09/29/2008

What The Kids Of Today Are REALLY Up To (At Least When It Comes To Video Games)

by Matthew Hawkins

So its super late Sunday night, going into Monday, and am busying catching up on all the stuff that’s piled up since Friday (including an iPhone game design spec that I totally promised to deliver earlier this evening… oops), because I was out and about most of this past weekend due to the New York Anime Fest. And how was it? Well, you’ll all have to find out tomorrow! That’s when I’ll be presenting both Hilary’s report, and mine. Along with a shitload of pics of cosplayers, which I know is what most of you folks really want. But till then, I guess I should perhaps mention….

The NY Games Conference went down this past Thursday and Friday, though I only attended a tiny bit of day one and completely passed on day two, mostly because what little I saw and heard was so ridiculously bad. I guess I feel bad ragging on the event, since it was their first time and there’s always going to be kinks right out of the gate, but it was a tad bit more than the usual well intentioned but ultimately poorly executed attempts at emulating the west coast video game scene in the east that us New Yorkers have somewhat become accustomed to. It was no GDC that’s for sure. Not for a millisecond. First off, there were barely any people at the thing. Which I guess was not much of a shock; aside from the fact that virtually no one knew about it, the price of admission was hella steep, even by trade event standards. For $1,000, you can get almost an entire week’s worth of programming in San Fran, while that same amount was being asked for around this time around for just two days worth of sessions, which saw little focus, let alone substance.

The first panel I checked out was The Challenges and Opportunities For Monetizing Virtual Worlds and MMOGs that I just knew wouldn’t be able to offer much in just an hour. Though I did learn that some SERIOUS money is being made: one publisher of some free, web based MMO from China is raking in about 600-700 million a year just from micro-transactions alone. Pretty much all of that is being generated by users who buy dumb little accessories for their tiny little virtual selves, like cool hairstyles, designer threads and other dumb little pieces of crap that’s not even real. But I was more or less annoyed by Sean Kane who was part of the panel, a guy that anyone in the local NYC game dev scene is already familiar; he’s a lawyer that decided to show up at all the IGDA events a few years back when the scene was starting to get some serious action, since he knew that people would need legal advice. So I guess he’s basically a vulture, but he’s also a nice guy, so in his defense, he’s just every other lawyer out there, just trying to make a buck. But throughout the panel, he just kept making these stupid remarks, to remind everyone that no matter how things might look for everyone, thanks to the abysmal up state of the economy, he’ll still be raking in the cash. Gee, thanks.

The panel afterwards though, which was actually the main reason why I bothered to show up in the first place for day one, was quite interesting and actually delievered. Basically eight teens were brought on stage and asked a bunch of questions about their gaming habits, since stuffy business types, even those making video games targeted at such a demographic, ultimately knows little of what are in the minds of kids today. Here’s a rundown of what they said, which might be a real shock to some of you hardcore gamers out there…

- When asked what they liked to do the most, the eight teens, which was split 50/50 when it came to gender, and aged between 14-17, all answered that they like to hang with friends. They all enjoyed gaming, but it wasn’t a priority, so they weren’t hardcore gamers to say the least.

- Every single one of them had access to a Wii. Either they owned one or had a family member that has one. All the girl games, plus one guy owned theirs. Of the remaining dudes, two of them had a Xbox 360 as their main console, while the last one mostly payed games on his laptop. Three of the girls also had 360s at home, though it was not specified if it was theirs or a family members. No one had a PS3.

- One guy was a Nintendo diehard: he has, and still plays on a regular basis, a Wii, GameCube, and N64. The other kid who had no major consoles (well current ones) still played with his GC and N64. Both guys stated that they still get new GC games every once in a while, as did the girls. Mostly because most could be gotten for dirt-cheap second-hand.

- The girls stated that they didn’t like stuff found on the 360 and PS3 because they found their games too difficult. One stated that she still plays Super Mario Bros for the Game Boy Color every-night, because it was “relaxing” like all old games. While she did play more contemporary, more “interactive” games on occasion, mostly against her brother.

- The girls also stated a preference for logic games. One Nintendo fangirl stated that she loves to play Zelda games, but with her brother in a non-competitive manner; they would take turns trying to solve puzzles. A strong affinity for stories in general was also stated.

- Of the kids that had access to a 360, everyone played games online via XBL, but all the girls only liked playing with friends.

- None of them played PC games proper, except for the one kid who mostly plays with his laptop. The other guys only gamed via their television. The girls all stated that they played various online, casual games.

- Of those who use Facebook, all the girls admitted to playing games on it, and was a prime motivation for joining for some. Also, that laptop kid engages it in as well, and stated that he’s really into some kind of Pokemon game that’s available there. The girls knew exactly what he was talking about.

- As for where they get their information, they all stated that they go their info from friends. Next were television commercials. After that, it was magazines like Nintendo Power and Game Informer. None of them, with the exception of the two guys that own and regularly play 360, goes on the web. But even then, they only go to Nintendo.com, Xbox.com and PlayStation.com. Sometimes YouTube to see something in action. No blogs, no message boards, no nothing. Most had friends who frequent such places and are the ones they go to for questions and answers. Sometime their local Gamestop employee (ugh).

- For the two Xbox dudes, XBLA demos are pretty handy. One is a diehard Guitar Hero fan, so he has purchased a number of songs. Otherwise, no one else purchases and downloads games for the Wii. The Nintendo kid who only plays their stuff was in fact unaware of such an ability But he has no WiFi at home, so I guess that sorta makes sense.

- Almost all of them check out games based on their favorite movies, despite knowing that they are usually bad.

- Each generally gets a game a month. Mostly at Gamestop because they can trade in their old games for new ones, though they also usually get used titles since they’re all on tight budgets.

- It was stated by the moderator that whatever they said would not get them in trouble with their parents in the audience, so they would be more honest, but when one of the girls blurted out that she owns GTA4, she immediately went “I don’t know how that happened! Isn’t it illegal for someone to sell that kind of game to me?!”

- If they had to chose between games and television, games came up on top. Almost none of them watch much TV.

Third up was the closing keynote. Odd I know, since keynotes are usually done at the start of the day. It was also what made me practically storm out of the building. The topic was centered on the iPhone as an emerging platform, and I would also have to assume that when it comes to making a keynote, you kinda want someone who is actually well known and respected, instead of a guy that happens to be doing well enough (maybe?) because his firm was simply the first out of the game with a ton of mediocre (or flat out shitty) iPhone games (which I guess counts for something, but still…), and how “humorous” Power Point presentations usually are not, but when the guy began telling people about 20 minutes into his presentation that the iPhone does not have any buttons, I almost lost it. I’m pretty sure the people who all the professionals in attendance who paid about a grand to learn about the secrets of success all pretty much knew the obvious already. The next day had two sessions that sounded really interesting, Gamers in the Military and Life as a Pro Gamer, but when I realized that each was given just 15 minutes, I decided to say “screw this.” Besides, I had to spend most of Friday getting the cover of the fort90zine ready for the screen printers anway. So re: the NY Games Conference, I will be HIGHLY surprised if another one of these actually happens.

Oh, and one last thing, a bit of follow-up really: anyone that’s interested in hearing what Dave Maruo has to say about Mortal Kombat vs DC, since he spent a great deal more time with it than I (due to me having to leave rather abruptly and prematurely, as previous mentioned), plus given how he knows more than a thing or two about fighting games (at least when compared to myself, which might not be saying much, I know) can simply check out his write-up over here.

  • http://www.wadjeteyegames.com Dave Gilbert

    Yeesh. I totally forgot about this thing. $1000 for two nights? That’s probably why I didn’t bother remembering it.

  • allan

    i feel infinitely better about missing that conference. ‘preciate it.

  • Sonictail

    Wow, that’s some interesting knowledge, I wonder what a wider sample of teenage gamers would find. But the first media outlet that they read being nintendo power and game informer, that depresses me.

  • http://www.fort90.com Matt

    Yeah, well, Nintendo Power isn’t too surprising, since its the official voice of the company in print form, plus given how rabid its audience tends to be, plus their relatively young age, and now the internet is not best place for them at time, it certainly has its place. Now Game Informer, that publication is simply bad from top to bottom, no matter how you shake it.

    As for the results, believe it or not, much of what they said is indeed the norm. I passed along the info over at Gaming Age Forums, and not surprisingly, many dismissed the info as being non-scientific (which I never claimed it to be) and bullshit, since it sounds so crazy to be true. But over at Nick Mag, we do all sorts of studies when it comes to our audience and what their habits are. And most do not have access to next-gen hardware such as the PS3, or even the 360. When Sony approached us for coverage for LittleBigPlanet, they were confused, even offended by our lack of interest, but truth be told, no kid is playing the damn thing. They’re simply not.

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