In
parents deem inappropriate, deter parents from                        the case of the Wii, Nintendo has managed to

(1) August 26, 2007 | Wii and the casual gaming boom (by Mike Doolittle)
(2) May 28 2007 | Interview: NOA’s George Harrison On the Future of Wii (Wired, by Chris Kohler) |
(3) Interpret’s Casual Gaming & Advertising 2007 Review |

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                         ReD Associates A/S - Kronprinsessegade 20, 1306 Copenhagen K, Denmark - Phone: +45 3333 7044 | Fax: +45 3333 7045

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