System Seller vs. System Buyer
A lot of press time is being spent talking about how the new Nintendo DS game 'Nintendogs' is for teenage girls. If the game brings more girls (and women) to gaming in general, that is all the better. But my experience has shown me that this game is appealing to gamers of all ages, genders and genres. It is not just a gimmick, it is a fun and engaging experience that gets right to the heart of gaming. I saw my first 'live' Nintendog from my handheld gaming 'partner in crime' from work, who is over 30 and quite proud of his Nintendog. And my boys would wet themselves with delight with delight if I would buy the game - and let them use it, of course. But so what is the big deal about the 'young girl' slant on marketing?
Perhaps it is the distinction between the 'system buyer' and the 'system seller'. When my parents got me a GameBoy back in '89 (yes, I was 23 at the time!), it came with Tetris. Now, when you buy a PSP, most everyone gets Lumines. These are 'system buyers' - you wouldn't buy a PSP simply to play Lumines any more than you would have bought a GameBoy simply to play Tetris. But they are great games that are a blast and therefore a 'must have' for owners of the systems.
So what is a 'system seller'? It is a game that - in and of itself - makes you want the hardware. Many people saw Halo as the XBox's system seller. But I think that it was more of a 'fence pusher' - many people were ready to buy and just needed something to make them say 'yep, gotta have it'. Even so, there haven't been too many games that could make a 'system seller' claim in recent memory.
But there are people who had no desire for a Nintendo DS suddenly running around with one and rejoicing at each new trick their Nintendog can do. Are they Game Geeks like me? No - they are relative non-gamers, which amounts largely to women and girls. And if, as was the case with the Sims and some other games, this brings more talented and intelligent people into gaming, we will all benefit from it.
I also have to say that there is some mixture of irony and satisfaction seeing once mega-arrogant Nintendo seeing this huge success so soon after once underdog Sony proclaimed Nintendo as pretty much for kids and not worth consideration. I want to see vibrant competition in the handheld space over good games that capture the imagination like Nintendogs and Advance Wars: Dual Strike, not very graphically intensive console rehash garbage like Dead to Rights Reckoning and Death Jr.