Why were all those folks huddled in front of Best Buy camping out in sleeping bags this past weekend? It was the rare ritual of a new console launch that happens about every five years. This time it was a perfect storm with both Nintendo and SONY launching their next generation consoles the same weekend. Sony kicked things off on Friday, with Nintendo launching on Sunday.
Besides keeping your kids happy, we'll explore why you should care about the new machines and what it means for the future of advertising.
Sony's PS3 is the third generation of the Playstation brand and represents the high end of the market at about $600 (that's retail; they're selling on Ebay for up to $3,000). Nintendo is reinventing the genre a bit with its innovative Wii (pronounced Weee!) platform that makes games easy to use for the button phobes out there.
There has been a lot written about the new machines and here are some links to full guides and videos about them if you want to know more:
The big news is that these new consoles are set to transform the $10 billion a year video game because they are intensely ENGAGING entertainment platforms. Our editors have had a week to play with the new machines and both machines have gotten high ratings.
The PS3 is high end and expensive-- at $600 it is almost double the cost of a Microsoft Xbox 360 and more than twice the Nintendo WII. Another way to look at it is that the PS3 is a cheap BluRay player as most of those now cost around $1,000. The PS3 is slick, polished and an amazing piece of engineering. It's for the high-end person, hard-core gamer and gadget geek. It plays most of the older Playstation titles so if you must have a Playstation, this is your machine.
The Wii is a new approach on games as it uses a motion sensor remote, or wand, so that players can engage with a tennis or football game without pressing buttons. It's aimed at the consumer who has NOT played games before-- people who are too busy and just don't get the complexity of today's video games. Nintendo has made entertainment easy and approachable. It's truly gaming for the mainstream. Think of it as Twister for the tech-challenged folks. It's that easy and that fun.
The bad news is that unless you know someone or have been camped out in front of one of the stores all week your chances of seeing a PS3 are slim (unless you pony up on EBay). There will be about 500,000 units in the United States between now and Christmas. Nintendo, on the other hand, will have four million units on hand. There will surely be shortages.
Why this matters to advertisers
This column has been beating the "games as mainstream entertainment drum" for over two years. Now the big three have their next gen machines in the market. (For the record, Microsoft has had the Xbox 360 out for a little over a year and has over seven million in the market-- an amazing achievement given Microsoft's late start.)
Microsoft set the bar high for online experience. Their XBOX Live service is the clear leader with millions of paying members. They also pioneered selling downloadable casual games on their Xbox Live Arcade. Sony and Nintendo have watched and are answering with their respective online experiences.
Sony is leading the attack with a free online service, the Playstation Network, with multiplayer experiences. Its online store will offer downloads of games, video, music and ad-ons that can be transferred to the portable PSP device. Its bet is to leverage the store to build an online community.
Nintendo is taking a different approach-- a "quick shot of entertainment or delve deep into a gaming world for hours" as they say on their website.
At the same time, Microsoft has opened up its Xbox Live Marketplace to allow anyone to publish content there for sale on the Xbox360. They also have music, movies and TV shows for sale.
The point is that the gaming world has raised the bar for engagement and interactivity. These advanced features on the new consoles are table stakes for the entertainment enthusiast market out there. From an advertising point of view this means users are open to and in fact expecting challenges and new experiences. For example, on Xbox Live, companies can now sponsor give-away levels. This integrated advertising experience enables Xbox players to interact with brands while harnessing the power of their consoles. Nintendo and Sony are right there as well. Combine the new consoles, in-game ad advances from Massive, Double Fusion, IGA and others and you have critical mass of options to speak to gamers.
Remember, the geek in the basement is not your average gamer today. They represent a shrinking slice of the exploding interactive entertainment market. In fact Nintendo has bet the farm that women, middle aged people and other non-gamers will drive the Wii to success.
So if you're planning a Q1 or Q2 campaign, how can you best leverage this new gaming wave?
- Think fun! Simple is good. How can you make a character move through a plot with your product? This can happen is a short flash banner, webisode, downloadable game or advergame experience.
- Sponsor a game ad-in on one of the consoles. This takes a longer lead time. Contact a rep at one of the big three or one of the In Game ad firms.
- Make video your game. By now we all get the power of web video, viral interest, YouTube, et cetera. Create a viral video competition sponsored by a web property to drive engagement, interest and highlight the winners.
- Create your own game. Contact your agency, one of the portals or an advergame company. If they can't say yes quickly, call the next place on your list.
In conclusion, the new machines offer a world of opportunity, blending HD video, exciting interactive entertainment and online experience. Your customers are moving quickly up the expectations' chain and if you're selling youth-oriented products or services you should be plugged into this new trend. (Unfortunately I can't help you pull strings to get a PS3 or Wii for the kids.)
Mark Friedler is publisher and the founder of GameDaily, which is now part of AOL's new games channel. He is working on plans for growing the engagement to youth in AOL's programming group. .