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Has Sony failed to understand the casual gamer?

In a recent interview with GI.biz, Nintendo VP of marketing, George Harrison, said that Sony and Microsoft have both attempted to woo the casual gamer but both failed due to a lack of understanding of the casual gamer. Specifically, Harrison mentioned the Sixaxis as Sony's failure:

"We can already see some of the things they've tried. For last year's E3, at the last minute, Sony rushed out their Sixaxis controller as an effort to respond to the Wii remote. We saw Microsoft roll out Viva Piñata as their killer app for the Pokemon set. And neither of those worked really well.

It's true that Nintendo knows how to dominate a certain kind of casual gamer market, but it seems a bit disingenuous to be writing off the Sixaxis as a failed attempt to capture Nintendo's market share. Sony has never particularly positioned that motion-sensitivity of the Sixaxis as a lure to the casual gamer. They've marketed it as a feature that adds to existing games and allows you to do things you've never done before (see LAIR and Warhawk). It's true that they have utilized the motion sensitivity aspect of the controller to create more easily accessible games like Blast Factor, flOw and Super Rub-a-Dub, but unlike Nintendo, thats that's clearly not their whole focus.

That indicates the one of the biggest problems with Harrison's argument; Sony has been involved in the casual gamer market for a long time before the Sixaxis and have been very successful. In Europe in particular, Sony has done incredibly well with a number of titles targeted directly at the casual gamer. PlayStation 2 titles such as Singstar and Buzz! have sold millions of copies and show a clear dedication by Sony to not exclude the casual gamer. And already on the PlayStation 3 we've seen Sony utilize the PSN to make an array of more casual and arcadey type titles easily available. And looking into the immediate future you can see titles like Go Puzzle!, Singstar PS3, and Eye of Judgment further proving Sony's interest in providing games for all segments of the market.

While the PS3 may never get it's own Nintendogs or Pokemon, many gamers are fine with that. Sony, unlike Nintendo, has not forsaken the more hardcore players in favor of casual gamers - instead they've attempted to provide games for everyone. And while Nintendo feels that hardcore players will be satiated by Mario Strikers Charged and Mario Galaxies, I have a feeling a lot more hardcore players will be satisfied by God of War III and Warhawk.

So what do you think? Has Sony done enough to entice the casual gamer? And if not, is it worth following Nintendo's lead and ignore the more hardcore market in pursuit of the casual gamer?

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Reader Comments

(Page 1)

1. I don't think they are trying to market for the casual gamer...which is why they are struggling...

but give it some time...the Wii will die down and PS3 sales will eventually rise

Posted at 12:08AM on May 31st 2007 by Gamble20

2. I hate beating a dead horse but the price says it all when it comes to failing to understand the casual gamer. Hell the "casual gamer" couldn't even describe what BR is...

Posted at 12:52AM on May 31st 2007 by silence

3. Don't You Mean 'BUZZ!'? I Can't Think Of A 'Play!' Off The Top Of My Head..

but yea, Sony Has Understood Casual Gaming, But They Don't Know How To Capitalize On It..

For America, At Least..

Europe Has Gotten Hits With Party Games, or as nintendo calls 'social' games, Like SingStar, EyeToy, And BUZZ!..

SCEA Is Slowly Catching Onto It, But It May Be A Little Too Late..


And I Suggest They Keep Doing That: Keep Us Hardcore-n'-other-core Gamers Satisfied With Quality Games, And While You're At It, Get Some Of Those Fun Little Party Games..

But What I Hope Sony Learns From Their Last Mistake Is To Really Advertise These Games.. EyeToy In The US Barely Shot Off With Many Ads Aimed To The Kids, While The Europe Had The Ads Aimed To Everyone, Which Is Very Well Intended For, And It's Been A Great Success..
SCEA Thankfully Really Advertised SingStar, And Hopefully The Same, If Not Better, Will Be The Same For BUZZ!, Or Even The Other Additions Of EyeToy Games..

Posted at 1:01AM on May 31st 2007 by Nymo

4. Nintendo is trying to appeal to kids with ADHD, but Sony isn't complaining. Sony is just Appealing to more serious gamers. The Wii will die down soon and the PS3 will be more appealing.

Posted at 1:08AM on May 31st 2007 by Dylan Betts

5. Well colin, I can't say that I fully agree with your argument. Sure the ps3 has some casual friendly things about it, however it seems as though sony isn't really trying to target this type of gamer as much as nintendo is.

I think because of the nintendo ds and it's ability to lure new gamers, ninty was hoping that the Wii would do the same thing with the wiimote. It's all about "how" games were played. I remember Iwata saying that since the Wii controller is shaped like a remote control, more people wouldn't be intimidated by it, which is arguably true.

Also, saying that Nintendo has "forsaken" hardcore gamers is a bit of a stretch. If anything, I would say the Wii has more for everybody. It's nintendos kiddie image that keeps creeping up, even though it has plenty games that cater to a mature core gamer. Damn I sound like reggie right now...

Sony's price doesn't allow a casual gamer to jump into gaming quickly. I would say that the ps3 is more for a casual techie because of it's raw power and features. Until the price drops i think you won't be seeing casual gamers jumping on board quit yet. Sony hopes that the blu ray as a movie player attracts people. Sony's strategy is for long term effect.

Pretty much if blu ray doesn't take off, non gamers will not buy the ps3.

Posted at 1:26AM on May 31st 2007 by Chazz06

6. Everyone talks about how smart Nintendo is for targeting the casual market, but they seem to forget about casual gamers: They're CASUAL GAMERS. That means they barely spend any money on videogames. That being said, the Wii will probably always have weak software sales with respect to its installed base, since it's all casual gamers.

Posted at 1:50AM on May 31st 2007 by Stef Geiger

7. Well since they profit on the hardware they don't lose by default with low attach rates plus they know that of all the titles sold for the Wii most will be first party so they'll be making money hand over fist. They'll get a mega-hit, they'll do fine... I'm curious how fine though. We'll see.

Sony's mistake, I think, was overestimating brand loyalty among the hardcore gamer. The 360 had a decent line up of games before the PS3 came out and many were tempted and now's there's kind of a momentum in the 360's direction. Sony certainly isn't helped by the its game line up and price.

Posted at 2:26AM on May 31st 2007 by Ninegauger

8. I think the terms "hardcore" and "casual" gamer are a load of bull. A gamer is a gamer.

Posted at 2:38AM on May 31st 2007 by Hobofuzz

9. Nintendo sure has their heads up their own arses right now. The Wii like everyone said is just a quick fad. It's cheap, and doesn't do anything else. Who can wave a controller and look at ugly graphics all day. Sony is taking the "All in one" approach. Games, Movies, Media, Networking, etc. etc. They will have games that are not just visually pleasing, but very fun to play without too much remote-moving gimmick. And as for the term "Casual Gamers" it really means the general public, which 1. Doesn't know anything about games. 2. Not very high on budget. 3. Probably doesn't know what a HDTV is. When the world's technology gets a bit cheaper and 1080p TV's get to the masses, that $200 Wii aint playing no HD content. So who really knows how things will play out, all I know is that it's going to be Microsoft vs PS3 for a long time. For the real gamers.

Posted at 3:42AM on May 31st 2007 by MisterTwoTurbo

10. People want the PS3, but they can't afford it... the Wii isn't that great, but when its your only option, because a child or parent you know that 600 dollars is out of the question, what else is there. Casual gamer, probably willing to spend about 300 on a console.

Posted at 5:25AM on May 31st 2007 by Thomas

11. I think Sony's marketing was crap.
Seriously, what was that "All i want is a PSP?" blog sh*t all about? That's for amateurs.

They should take hints from Microsoft, who are the masters of propaganda via astroturfing since the 90's.

Posted at 7:31AM on May 31st 2007 by Bored

12. >I think Sony's marketing was crap.

yeah, calling their own console "Wii" is just marketing genius, right?

if you want to target casual gamer, you win some and you lose some, you win some by selling a lot of console. you lose some by having 50$ of your console collecting dust in some old grandpa's basement.

Posted at 7:39AM on May 31st 2007 by kingofwale

13. When the Wii fad dies off PS3 sales will go up? Are you guys dilusional. The Ps3 lack of sales has nothing to do with Nintendo or MS, Its more to do with the lack of compitition.

When the games come the sales will go up. The casual gamer rents games, lots of them. He/She will play the first few levels of said game and get bored, then rent another.

When a real good game (not just a game) comes out He/She will most likely buy it.

When PS3 aquires games PS3 sales go up its that simple.

A gamer is nothing without games. Hardcore or Casual.


Posted at 7:53AM on May 31st 2007 by bearattack79

14. Wii = Hypercolor.

Posted at 7:56AM on May 31st 2007 by bearattack79

15. I think Nintendo WANTS the SIXAXIS to be Sony's attempt to grab casual gamers, when in reality it's not. They want this to be Sony's only line of defense, because they know that all they really have right now are casual games and casual gamers.

Nintendo: come out with a slew of non-nintendo-mascot games, with various rating levels, stimulate third party support beyond boring pathetic party games, and then come back and talk. Until then I will be dusting my little white dry erase board of a console off now and again to make sure it doesn't get too nasty. God forbid I actually play a game on the thing...

Posted at 9:14AM on May 31st 2007 by OrganicShadow

16. Sony have Singstar coming out soon which will probably appeal to alot of people. Its not going to sell the consoles but it will more than likely tempt people since the PS2 singstars are so popular for some reason. :P

Posted at 9:31AM on May 31st 2007 by Nero

17. It'd probably be foolish to target casual gamers at this stage in the game. No matter how you spin it, the PS3 is just too expensive. There is no sense in making casual games if the console isn't a casual purchase.

However, I think it's possible to make games that appeal to more than just casual gamers. Nintendogs is a casual game that pisses off most regular gamers because there's not much of a game aspect to it. Stuff like Calling all Cars is good middle of the road stuff. If Sony builds up their catalog of downloadable games they could be in a very good position when they finally lower the PS3 price.

Finally, the problem with Microsoft's Viva Pinata is there is nothing casual about it. I've heard it's a good game, but I tried it and I couldn't believe the amount of shit it pops up for me to read and understand just in the first hour. The game really doesn't let you just casually check in and take care of your pinatas, you have to be on top of every damn thing going on. This is totally a game who's intent was to be casual and missed the point entirely.

Posted at 9:33AM on May 31st 2007 by Travis

18. At least we don't have waggle controls on the sixaxis.

Posted at 9:57AM on May 31st 2007 by Matt B

19. Casual gamers don't buy much of anything. When you're taking a $200 hit per console sold, the last thing you need is a few million numbskulls that buy one game and shelve the console for a year.

Hardcore gamers buy more games, period. However they are also more discriminating. They recognize a bad/crappy game alot faster than a casual gamer will. It's a tricky market. Then throw in the media hub guys that want their consoles to do everything including play games. This is an emerging market which continues to grow as home theater components get cheaper and the quality increases exponentially.

Sony is playing these markets properly. The movie fans (ask anyone on AVSForums) prefer blu-ray and the PS3 is a no-brainer. Sure, Sony loses money on these guys...until you remember that they own a ton of movie studios who make money selling br discs. So while one division may lose $200 for that PS3 sold with no games, another makes money on br disc sales. Don't forget the tie-in with Sony HDTVs also. I'm surprised Sony isn't throwing in a PS3 for free with their biggest and most expensive sets to complete the blu-ray experience.

When you discount Sony's tactics, keep in mind that they're a juggernaut with 100 heads. They're not Nintendo, which strictly does games and lives and dies by that. They're not Microsoft which produces bad new operating systems (Vista I'm looking at you). They can leverage any and all divisions against the market and will succeed despite 6 months of bad press from paid off astroturfing bloggers.

Posted at 10:21AM on May 31st 2007 by Popfrogs

20. so what? nintendo is going to say .. "we commened sony's biz model .. it caters to the segment that we are hanging out to dry"?

like post 19. points out .. sony's issue right now is not reaching out to casual gamers its the god damn price .. personally i think 600 is great for what i got with my ps3 and keep getting with each firmware update .. but i make over 200k a year ... although i am a hardcore gamer my demographic should hardly be sony's main dem

Posted at 10:45AM on May 31st 2007 by WhackMushroom

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