Just as it’s hard to imagine the vastness of our immense and growing universe, so too is it difficult to form a clear picture of the video game industry. It has expanded so quickly and in so many directions – countless devices now serve as game platforms, and almost everyone, in some way, is a gamer – that’s it’s nigh impossible to perceive the industry in its entirety.
With that in mind, one ought to lick a bit of salt before taking in the results of The Great Game Survey, a piece of research conducted by IGN, one of the world's most popular video game publications. More than 60,000 of the site's readers were polled in April with an eye to gauging gamers’ wants and interests leading up to next week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. Results suggest the site's readership still slants toward what might be considered hardcore gamers – a group which, though often (and sometimes notoriously) vocal, doesn’t necessarily reflect wider public opinion.
Take, for example, the survey’s finding that 75 per cent of respondents felt neutral or negative about motion controls, and that half say they are not enthusiastic or excited about motion sensor gaming. Given the record-breaking sales of Microsoft’s Kinect motion sensor, which has lifted the Xbox 360 to the top of NPD’s monthly hardware charts and kept it there for more than a year, it would seem millions of non-IGN readers might disagree.
That said, hardware manufacturers may want to pay attention to some of the survey’s other findings.
Respondents were petitioned to indicate their interest in next-generation consoles from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. Just over 60 per cent said they were considering purchasing the next Xbox or PlayStation even though both systems remain unannounced. Only 40 per cent were interested in Nintendo’s next console – this fall's Wii U – despite that it was designed, at least in part, to appeal to the core gaming demographic that the Wii largely ignored.
What’s more, only 3 per cent of IGN’s readers say they would spend $400 on Nintendo’s new console, a stark contrast to the one-third of respondents who said they would spend that amount on a new system from Microsoft or Sony. Eleven per cent said they would spend even more than $400 on the next Xbox or PlayStation.
Interestingly, IGN’s readers seem unenthusiastic about the notion of gaming in the cloud. Only 10 per cent expressed interest in a unified cloud-based system, a platform some pundits have predicted to be the inevitable future of the medium.
But perhaps the strangest revelation from the survey comes in the games that IGN readers are most interested in learning about at E3. It comes as no surprise that new entries in genre-defining franchises like Grand Theft Auto, Assassin’s Creed and Halo are at the top of the list. It’s odd, though, that Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 – the game most would predict will become the best selling of 2012 – languishes down in 9th place, behind much less mainstream titles like Metal Gear Rising and Borderlands 2.
Does this suggest that Activision’s gargantuan military shooter series is finally losing momentum? Or is it an indication that IGN’s readers don’t necessarily reflect the interests of the broader gaming public?
I suspect the latter. But one ought never to discount the persuasive power of hardcore gamers. They are, after all, the same lot who successfully petitioned BioWare to amend/append the ending of its millions-sold Mass Effect trilogy. They may no longer represent all or even the majority of gamers, but there’s little denying their influence.