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Mid-generation: The Fight for the Late Adopters

What's going to be the trick to getting casual gamers on board this console generation?

At this point in the generation, most core gamers have made their choice, siding with Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo (or opting out of consoles and turning to PC instead). It's an interesting time then when the first-parties do their best to try and widen the audience of their console, typically by making it more affordable and offering software that's designed to pull in those who might not otherwise buy a console.

Microsoft famously kicked off the generation with this sort of strategy and it backfired completely. The key is that you get the core users on board first, their positive word of mouth is vital to late adopters coming on board. Switch is obviously in a different position than PS4 and Xbox One as it is the new kid on the block, but Labo certainly signals that Nintendo is ready to look beyond the 25-40-year-old veteran gamer males who make up the bulk of today's Switch owners. And while Switch may be some years off its mid-life point, the generational cycle doesn't really change much. If anything Nintendo seized the opportunity to become the "second console" for a bunch of early adopters of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

At this stage of the generational cycle, you're looking for a few different sorts of users. Early adopters looking for a second console. Kids who have grown old enough for a high-end console during the generation (and parents looking for an excuse to get one). More casual gamers who may not feel the urge to have the latest console right away, but still enjoy a game of Call of Duty, FIFA or Madden every now and then. There is a number of ways to appeal to these groups, and they do have some things in common with regards to what they're looking for.

What's key to making a successful mid-generation push then?

Pricing is naturally one key. While both Sony and Microsoft made an effort to double down on core users with PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, the real weapons here are the cheaper slim models that can be bundled with appropriate software. Nintendo naturally are in a different position where they'll likely want to maintain the price as high as possible for as long as possible, but they've got a unique selling point and are still the new ones on the market, so as long as they stay within the same sort of range as PS4 and Xbox One S they should be fine. They also have a particular edge when it comes to the younger segment given their child-friendly profile.

We're very curious to see who gets the privilege of promoting their console with Red Dead Redemption 2 as it drops during the second quarter, and by "gets" we naturally mean who gets to pay up.

There's no doubting that Red Dead Redemption 2 will be key to console sales this spring.

Software for a broader audience

In the past, Sony has had some major success catering to a more casual audience. The height of the Singstar era and even things like Buzz and EyeToy come to mind. This generation they've mainly been focusing on catering to core gamers, but an initiative like PlayLink is clearly aimed at providing an experience that is more approachable to a wider spectrum of gamers. The main problem with PlayLink is visibility, and it's doubtful that Sony reaches out to its intended audience with these smaller digital titles. It does have the potential to gain interest via word of mouth or trying it out at a friend's house but compared to something like Singstar it just doesn't command as much attention.

It should be said though that compared to the competition Sony are throwing out the widest net when it comes to first party offerings, whether that's the Ratchet & Clank remake, their PlayLink titles, providing something as rare as a baseball game (a big deal for the American market), VR offerings, Dreams, to stuff like Gran Turismo, God of War, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and The Last Guardian. Surely, they'd love to find something that's a mainstream hit to go with this, but the breadth on offer exclusively on PlayStation 4 is already a very good selling point.

Sony surely wants to do it again, but what's their next casual stroke of genius?

Where does Nintendo Labo fit into this?

Some were shaking their heads at Nintendo's new cardboard plans, while others were enthused by the potential for fun. Surely, many parents considered the many potential trappings of having their kids play with what's essentially very expensive cardboard. Nintendo has sometimes been said to approach the market with the mindset of a toy company looking to provide the market with the "toy of the year", the limited release of NES Mini being an example of this. And Labo certainly has that sort of feel to it, it could be massively huge one Christmas season, but will it have staying power? Regardless, it's easy to see Labo taking up a lot of space and attention in stores come the next holidays and that's what Nintendo is after. They want a big presence and they're looking to capture a new generation of gamers with Switch and Labo in combination. The one big problem they'll run into is whether or not parents will deem that combination affordable or not, but if there's enough kicking and screaming, kids tend to get what they wish for underneath the Christmas tree.