The E3 convention, held in Los Angeles in the US, is arguably the most significant event on the calendar for the games industry, where new products are announced and business discussions and decisions made.
Highlights of the 2010 convention included the unveiling of a new console by Nintendo – the 3DS, a 3D-capable machine that does not require the use of special glasses to gain the 3D effect, as well as motion control systems from both Sony (Move for PlayStation 3) and Microsoft (Kinect for Xbox 360).
Additionally, a whole new range of A-list games were announced for all three consoles, and the overall enthusiasm for the event from both press and public was high.
What was your reaction to E3?
I think it’s fantastic. It’s a broad statement, but as an event it’s the place to be if you’re in gaming. The Nintendo 3DS is going to be remarkable, the Sony Move is also going to be very exciting with some of the new games coming out.
From your company’s perspective what were some of the significant announcements made?
Because we do gaming distribution for the independents retailers, and we are a Sony and Nintendo licensed dealer, the announcements from both those companies were very important to us.
From our software distribution point of view, some of the other companies we look after include Kalypso, City Interactive and Black Bean, and they have some very good products coming out. With Black Bean, we’ve got World Championship Rally, which looked impressive at E3. The new Sniper: Ghost Warrior game that we will distribute with City Interactive will be due out in late July on the Xbox 360 also got some massive coverage, and looks exceptionally good.
A number of the large publishers, such as Square Enix and EA announced they would be throwing a significant amount of weight behind digital distribution and online services models, is that something as a retail distributor that you’re concerned about?
No, because it could create other opportunities. It’s all at the moment to be worked out, but certainly there are opportunities in terms of downloading for some profit in Australia due to the way in which our Internet is structured.
I see some opportunities coming from that. Obviously there are some downsides as well, but the industry is so big now that no, while it will affect some business, for the next five years I don’t see it being too significant.
What is the market like at the moment for video game distribution?
It’s a bit flat. There’s not a lot of new releases, which is what creates interest in the market, and it’s the time of the year where there’s a lot of discounting that’s going on amongst retailers. But as soon as you start getting some good product in, in the new financial year, it lifts quickly.
When do you expect that to start happening this year?
I hope from the end of July, as that would be with our two games coming out, but generally you start seeing some really good quality games coming in early August into the school holidays in September.
Gran Turismo 5, for instance is going to be and awesome game, and it’s coming in November. Our own World Rally Championship will be the end of September, that could move 35,000 units.
The area that’s a bit concerning I think is the Wii – that’s a bit flat, and certainly needs to get some quality games coming for it to start picking up. That said, Nintendo did make a few big game announcements at E3 – such as the Zelda games.
The 3DS and PlayStation 3D’s capabilities both sound incredible, but sitting at my desk and looking at the presentations through a 2D monitor, it’s hard to see the experience on offer. Do you think marketing 3D games will be difficult, given the visual medium is not as effective?
I don’t think so. It’s still very early days for 3D technology of course. I’m not sure when Nintendo are even planning on launching this - I’m thinking it’ll be late next year - and in that time I think marketers will come up with alternative strategies. I’m not an expert marketer though.
What about Sony and Microsoft products, in terms of Kinect and the Move. What opportunities do you see for those in the market?
We don’t do lots with Kinect, because we’re not a licensed Xbox distributor, so it’s not something we’ve spent a lot of time with. But from a Sony Move point of view, I see this as another growth in the industry. I’ve been here 10 years, and all of these new developments bring extra opportunities. It makes the PS3 more family orientated, and enhances the gaming.
What kind of response have you had to the Move from your retail partners?
Lots and lots and lots – everybody is looking forward to it. The enthusiasm was evident at E3 where you could see people playing it, and the lines of people waiting to play.
How do you see the market evolving over the next 12 months? I think the new concepts of both Sony and Microsoft – particularly Sony, in the sense that it will continue to grow the market. All of these things add a lot more excitement to it. The Wii brought in a whole new consumer base, and I think that’s what you’ll find with PlayStation 3 enhancements.