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What Gamers Want: Family Gamers
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What Gamers Want: Family Gamers

April 29, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

8. Episodic Play

Whilst episodic gameplay is all the rage these days, our gamers were looking for episodes of 15 minutes rather than 15 hours. "When the kids ask to play one more level before lunch, I want to know how long it will take -- if I am going to avoid minor explosions in the living room and refusal to eat."

The games with more predictable play times were more popular for parents with younger kids. This was also helpful when siblings needed to take turns on a game, as they could more easily agree a fair changeover time.

Our players also attested to generally having less free time to play games. What time they did have was often only available in smaller chunks. They all agreed the quick pick-up-and-play games were a much better fit.

9. Performance Feedback

Our lab techs (the Robertson family at large) were often called upon to explain the majority of games. Particularly where they required specific controls, the games often provided only minimal feedback of what the player had done wrong (or right).

"Well, why didn't they tell me I was swinging too early?" was one young girl's reaction after finally getting a hammer throw right -- some words of advice from us proving critical to her success.

The games that provided details not just on the outcome, but on the timeliness of the different presses and triggers of the previous effort were much more popular. It not only enabled our players to improve but made the whole experience more understandable and ultimately enjoyable.

10. Cost Critical

Towards the end of the session we had a few discussions with parents who had enjoyed their time so much they were considering getting a system for themselves. "You're joking -- that's more than my car cost," was one dad's response to the cost of getting set up with a PS3.

It seems for these lifestyle gamers, consoles have to fit in with other competing products such as gym membership, playgroups and after school clubs. Price is a much bigger issue for these family gamers. To that end the Wii was more acceptable, even though paying £40 [or $50] for a game still seemed shocking to many parents. Paul, one of our more enthusiastic dads, commented, "That's the same price as 13 movie rentals! I'd have to get at least 25 hours play out of that!"

As we closed down the various consoles and cleared up the snack wrappers, drink cans and coffee cups, we reflected on the day's discoveries. Whilst some of the issues could have been predicted beforehand, there were quite a few unexpected comments and ideas that arose.

It seems that games still have a long way to go before they are really ready to break into the mainstream. Nintendo's Wii has shown that the market is there for the taking.

But it won't be until we have age or ability specific controllers, and games that are really casual-gamer centered, that the masses will be able to easily opt for some gaming rather than picking up the latest movie.

Quick start times, automatic saving, friendly controllers (and control options), cross-ability multiplayer, deeper localization, simple handicapping, short episodes, performance advice and low cost will all play their part in opening up our favorite pastime -- and vocation -- to a wider audience. This may sound like a tough list, but build it right and they will come.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 4

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