Thursday, September 4, 2008

The OTHER consoles.

Quick: How many consoles are there on the market?

Chances are, if you are a gamer, you either answered 3 (PS3, Xbox360, Wii), or maybe 5 (if you included PSP and DS handhelds), or maybe 7 or 8 if you dipped back into previous generation consoles that are still selling titles (PS2, GBA, etc). What if I suggested there were another few that you probably didn't think of? Hold that thought.

GameSetWatch had an interesting post up the other day about how the core game development community, and gamers themselves, are all too ready to dismiss games that appeal to a specific niche; especially when that niche doesn't include them. The post was in reference to Christian themed games, which I agree, are all too often dismissed by the general fan populace in the same way Christian rock is by mainstream rock fans.

The problem's not unique to this niche. We see it elsewhere too. Raph Koster, myself, and others have commented on how we as an industry are too quick to dismiss the kids MMOs when we in fact can be learning from them. And it really wasn't very long ago (2005-ish) that "casual games" was spoken with a sneer, and disregarded as not really games and not really a business. Opinion has shifted on both of those - to a point.

And when it comes to consoles, to most of the folks in game development, what springs to mind is a Wii or a PS3 or a 360. It is not this:


That's my son Tom trying out a Fisher Price SmartCycle at the ToysRUs. It's a game console, it sells for $100, and it runs cartridge based SW (much of which is based on licensed IP) that retails for $20 or so a pop:


Now the "fitness" angle is new and pretty interesting, but this certainly isn't the first or only game console for kids.

Leapfrog has a range of devices for different age groups, but the most popular is their flagship product, the leapster, which is still selling, and was introduced in 2003. It's had a number of features and sku's added, but is essentially the same platform as when it launched.

They just recently launched Leapster 2, which is smaller, more powerful, connects to the PC as well, and links via the PC to an online world where kids can share their content, get rewards for making progress in games (achievements-esque).

I'm not suggesting that everyone run out and write games for the Leapster. I don't think the market's there to sustain that many titles. I do think, however, that we could all benefit from having slightly wider peripheral vision. 

Looking at the features creeping into the HW and SW of these things, they are clearly learning from us. Are *we* learning from *them*?

1 comment:

Thomas Diehl said...

You might also want to take a look into VTech. Their V-Smile console is pretty successfull in europe at least. Also a cartridge-based system with lots of licensed content, it is mainly geared towards edutainment; going as far as having a DDR clone that teachse kids maths. Its software library is actually quite impressive for such a niche product.