Catering to the Customer and User Experience: Lessons from the 2010 Console Wars
If you turned on your TV in the past couple weeks, you most likely could not avoid the massive ad campaign Microsoft is pursuing in pushing their latest motion sensing product, Kinect. The product positioning is unique from Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s Move because the input device is actually you (your entire body controls the onscreen action). Management teams at Nintendo and Sony must be hoping this competitive positioning will fail, as it is clearly a differentiator from the wand type input devices prevalent on the market. With plastic guitars, drums, driving wheels and motion sensors flooding the market, we are a far cry from the intense console focus on insane graphics and intense physics. What happened?
This year, the console market has clearly shifted towards ensuring the game-play is a truly fun experience rather than simply pushing the processing power of the machines with crazy visual effects. Why? Consumers demonstrated that basic activities like planting virtual crops in Farmville or going on expeditions with SCVNGR really excites the neurons. Developers of games similar to these spent a tremendous amount of time focusing on the quality, psychology and simplicity of the game-play while ensuring it can be enjoyed in a social environment. The console manufacturers realized this (especially when they see huge volumes of dollars go to new market entrants) and adapted accordingly (with Nintendo being the obvious pioneer years ago). Games are supposed to be fun and should typically appeal to the kid at heart (and console makers are now focusing on this with their r&d efforts). Sony is clearly trying to drive this message home with their latest commercial, destined for Latin America (a bit creepy, but enjoy!)
As you are building a business (whether a new entrant or long time incumbent), never forget to continually focus on what your customer truly values (and how it changes over time) and allow this to feed your product and marketing strategy. Take a lesson from the console guys who really got smacked around over the past few years. Know your customers and their changing tastes and constantly cater to them and their desired experiences. It will help you stay relevant as your market evolves.