The Next Big Drive:
Gaming Transforms Itself Again

by Jacquie Kubin

Video gaming is undergoing some drastic changes. The once niche industry is poised to become a leading entertainment option in living rooms around the world.

Screen shots of Madden NFL 2001's player profiles. © Electronic Arts.

"The new generation of video game consoles are more than just game players," explains Doug Lowenstein, President of the Interactive Digital Software Association. "They have the potential to become the center of the home entertainment universe, rolling games, Internet access and DVD movies into a single set top unit at an affordable price."

Whether they are learning from their children or from the media, general consumers are becoming more aware of game consoles as an entertainment option. According to PC Data, located in Reston, Virginia, one out of three home Internet users plans to purchase one of the next generation game consoles. The reported leading preference at the time of study (June, 2000) was the Playstation 2 with the Sega Dreamcast receiving 22.4%, Nintendo Game Cube 17.2% and X-Box 11.9% of consumer loyalty. Out of 1,500 persons surveyed, the propelling interest for 75% of respondents was the lure of online gaming.

Douglas Lowenstein, President Interactive Digital Software Association. Photo courtesy of BSMG Worldwide.
View distribution statistics of video game software market share by game console (10-15-00). Information courtesy of PC Data.

"The social aspect of this medium is going to cause the most dramatic change with the biggest zeitgeist being the ability for players to partake in multi-player story worlds," says Celia Pearce, Research Associate, Annenberg Center for Communication, University of Southern California ( "Consider that television watchers will have the option of either watching sitcom re-runs or joining in on an engaging, fun game with family or friends who are living in other areas of the world. When that becomes available on the television set for less than $300 there is going to be a major consumer conversion."

On-line gaming via the PC is already a reported entertainment choice for almost 15 million U.S. households in year 2000. Where the real escalation in on-line gaming will be is in the connected console market with Forrester Research predicting it will grow from 5 million households during this year, 2001, to more than 50 million within five years. The 'connected console' is the familiar living room unit which now allows interaction with others through the Internet.

Game console manufacturers, Sega, Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, are competing to create this gaming platform that will combine game software and interactive on-line game play becoming what is termed a 'broadband entertainment hub.'

Broadband because these miniature 'super-computers' will include the components that allow them to network interactive gaming, television/cable broadcast and the Internet together. These new consoles, with either 128-bit or DVD format processors, contain enough horsepower to provide film quality images and hard drives able to store downloaded content, like on-demand movies, that will be available when the consumer wants to watch them.

View Playstation 2 console specifications. © Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc. All rights reserved.. View Nintendo Game Cube console specifications. © Nintendo of America, Inc. All rights reserved. View Sega Dreamcast console specifications. © Sega Corporation. View Microsoft X-box console specifications. © Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

The new game consoles will also be changing the game development community comprised of both first party, those groups owned and directed by the game console manufacturer, and third party, independent groups who create games for console play, developers.

Video gaming is changing, but how broad its future success is will surely hinge on its ability to be all things to all people. Or at least offer something to each member of the family.


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