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Video Games Move To Mass Market

Jul 31, 2008
Nintendo have managed to target a wider demographic with the Wii console compared with its main rivals, the PlayStation 3 (PS3) and the Xbox 360. Nintendo has sold more than 10 million Wii Consoles and 70 million DS handheld machines worldwide. "We're not thinking about fighting Sony, but about how many people we can get to play games. The thing we're thinking about most is not portable systems, consoles, and so forth, but that we want to get new people playing games" boasts the Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata.

Wii sports was bundled with the console on its release. It has managed to showcase the Wii's capabilities of bringing a 'gaming experience' to the masses. The game is a collection of five sports simulations, designed to demonstrate the motion-sensing capabilities of the Wii Remote to new players. The five sports included are tennis, baseball, bowling, golf, and boxing. Players use the Wii Remote to mimic actions performed in real life sports, such as swinging a tennis racket. The game also features training and fitness modes that monitor player progress in the sports.

The next major step was the introduction of Wii fit, which is an exercise game consisting of activities utilizing the Wii Balance Board peripheral. The balance board measures a user's weight and centre of gravity. The software can then calculate the user's body mass index when told of his or her height. The game has roughly 40 different activities, including yoga poses, push ups, and other exercises. The game tracks a user's "Wii Fitness Age" through a body test basing the result on the user's current age, weight, and balance.

Wii Music, Nintendo's latest in its Wii series, aims to help young and old gamers get involved and enjoy music. Apparently, the game shouldn't be compared with other music titles, which are focused more on competitive play and challenges. Wii Music is more about jamming and creating new music that fun to play, whilst creating a new experience, a new way for consumers to be engaged, enriched and excited. The company have recently released the latest innovative addition to it's Wii console- a highly-sensitive motion controller, which the developers state will add more realism and depth to games.

In comparison, Sony stumbled when it launched the expensive PS3 console a year and a half ago and trailed its competitors for months. That's in complete contrast to its position as the clear market leader with the older PlayStation 2 console. Sony has warned PS3 owners it could take several years until they get the best out of their machine. Jack Tretton, the boss of PlayStation America, claimed gamers would eventually see the PS3 pulling away from its rivals as studios found ways of harnessing the full power of its cell processor.

One service that has received plenty of press is PlayStation Home, a free to download virtual world for the PS3. Users will be able to login, chat with both text and speech and play casual games together such as pool, bowling and even embedded arcade machines. And when these original features lose their appeal, users can invite one another into other PlayStation Network titles outside of PlayStation's virtual worlsd.

Every user will be able to create a personal avatar and will have their own virtual apartment to decorate with furniture, their trophies from various games and content from their own PS3s. Not content at just images, users will also be allowed to share both music and videos with friends inside their private homes.

Sony is making concerted efforts to regain its footing. Earlier this week, it shaved $100 off the price of the PS3 in the United States. Sony said the 80-gigabyte version of the PS3 will retail at $400, down from $500, while discontinuing the 40-GB version of the console. Microsoft also dropped $50 off the price of the Xbox 360 and said the basic 20-GB model of the console will retail at $299.

Microsoft has also made an attempt to reinvent the Xbox 360's look by making existing features easier to find and use, removing clutter from the marketplace. Microsoft also aim to vastly improve the social experience offered by Xbox Live- the service allows players to compete online and download content such as arcade games, game demos, trailers, TV shows, and movies.

Microsoft have recently announced that content from Netflix will be viewable via Xbox Live for Xbox Live Gold members. The deal allows users who subscribe to Netflix to watch movies and TV shows saved in their Netflix Instant Queue on their Xbox 360. Netflix currently offers more than 10,000 movies and TV shows available for instant viewing. Video playback will stream at near DVD quality, and users will also be able to rate movies they've watched via Xbox Live.

Content from companies such as NBC Universal, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, SCI FI Channel, USA Network, Constantin, and MGM will also populate the video marketplace. Videos will be available for purchase in either standard definition or high definition.

Microsoft have already added a community channel to make socialising easier. The new channel lets you quickly find your friends, see what they're doing, and then make it easy to join in on the action. LiveParty allows up to eight users to band together with shared voice and text chat. Everyone in the group shares the same communication channels while playing games, watching movies, or participating in other events.

Microsoft also decided to get into the personalisation fray with user avatars. Much like how you can create Miis on the Nintendo Wii and user avatars in Sony's Playstation Home, Xbox 360 users will be able to create virtual representations of themselves in Xbox Live. In addition to simply looking pretty and providing an avenue for user expression, avatars will also be usable in upcoming games.

Microsoft and Sony are attempting to make up lost ground that Nintendo have seized. The PS3 and Xbox were struggling to compete with the Wii's mass market appeal, as they have tended to focus on graphics and gameplay compared with Nintendo's innovative approach to focusing on the whole gaming experience. The Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata, sums up the Wii philosophy, stating "I believe we must find more ways for players to feel engaged, different ways for them to be enriched. The overall experience from our products must be increased enthusiasm."
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