The most visible events of the E3 electronics expo have concluded. The Big Three have finished their press conferences, made their big reveals, and now all we can do is sit back and analyze. An E3 press conference is a company's statement to the world about where they are heading in the future. It is a combination of a press release, a super bowl ad, and a lure to investors. So what do the three big press conferences tell us about the future of gaming? It depends on which conference you're talking about.
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Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo all recognize that casual gamers are what drives the industry these days. The success of the Wii, and especially the Wii Fit board, are proof positive of this. Sure, Nintendo's press-conference was subdued, low-key and, dare we say, a little boring. None of that matters when you're showing 19% growth while the rest of the industry is in decline. Nintendo could afford to put on a mellow E3 because the people they are trying to impress have never even heard of it.
To hardcore gamers and tech geeks, Project Natal is a thousand times more interesting than the Wii Fit Plus or the Wii Motion Plus will ever be. But that won't stop millions upon millions of casual gamers from buying them. The elderly are a more lucrative demographic for Nintendo then the old school gaming nerds they built their company upon.
Microsoft and Sony know this, and it leaves them with two options. They can try to market to casual gamers the same way Nintendo has, or they can work to consolidate their hold on people who already consider themselves gamers. If they want to stay alive, they'll have to do one or the other, and if they want to keep expanding they'll have to do both.
Sony tried to reach out to both groups with their new motion controller, but the rest of their presentation was primarily aimed at people who already consider themselves 'gamers'. They got a lot more cheers than Nintendo did, but they aren't going to make nearly as much money with their next wave of releases. They're already losing sales and lowering their expectations for the rest of the year. The PlayStation series is nowhere close to dead, but the meteoric sales of its past are probably gone forever.
If Sony is focusing most of its effort on being the console for the hardcore gamer, Microsoft is straddling a wide line and trying to hedge their bets. They generated more buzz than either of their competitors at E3 this year, but they also put out plenty of releases targeted at casual gamers and even non-gamers. The Natal was billed as much as a home entertainment device as a gaming peripheral. Even people who don't like video games can see the benefit of being able to play DVDs and music or access Facebook on their 360 without needing a controller or remote.
The Xbox 360 is enjoying spectacular success at the moment, so they could afford to pull out all the stops for this year's conference. A big show with some huge reveals is a great way to court dedicated video gamers, while everything else Microsoft has been up to is targeted at snatching as many casual gamers as possible from Nintendo's clutches.