Focusing on the casual market

Accurate figures are not readily available, but it can be reasonably assumed that the music and movie industries are under huge strain as they adapt their business models in the face of digital and real-world piracy. Yet the local gaming industry has not adequately exploited the situation – certainly not to the extent it has in countries such as the US.

At the consumer electronics show in Las Vegas last week, Microsoft trumpeted its successes, boasting more than 17m consoles sold, with its marquee game Halo 3 selling a massive 8,1m units.

Much of the success of the XBox console in the US is due to its online service, XBox Live, which allows gamers to play with and against each other across the Internet.

However, Stefan Lampinen, sales director for Microsoft’s home and entertainment division in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, says it is unlikely that the service will be launched here in the short term as the low penetration of broadband makes it difficult to justify costs.

He compares SA with another country for which he is responsible – Turkey, where there are 4,5m broadband users, as opposed to the 500 000 in SA.

He adds that the company is hoping SA telecommunications providers take the initiative and start delivering services better suited to online gaming.

Lampinen adds that the next 12 months will see a shift from the dedicated focus on the hardcore gaming market to more emphasis on casual gaming, which has seen renewed growth on the back of the success of the Nintendo Wii gaming console.

Casual gaming is simple enough for the layperson to comprehend and play with a little effort.

However, the difficulty facing Microsoft and other game developers is that what constitutes casual rather than hard-core gamers is impossible to pin down. Trying to create titles for this market either results in a game too simple or just not very good.

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Focusing on the casual market