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Are we a party games island?

Does the fact that SingStar, Buzz and Brain Training are consistently in the Top 10 game titles in Australia indicate that we're a more mature games market?

Randolph Ramsay

What is it about party games that we Aussies just can't get enough of?

Here at CNET.com.au (and our sister site GameSpot AU), we've been tracking game sales charts for Australia for a little while now, and for the past few months there have been three constant entries in the top 10: SingStar, Buzz and Brain Training. Compare that to the US charts and there seems to be a world of difference. US gamers still tend to lap up racers, shooters and action games, with nary a 'non-traditional' genre in sight. And when I say non-traditional, I mean titles that don't fall into what most people would typically consider as games -- such as karaoke, quiz, music, puzzle or fitness-type titles. The most popular of these non-traditional titles are, of course, party games such as Sony's extremely successful SingStar or Buzz series.

Sony, for its part, obviously doesn't think US gamers like these types of titles at all, having so far not released a Buzz or SingStar game stateside (but that changes soon with SingStar for the PS3). Australians, on the flipside, are lapping these games up. Is it because Aussies just aren't as "hardcore" as US gamers? Or do we just have a natural affinity for making fools of ourselves at karaoke?

Here's a controversial thought: maybe the Australian games market is actually a little more mature than the US one. Before you howl me down with stats and figures on how huge and advanced the US games market is, let me assure you that I'm not trying to compare size here. In pure dollar terms, the US is a behemoth, and Australia in comparison is miniscule. But the shape of the Australian market -- the people who game, those who own consoles and use them regularly -- may actually be what the US will be like in a few years' time. The three big players in gaming -- Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo -- have all acknowledged the need to expand past the "core" audience of gamers in order for the industry to prosper and grow. The big three are planning to expand the market by developing new titles to attract people who aren't interested in shooting Nazis, or going on mythical quests, or killing aliens in a post-apocalyptic future. Sony has already produced these type of games in their party series, while Microsoft is about to test the waters with Viva Pinata. Nintendo's entire philosophy with the Wii is to attract as many people back to gaming as possible by taking the complexity out of the hobby.

It's clear that with SingStar, Buzz and Brain Training such Top 10 stalwarts in Australia, our market may already include plenty of these new types of gamers the major companies are trying to attract. Who knows? Maybe our Top 10 charts are a sneak peek into the future of US gamers.

Will the rest of the world follow our lead into party game nirvana? Or are we a lonely island of karaoke and quiz lovers? Share your thoughts with us below!.