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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 May, 2004, 08:50 GMT 09:50 UK
Games industry woos 'casual players'
By Darren Waters
BBC News Online in Los Angeles

The giants of the video game world have set their sights on enticing a whole new generation of players in the next few years.

EyeToy stand at E3  (Photo: Jon Jordan)
The EyeToy has proved a surprise hit for Sony
At the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo have all said they wanted to focus attention on "casual gamers".

"We want to reach new consumers who are not gamers," said David Reeves, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe.

All three firms recognise that they will need to attract a new audience in the new few years if they are to meet sales targets for the current generation of games consoles.

Microsoft has declared its intent to make video games a dominant form of "social entertainment" and has launched a new range of online games for its Xbox console to appeal to the less hardcore gamer.

Nintendo believes its range of recognisable video characters, as well as its new handheld device, Nintendo DS, will attract new players.

Seeing and talking

Sony believes devices such as the EyeToy, an interactive camera which allows people to control action on the screen with movement, will attract new consumers.

GLOBAL CONSOLE SALES
PlayStation 2 - 71.3 million
GameCube - 13.9 million
Xbox - 13.7 million
Source: Sony Computer Entertainment America
More than 3.5 million EyeToy cameras have been sold in the last three months, with 2.5 million of that total sold in Europe alone.

"More than 30% of people who bought an EyeToy were new to gaming," said Mr Reeves.

Sony is also launching EyeToy Chat before the end of the year, which will allow users to send video messages to each other using the camera and their PlayStation 2.

Microsoft has also announced it is working on a similar video chat system for its Xbox Live online service.

New players

All three companies recognise that there is still a lot of work to be done before attention turns to Xbox 2, PlayStation 3, or Nintendo's follow-up to the GameCube.

David Gosen, managing director, of Nintendo Europe, said: "This generation of consoles in Europe has seen sales of around 26 to 27 million and forecasts suggest it could be as high as 40 million, which means there is another 15 million consoles to be bought and played by consumers.

Gamers at E3
The games industry already has a dedicated hardcore following
"We are only really just past the half-way mark. As the market grows you get more casual gamers.

"Casual gamers find the value within the GameCube and our characters in the games easily accessible.

"We will grow our base, probably faster than others," he said.

All three companies believe they are ready to woo the new players.

Mr Reeves said Sony had sold 22.1m PS2s in PAL territories, Europe, Middle East and Australia/New Zealand, to date and expected to sell 45m by the end of 2008.

He said Sony had learned a lot from continued sales of its first console PlayStation, which continues to sell well in countries like Iran.

"PlayStation 2 will have a 10-year lifecycle just like PS One," he said.

"We are not going to abandon PS2. There is still a lot of money and mileage in PS2 software."




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