Sony and Microsoft – different market segmentation

Last week both Sony’s and Microsoft’s E3 press conferences featured new ‘motion-technology’ to tap into the growing ‘casual gamer’ crowd – your Sister, your Mother, and even your Grand-father and Grand-mother. However, although Nintendo’s Wii console has been successful in pretty much creating and satisfying the whole market, Sony and Microsoft are evidently going to need a great degree of product differentiation; casual gamers are not the usual early adopters new that products are targeted at.

First up, lets look at Sony’s ‘Playstation Move’ motion controller, which involves the use of a camera – aka ‘The Eye’ – tracking a lighted remote – aka ‘The Wand’ – to mimic real life motion into the game. On the surface, it seems to be a fancy ‘Wii Mote’ – and that should could you some clues to as to whom the product is targeted at.

Albeit the technology itself could appeal to the casual gamer, the other elements of the marketing mix suggest otherwise. It is more aimed at existing, hardcore gamers. For instance, the pricing is too confusing for casual gamers’ likings: the wand costs £35, the eye £25, and the navigation controller (not pictured above) £30; moreover, different accessories are needed for different games. Also, the move has been regularly promoted alongside the shooting game ‘Socom’ – the move, therefore, is targeted at gamers who want greater realism and greater accuracy. That is not what the casual gamer wants (which is simplicity). However, while targeting your existing customers is deemed to be a relatively low-risk strategy, Sony is targeting hardcore gamers with the wrong selling-proposition; they see past the gimmick of motion sensing and know their accuracy is better honed with a traditional controller. Hence, ‘Move’ is unlikely to appeal to the casual gamer – not enough to make them switch from the ‘Wii’ – nor encourage a purchase from the hardcore gamer.

The competing innovation is Microsoft’s ‘Kinect’ – previously know as ‘Project Natal’. This, unlike the ‘Move’, goes above and beyond what the ‘Wii Mote’ did for motion-gaming. It essentially makes use of a single camera – with no peripherals – to track the player’s entire body, which, essentially, is thus the controller – here as a video example.

As the video may remind some of you of ‘Wii Sports’, it is clear that ‘Kinect’ has defined its targeted niche as the casual gamers. This is more certain given the launch of a new slimmer and stylish (which means it will not look out-of-place among the DVD player and Sky box) ‘X-box 360’ that ‘Kinect’ will be bundled with; making the product highly appealing to new customers, rather than current customers – hardcore gamers. In addition to this, ‘Kinect’ differs to the ‘Move’ in that it won’t be backwards-compatible with current games – meaning ‘Kinect’ will feature new games, for new customers. This strategy is similar to one of Michael Porter’s competitive strategies: Focus – something Sony is not doing and will later pay the price for trying to satisfy two conflicting consumer needs. Moreover, this allows Microsoft to turn a major weakness of ‘Kinect’ into a strength; ‘Kinect’ simply does not work when the player sits down, however it is the casual gamer that enjoys jumping, running and dancing and so on – not the hardcore gamer. Therefore, Kinect is likely to be a greater success. However, it is slightly ironic that Microsoft are trying to attract more customers given its sales dominance over Sony’s PS3, while Sony are trying to appeal to their existing customer-base that is the smallest of all three consoles – surely they should swap strategies?

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