Microsoft playing Nintendo's game?

Don Reisinger examines the impact the Xbox 360 Arcade edition will have on the family gaming market and tries to predict whether the new promo can outdo Nintendo.

With Microsoft's announcement of the Xbox 360 Arcade, the anticipated device looks to be changing how the Xbox targets consumers.

According to a Microsoft representative, the company feels that "the timing is right to really focus and turn the spotlight on our family content and, yeah, we feel great."

Believe it or not, Microsoft has inked a deal with Warner Bros. to bring HD Looney Tunes to the Xbox Live Video Marketplace, and more games designed with children in mind will be coming down the pike with the help of this new console.

Xbox 360 Arcade
Xbox 360 Arcade Microsoft

While I applaud Microsoft for making the jump to children's games and attempting to attract the all-too-evasive "nontraditional gamer," isn't it playing a game that Nintendo already knows the secret to? And if so, is Microsoft barking up the wrong tree?

It may surprise you, but the answer is simply no. Microsoft is onto something with this new focus and whether or not you are a Nintendo zealot to the end, you need to realize that Microsoft may start attracting the younger crowd more effectively than you think.

Historically speaking, there is no denying the fact that Nintendo has controlled the family gaming market. With such classics as Mario and Donkey Kong (among many others), the company has single-handedly taken control of the casual gamer. And with the release of the Wii, it has enjoyed some success in attracting those "nontraditional gamers" by doing something other companies haven't been able to do: creating a unique gaming experience.

Regardless of your opinion of Microsoft, it is not a dumb company when it needs to make solid gaming decisions. Realizing it cannot compete with the Wii on purely unique gameplay, the company has found a new way--enlist the help of popular child franchises and offer games that will appeal to the family. And while I'm not a firm believer in this idea of bringing an entire family into the gaming mix, I do believe it can attract at least one or two people in any given family, and effectively take a bite out of Nintendo's stranglehold on the market.

In essence, Microsoft and Nintendo are trying to appeal to the same market in two distinctly different ways. Microsoft wants to attract consumers by offering well-known franchises and providing the new gaming crowd with a host of fun and entertaining games. Meanwhile, Nintendo's main selling point this time around is its hardware. If the Wii was just another gaming console with old-style controls, we'd be calling it a Gamecube. And if memory serves me correctly, the Gamecube was quite a flop.

Unfortunately for Nintendo, I simply don't believe hardware will take the day in the bitter battle for the family. Sure, it has been successful in bringing a unique experience to homes. But as I've mentioned before, it simply doesn't have the software behind it to overcome the rest of the industry.

Microsoft is in an enviable position. With a strong library of games that appeal to mature gamers, it can now focus on the relatively untapped family market. And while I think it'll be a tough nut to crack, look for Microsoft to make some headway this holiday season and capture market share from Nintendo going forward.

The change will not come overnight. But rest assured, if Microsoft can follow through on its promises and Nintendo remains complacent, look for Microsoft to become the "nontraditional" charmer.

 

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