Monday, August 23, 2010

The Clone Wars - Parent Perspective

I don’t want to say most gamers are this, or most gamers are that. However what I can confidently say is that most bloggers and the readers of blogs relating to video games are very computer savvy and well informed on video games. There are over 300 million people in the USA alone and the reigning MMO champion has peaked at 11 million subscribers, and it is assumed another 10-15 million are spread out over other online games. That leaves a total of 275 million people in the USA who don’t play online games.

The current trend by major development companies is to fight over these 25 million customers by making games with already well established features. The problem is that they are entering a very competitive market place that has more or less been dominated by one company for the last 5 years, that being Blizzard. I ask, why fighter over the same customers when you could just make new ones?

If a company were to tap into an un-established gaming market they could establish a foot hold and create new revenue for their company without having to cannibalize an already existing market. I think of all companies Sony understands the need for creating new markets more than anyone. Sure Blizzard may be the king of refinement when it comes to games, but I dare say Sony is the king of customer progression.

In 1999 Sony created EverQuest which proved there was a market for a persistent online game, dubbed Massively Multiplayer Game or MMO. Later Sony created Free Realms one of the first “Free to play” MMOs accepted as a viable success in the ever flooding MMO market. Sony Online Entertainment has always tried to find new customers, rather than just fighting over the existing ones.

The Clone Wars is the next step in that ideology. While The Clone Wars may claim to be designed for “everyone” in mind it is based off a cartoon whose primary demographic are 6-12 year old kids. For the most part this is an “untapped” market in the Online Gaming sphere. Sony is setting out again to prove they can create a market.

My daughter is 6 years old and she just started 1st Grade. She is a huge fan of The Clone Wars cartoon on Cartoon Network, along with all of her friends. I’m fairly young for being a parent, I’m only 29. To me computers and video games are as common as watching a movie. However most of the children in my daughter’s class have parents much older than me. Most of them are still learning how to use a computer. Video games, and especially computer games, can be daunting. I’ve talked more than one of her class mate’s parents through removing a virus or clearing out spyware. I’m more or less their “geek squad” now.

While these parents may not be computer savvy, their kids already are. Starting last year in Kindergarten the kids were in a computer lab at school learning how to type, mouse, and handle the computer basics. Most of my daughter’s class mates are very good at playing games on Nickelodeon and Disney websites. Some of them play Harry Potter on the Nintendo Wii or play Educational games on their Leap Frog Leapster. All of these games are very approachable and were designed around the idea that a child could play them and a parent who was unfamiliar with the technology would feel comfortable operating it. The Clone Wars is just the next step up the stairs for them…

The vast majority of the parents in my daughter’s class are in their late 30’s to early 40’s. They were preteens and teenagers when the first Star Wars came out. Star Wars is a cultural icon to them and something they are very familiar with. By SOE using that IP as a jumping point they have already established a connection with these children’s parents. The fact that you don’t have to install a game on your computer plays into most parents’ fear of virus’s or complicated software. The game is played through your web browser after a small application install, increasing the comfort level.

SOE has gone out of their way to create a game that parents can relate to, Star Wars, and feel comfortable setting up. The simple games allow even young kids to participate, my 2 year old son manager to play a few games, and the controlling of an avatar lets children play dress up with their virtual character.

I can see myself, and other parents, permitting our children to spend a portion of their allowance on this game if they wanted to buy frivolous items such as clothes or furniture for their apartment. SOE has done it again by creating a new market group.

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