Opinion: The Barrier of Entry

By Steve Gibson, Jun 30, 2007 5:00pm PDT As we all seem to be reluctantly accepting the world of console games around these parts some interesting numbers have come to light. In a recent press release The Diffusion Group notes that although 80% of homes that have a console with movie playback capability only 13% have ever seemed to actually use it and only 30% of owners even realize that they have that ability. It is a much lower usage rate than what one may have expected and certainly a much lower level of awareness than game console manufacturers would want.

The numbers make me wonder about what Microsoft and Sony are doing, as games and consoles continue to get more complex and raise the barriers of understanding and entry. I would be interested to see just how many people outside of core gamers actually realize a PlayStation 3 is a capable Blu-ray player--or even know what Blu-ray is. Certainly much of this problem could be resolved with marketing and packaging, but perhaps these numbers are indicative of a bit more?

Nintendo seemed to have recognize that trend when it comes to the games themselves as well. The level of complexity in control schemes in popular titles like Tony Hawk, for example, sure has gone up several degrees over the past few years. I'm sure many of you guys know people firsthand who are thankful to see simplistic controls to finally return to games with systems like the Wii and DS. The Wii represents the first time I saw my parents play a video game since Super Mario Bros. That angle might be on the right track.

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25 Threads* | 54 Comments
  • I think the only reason we're seeing more complexity in games is an effort to bring something new to jaded gamers. That market is growing of course. More and more people are getting older, and have played more games.

    Pretty much every game I've played has progressed in complexity. I played FPSes growing up, and went from Doom->Quake->Counter-Strike->Battlefield->Battleld 2 Project Reality. Each time what entertained me about the next game was that there was something new to learn and experience. How would someone who'se never played an FPS before do in BF2 Project Reality? I imagine it would be pretty discouraging. I haven't played Arma, but that game is suppose to be even more-so. For MMOs I went from COH->WoW->EVE Online. EVE Online is an especially complex and overwhelming game for someone not familiar with MMOs. As you say Steve, the Barrier of Entry is much higher on most of todays games.

    I think there is a market for games that try to bring in more gamers and keep things simple and easy enough for newcomers. But it won't be the norm. If anything, games are just going to continue to get more complex. Hopefully games will be developed that are elegant enough to be deep and complex while still being simple enough for the new gamer.



  • When designing entertainment products (consoles, games), you walk a fine line between dictating an intended experience and broadening the experience to capture an audience.

    With the success of the PS2's DVD-movie watching capability, many add on features followed in successive console releases.

    Nintendo's success with specific Wii and DS titles demonstrates that a simple, vertical experience that drives a single type of play home is the antithesis of the creeping features seen in competing consoles.

    I've often wondered how well received the sophisticated set of options presented by the 360's dashboard is in a mass market sense. Sure, people ilke us love it, but we're the sort of people who have memorized their logins on multiple forums on the Internet and we return to post.




  • When I went to a client's house, I saw a brand new 1337 360 on the floor. His TV has an HDMI port yet he was using an svideo cable he had purchased and was going through the standard audio in.

    Also, he had no plans of ever getting online with it.

    Also, he had a week overdue blockbuster game sitting out.

    I can't say that console gaming is too complicated, or the hardware is too complicated. But I can say that people are buying consoles these days that couldn't find the hole in their ass with both hands, a flashlight, and a mirror.










  • Most consumers are dumb. I'm sure the same could be said about something like an ipod and consumers not knowing it can do more than play music or even a more common device like a cellphone but that doesn't stop them from buying the latests and greatest. It all comes down to who's going to drop the money and buy those devices at launch and they are the ones who are going to be interested in all the extra features and the ones who are going to spread the word. It's not going to be mainstream over night, not everyone knew what a dvd was a few years back either. Do those numbers really make you wonder what MS and Sony are doing?


  • Nice article, Steve. It made me think of Super Smash Bros. and how *simple* yet how absolutely fun it is.

    I heartily agree about your comment regarding the complexity of control schemes.

    It stands to reason that as controls or even the way we interact with a GUI becomes more complex, the less accessible it is to the public. It's another step and more time that is required to acclimatize an inexperienced individual (gamer or non gamer) into the videogaming experience. Less complex, more inuitive control schemes are absolutely integral to appreciating and enjoying a game.

    In my opinion, gamers want to feel like they have CONTROL over their gameplay experience. Control is what makes the interactive medium of videogaming so resonant. There is naught but our wits and our bodies to influence what happens in the game, which is why it is such a fantastic tool for our society's favourite pastime - escapism! :) If we take away that level of control in a videogame, it becomes less fun and more frustrating. We've all had that moment where we've angrily screamed: "BUT I DIDN'T MOVE THAT WAY," or "I DID THAT MOVE!" while furiously pounding some inane button sequence in a particularly infuriating videogame.

    Conversely, when someone picks up a game controller and a videogame for the first time, and they intuitively are able to grasp the controls, control their character, and understand the gameplay mechanics with utmost ease, they are instantly enthralled. In my experience, even non-gamers find it difficult to pull away.

    And that's what I love about the Nintendo Wii. I don't know how many of you guys have seen a complete newbie gamer pick up a controller, but the first time I saw my Mother pick up a controller and try to control Sonic the Hedgehog, she was moving her whole body and the whole controller to try and avoid some horrible trap. That Nintendo has actually been able to observe and recognize the limitations of traditional control schemes, and actually incorporate these basic intuitions into the Wii has me absolutely flabbergasted. I'm just floored by how well the control scheme works with even the first generation of games coming out.

    It's just bloody fantastic, and I think is one of the main reasons as to why the Wii has been so successful. I hope this trend continues. I love how "gaming" has reached that pinnacle of pop-culture penetration. It's a good time, and I love having new people to play with, or who appreciate gaming as much as I do.


  • The PS2 and Xbox were pretty crappy movie players, well, unless you count modding/XBMC. As soon as the Xbox came out there was that "what, no progressive scan?" whine from the peanut gallery.

    So much of Sony's marketing for the PS3 has been mostly "bluray BluRay BLURAY" that if the promotion they've done so far doesn't get people to understand something about BD (this disc is like a drop of water, while our disc is a virtual tsunami) then I don't think anything can be done.

    I think most people know anything about the PS3 knows it plays BluRay, they just don't know what BluRay is.

  • Barrier of entry isn't really something that concerns me personally, but I welcome games with more simplistic controls just as a change of pace from the types of games that I usually play. I go through so many games every year, and sometimes when I finish one I go through a bit of a lull before I can muster up the motivation to dive into another one. It's just this feeling that I spent so much time getting comfortable with a game and how it's supposed to be played, and now it's finally over. I just sometimes don't feel like jumping back into that learning process right away, so I'll turn to more simple games just as a change of pace between the more complex or sophisticated games that I play.