"Xbox's strategy for the first two holidays was capture the hearts and the minds of the hard core. And now it's the third holiday and how do you grow that base? You get there by getting to more people in the family, girlfriends, younger folks and older folks," said Molly O'Donnell, senior group manager at Xbox.
To expand the appeal of Xbox beyond the boys in the bedroom, Microsoft is bringing popular DVD movie trivia game, "Scene It," exclusively to Xbox. To play, participants use the new Big Button controller, which looks like its creators plucked it straight from the box of a classic board game. The controller comes in four colors, which allow four people to play at the same time and correspond with participants' running scores on screen.
"Scene It" will offer 20 different puzzle or movie trivia-type games. In one, a snapshot of a classic movie scene appears on screen and players have to guess from a list of objects the item that is missing from the scene.
In a nod to the lapsed or new gamer, Microsoft will add a super-simple version of "PacMan," to be distributed exclusively on Xbox Live Arcade. It's the first time in 26 years a new level has been added to the classic.
Also maximizing the allure of "PacMan" to young and lapsed gamers alike, Namco Bandai has dressed up its "Namco Museum" franchise to launch the "Namco Museum Remix," which will ship this fall for Nintendo's Wii console.
The animated game is a remix because Namco added "PacMan" and bright 3-D graphics into classic games like "Galaga," "Mapi" and "Galaxian." In the remixed version of "Galaga," for example, the gamer must protect PacMan from invaders, by shooting them with the ease of the Wii's one-button controller. In total, "Namco Museum Remix" offers 14 classic games, nine of them classics and five of them new versions of classic games.
Music has proven to be a successful entry point for the casual gamer because of franchises like "Guitar Hero," from Activision. The third iteration of the franchise debuted at E3 and will be available to Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 in time for the holiday season.
"Guitar Hero 3" has several features that make it even more accessible to the uninitiated gamer. The new guitar controller, which is patterned after the real Gibson guitar, will be even easier to use because it is wireless. Users can now customize the look of the guitar to have a more individualized experience.
In keeping with the trend of social gaming, the new version has a cooperative and battle mode so gamers can play with a friend or against a friend, even if one is an expert and the other is not.
"I would compare it to 'Tetris' back in the day," said Angela Newman of Red Octane, publisher of "Guitar Hero." "In 'Tetris' you matched up the colors and its blocks that fell from the sky. This is the same thing. It's notes that fall from the sky. So you get to listen to your favorite song and play along and it becomes highly addictive."
New gamers can actually benefit from the trends making their way into hard-core games, such as the movement to individualize the gaming experience. For instance there's the new Weapons feature in "Madden NFL '08" that enables a player to exploit the individual talents of the players he or she chooses, and Front Office, a deeper experience than the previous Owner Mode, which allows a gamer to customize his or her own team from scratch.