Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Human Controller

During a recent discussion on competitive business planning and strategy with students I teach at a local college, we engaged in an analysis of the marketing wars among video game console makers. If you are or have a GenY or GenXer relative or friend who is a "gamer", you've no doubt seen the familiar Microsoft XBox 360, Sony Playstation or Nintendo Wii consoles adorning entertainment furniture pieces or shelving next to the TV or monitor. New game titles are being released every day and the gaming industry is growing at a torrid pace. And what's making the gaming sector attractive to brand marketers, is that they can now integrate branded content into the game experience and feature messaging within the many other applications users engage with via the game console. So in order to be effective in digital marketing efforts to this segment, Rainmakers must follow trends and understand what attracts users to specific products and/or game titles. Now in its seventh generation, the video game console marketing wars have been a fierce battleground, using enhanced graphics and motion technology to provide its consumers with a more rich, fun experience. Until Nintendo launched its Wii product a couple of years ago, video gaming was all about pushing buttons and maneuvering joysticks. With the Nintendo Wii, users could now get off the couch and simulate the swinging of a baseball bat, tennis racket or steering wheel in order to engage in the game they were playing. The motion activated controllers were a huge success and the technology has helped Nintendo take the lead, recording partial 2010 sales in excess of $75 million in the U.S. market alone. Enter Microsoft. Based on the lively discussion I had with many GenY gamers in my business class, their launch of the 360 Kinect Sensor may actually help them overtake Nintendo as the top selling  video game controller on the market. Why ? Because Microsoft learned from the success of the Wii and in a classic planning and strategy exercise, developed a product that elevated that concept further. The 360 Kinect is all about motion activation, only there are no buttons to push and no controllers to "control". As it's product tagline suggests, the user is the controller, moving and effecting actions in the digital game via their own physical and voice commands. How cool is that ? Apparently, very cool for users to the delight of Microsoft XBox Rainmakers.

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