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The Pachter Factor

First things first, this my first blog...ever, on Destructoid or anywhere. I have been on this site for a few years now so please be gentle :P

Anyhow, after reading the Daily Hotness recap for yesterday's news (10/15/09) I noticed that the infamous Micheal Pacther has been making headlines again, bringing upon himself the ire of fanboys everywhere and general ridicule from the gaming community as a whole. However, being something of a business man myself, I can understand where he comes from in his comments. His job is to make predictions about the gaming industry based on current trends. After all, for him gaming is not a hobby or even entertainment, it’s a business. From that perspective the things he says often make sense, even if they’re sometimes proven to be wrong.

That said, what I’m driving at here is that I often find him to be wrong, or at least the logic behind his assumptions to be faulty. Therefore, I decided to write this to provide my own sort of insights into the topics he discussed and why I think he might be right or wrong.

What I’m driving at…get it? Sorry

On Natal vs. Sony Motion Control:

If you can’t be arsed to read the original article linked above, allow me to summarize. Basically, Pachter claims that Sony’s “EyeWand” (what he refers to their motion controller as) is being targeted at people shopping for a Wii, hoping they will choose a PS3 instead and that this will be less successful than Microsoft’s strategy of targeting current 360 owning households and grabbing the attention of non-gamers therein. He believes this will lead to Natal out-selling the EyeWand. You know what? I think he’s right, but for all the wrong reasons.

First of all, I think what he considers MS and Sony’s target markets to be wrong. If he thinks MS isn’t trying to use Natal to sell more systems, he’s out of mind. Here’s what I consider the target market of these products:
1) People who don’t own any current generation consoles (wii, xbox360, PS3)
2) People who only own a Wii currently
3) People who currently have a current-generation system in their house, but don’t use it (it’s used by their son/daughter/husband/wife/you).

Now, you and I can debate all day back and forth over the relative strengths and weaknesses of the EyeWand vs. Natal: whether we are talking about accuracy, responsiveness, force feedback, buttons, immersion, or accessibility. However, the truth is, none of that really matters when it comes to how well the products will sell. Those things only matter to the real gamers: you and I (the people who already own consoles). What really matters is how each appeals to these target markets. Natal appeals to all 3, while the EyeWand appeals to just 1, maybe 2. Here’s how I figure it:

1) How does Natal appeal to people who don’t own any consoles but are considering buying one? It’s a novel technology. It’s unique. It’s not available anywhere else. It sparks the imagination. Let’s face it, if someone was all that convinced about the virtues of waving a wand/remote around, they would have bought a Wii already. The only way you’re going to pull these people in is to offer something new. Natal does that, and despite the virtues of the EyeWand and all of its potential applications, it does not. In other words, Natal has that “Wow” factor that the EyeWand’s me-too approach is lacking. To Joe Average, EyeWand is just another Wii-mote, while Natal seems futuristic (Minority Report anyone?)

2) Again, Natal appeals because it’s something new. If Joe Average already owns a Wii but is ready to step up, he’s not going to step-up to basically the same stuff he already has (a remote to point at the screen). He’s going to go into something new. The strongest thing the PS3 has going for it in this scenario is the Blu-Ray player, the EyeWand simply doesn’t enter into it. Natal at least offers a new gameplay experience (in theory). It doesn’t guarantee an Xbox360 sale over a PS3 sale, but it certainly has more of an impact than what the EyeWand offers.

3) In this scenario, both are about equal. They both offer the ability to draw Mom in front of the console when you’re at school or your wife while you’re at work. Natal offers a couple of advantages though. The first is that you’re not going to need to go out and buy 4 controllers (or up to 8, 2 for each person for the EyeWand) to get the whole family involved. All they have to do for Natal is step in front of the screen. The other is that I see Natal as having some significant advantages in terms of the fitness-game arena, such as a Yoga game that will actually critique and help adjust Mom’s Crapping-Dragon-On-A-Stick form.

Wow, this blog got really long. I’ll sum up my thoughts on his other 2 points really quickly:

1) While his reasoning makes sense for Natal costing only 50 bucks, I just don’t see this happening. MS’s track-record shows them pricing their consoles reasonably, while overcharging on accessories to make up the cash. I don’t see this strategy changing, though it wouldn’t surprise me if a Natal 360 bundle didn’t cost much more than their current 360 pricing.

2) Contrary to what he believes, I don’t think the I-Phone will never be a true gaming platform until it offers button controls. I-Phone games aren’t played to played games, they’re played to waste time. Also, Apple will never sell an i-Product for less than 100 bucks. They’d phase it out and offer a new model first. Plain crazy.

So, provided you read this whole thing, what do you think? Do I make sense or Am I pants-on-head crazy like Pacter? :P
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About Leviathan902one of us since 1:21 PM on 05.23.2008

Leviathan902 is a technology/engineering/shipping consultant for the largest transportation company in the world and a life long gamer. From the time his father casually passed him the Intellivision controller in the early 80s, to the Xbox 360 controller in his hands nowadays and everything in-between, he has been playing games on systems by nearly every major console manufacturer since the '80s. Now married, he fits gaming time in where he can between work, marriage maintenance, home maintenance, and a social life. This usually amounts to 3-8 hours a week. He can be found perusing Destructiod and posting the rare comment/blog while at work in a tiny window in the corner of his screen so his bosses don't notice.
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