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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  • 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.