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Games at the E3: The fallacy of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo

Posted by putsimply on 15th July 2008

Never let it be doubted that gaming is a serious, serious business. Over the last few years, the cost of producing a ‘blockbuster’ videogame has begun to creep towards ‘Hollywood’ figures; many tens of millions of dollars.

And just like Hollywood, marketing people are now stepping in to define the content and schmaltz it up for the rest of us.

Anyone who reads this blog will know that, while I’m a fan of many of the biggest modern videogames (and there’s certainly no apparent dearth of good ideas), part of me pines for the days when two programmers in their bedrooms could simply write whatever game they wanted (a la ‘Codemasters’).

Now it’s very much more of a corporate engine and, like films, those big games *have* to be massively profitable.

As the BBC has reported, in a move that would put Tinseltown to shame, Sony and Microsofts marketers have ‘done a number’ on their brand positioning. Apparently Sony and Microsoft want to get a slice of Nintendo’s pie by producing more cutesy lifestyle / family-oriented games (think brain-training, bowling, Nintendogs).

You can see how Sony and Microsoft’s thinking has gone here. “Our platforms are well-respected, graphically-amazing machines. But only serious gamers care about that. What we need it to produce games that are cheaper (and therefore graphically less good) that hit the majority-market of families”.

Well, I’m sorry, but does anyone else think Sony and Microsoft, having spent countless millions developing these machines, are now missing the point? a) That’s not what these machines were created for, b) this has always been the strength of Nintendo’s brand, and c) where’s the brand-image separation if they all head for the middle ground?

Ok, so maybe I’m just fighting marketing-speak with marketing-speak, but I feel like S&M are on a hiding to nothing.