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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  • 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.