Sony CEO Kaz Hirai Says Core Gamers Should Be Served Before The Mainstream


Posted June 11, 2009 - By G4tv .com

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Sony CEO Kaz Hirai Says Core Gamers Should Be Served Before The Mainstream

With the success of the Nintendo Wii, numerous gaming-industry pundits have focused on what console companies are doing to garner the mainstream audience. In a sense, it's understandable; out of the gate, the Wii has reached a broad audience in a way that (arguably) no console ever has. While the shortsighted reaction would be to mimic the Wii in every way possible and as soon as possible, Sony believes in a more gradual approach -- an approach that has worked for the company twice before. It will go after the mainstream audience with products like Buzz, SingStar, and its unnamed motion controller. However, Sony feels that it's important to start with the core audience and build out. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kaz Hirai said:

"We have always started with the core audience and then expanded. A console always needs a solid core of games that appeal to gamers. Look at God of War. We launched that in the seventh year of the Playstation 2 and a lot of people wondered why we did. It's because we always wanted to keep the support of the core gaming audience.

That's not to say we're not doing anything to expand the demographics. Singstar and Buzz are obvious examples. But we need to do this in a controlled way. If you go mainstream too quickly and don't support the core gaming audience then you lack the pillar to support your platform. Without this pillar you end up with a fickle audience that might be big but will probably move on."

A lot of what Hirai is saying makes complete sense, but this generation is quite different from the previous two and the market has changed considerably. The most obvious point is that the PlayStation 3 does not enjoy the same market position as the PlayStation and PlayStation 2. With that in mind, can Sony afford to use the same approach it did in the past? Or does it need to alter its gameplan drastically in order to catch up to Microsoft? (Let's be honest -- neither company is going to catch up to Nintendo.)

Hirai's words also made me think about Nintendo's longterm future. Numerous readers of TheFeed would say, to use Hirai's words, that Nintendo lacks the pillar to support its core-gaming audience. While it might not matter this generation, some have argued that the Wii has generated so much ill will with enthusiast gamers and it will bite Nintendo come next generation. Like Kaz said, it's possible that these gamers will "move on".

It's still early in the console game so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. Microsoft and Sony still have numerous opportunities to succeed. While Nintendo's lead is substantial, it still has a lot of work to do in order to avoid a sharp sales drop off. Even though a lot of enthusiast gamers have turned their backs on Nintendo, the company has the ability -- much more so than the others -- to win back hearts with its classic franchises.

So look into your crystal balls and read your tarot cards. Do you think the approach Hirai spoke about will work? Or is this generation a completely different ballgame? How about Nintendo? Did it "go mainstream too quickly"? Will it haunt the company in the future? Share your thoughts!


Sony CEO Kaz Hirai Says Core Gamers Should Be Served Before The Mainstream


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