Electronic Entertainment Expo 1999
"I'll Be Back"
by Jim Bennett (May 1999)
Nintendo and LucasArts Entertainment highlighted some of their new PC and console games based on the upcoming Star Wars movie, Episode 1. The game, "Star Wars Episode I Racer" was demonstrated on huge video screens and was a big hit with attendees, judging by the number of people crowding the display area. Talking with several of these people from the 20 something to 60 something age range, they all planned to buy the games and see the movie -- some said they would go several times.
From a business perspective, that translates into excellent gross margins, regardless if the film is a critical success or not. Historically, LucasArts and their partners have done quite well with spin-offs and merchandise arrangements. I see no exception here, as the racer game appears to offer exciting game play, especially the Podracing sequences where the racer is skimmed across massive landscapes at speeds up to 600 mph. The creators of this game were successful in capturing the speed and excitement of racing, while forcing players to develop better racing skills and quick reflexes to win. Finally, the Indiana Jones and The Infernal Machine game garnered quite a following and their demo area as well.
Nintendo took a page out of the James Bond play book by creating Perfect Dark, a female spy who has adventures in the Golden Eye genre. Who could argue with the success of the James Bond films which have endured for almost four decades? Having a game leverage the success of a film seems to be a winning combination, but only if it's done with creativity and targeted to the correct market segment.
Dolphin is Nintendo's development name for their new DVD based gaming system. It's being developed with Panasonic (Unique DVD technology) and IBM (Gekko 0.18 micron, 400 MHz Copperhead technology) and can play DVDs and also may be incorporated with CE devices. I like the DVD aspect, but hold reservations on its use with the CE devices, since they continue to lose market share and have not been embraced by consumers. This is a one billion dollar deal and a Q4 2000 launch is planned. The effort is designed to take gaming to a new level, but there are many other exciting competitive developments out there such as Internet gaming and less expensive, more stable operating systems such as Linux. It's a tough call to predict the outcome, but I don't want to underestimate the power of these strong players (Nintendo, Panasonic and IBM) at any time.
© 1999 Jim Bennett All rights reserved.