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Designers are renowned for thinking they know what their audience wants. However the high street is littered with products that have misjudged their audience. Rather than delivering to real life consumers, these products are perfectly honed for fictional focus group drones. To generate sales, you are always better off targeting real people; they are the ones with the real money.
Today, we are wondering what games can learn from other products to make themselves meet the actual needs of parents and casual gamers. Various media products, games included, often persist for years in a Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) or form factor that doesn't best suit their market. Take the humble DVD, for years these products have been sat on store shelves selling to a wide variety of consumers. No problem here right? Well, one of the larger sections of the market are children's DVDs. The best of these provide engaging entertainment for children and parents to enjoy together. However, strangely the interface, packaging and design of these for kid's products are identical to the grown up version.
Whereas it's not a problem for most people to press play, skip through trailers, select the play now option and click play; try doing this while juggling two or three pre-school aged kids who just want to get started with their fun. Once you have wrestled them apart and decided who is putting the disk in, and who is going to press the buttons you can finally wrestle you way through the menus and get the program started.
Recently a new form factor for kids DVD's has been appearing on store shelves: "1-2-3 Carry Me DVD's". To the film-buff these are likely something of a non-event. But to parents they finally provide the media in a form that suites their actual needs. The DVD boxes are brightly coloured and can be easily identified from other 'grown up' DVD's in your collection, they include a child sized handle on the top making it easy for a two year old to pick up. When you pop the disk in it automatically plays the first episode without the need to press any button. At the end of the episode it automatically moves onto the next, again without having to select or press play. The discs are made from extra scratch proof plastic, and you get a little activity book in the box as well. The whole package presents an entirely different experience to the standard DVD; one that for parents is obviously aware of their needs.
Strangely, when choosing a viewing product, it may well be these features that sway the decision rather than the actual content on the disk. It is this sort of joined up thinking that we need to apply to the way we deliver and sell games to a wider audience. Whilst the Wii and DS have made a big song and dance about its new family-friendly games machine, the games are still packaged, accessed and started the same as they have been for years.
Bearing in mind this recent revolution in family DVD's, we'd suggest that the following factors should be considered for a new breed of computer game experience, whether it's on Wii, PS3 or 360:
If the devil really is in the detail, then these are certainly the little things that can make a big difference to a family's experience of video games. If video games are to achieve the sort of mass market appeal of the likes of the iPod, then similarly to Apple, developers and publishers need to become known for knowing their customers; not just in terms of revenue, but the way they use their products in every day life.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: