How to Launch a Video Game System

To launch a video game system successfully one must do the following things. Before I go into these basic ideas I would like to point out that million and even billion dollar companies have launched systems that the average hardcore gamer would point out as lacking something extremely basic, i.e. a good controller. These people deciding on the system’s launch can be paid hefty sums of money, yet still make very basic mistakes. How much money were people being paid at Microsoft to plan the launch of the XBox? They launched the system with a controller that was way too big for anyone with average sized hands. I will go over what every basic console system needs to have at initial inception to be successful.

Make sure the packaged controller is awesome. This is what the end user is going to use to play the games which is why they spend $200+ on a system in the first place. The Playstation and Playstation 2 controllers have become the standard designs. I good starting point would be to do a prelaunch product test and have the test users compare the controller to the existing console controllers. Make sure it compares favorably against what is already out on the market.

Don’t let a “dry spell” hit the system in the 2-3 months following the release of your system. This often happens with the latest console systems due to the current 2-4 year development cycle for a quality game. Keeping up the anticipation level for the system is key to selling the system. Nintendo is famous for having only a handful of games at launch time. Having backwards compatibility is one way of diminishing this problem.

Know the expectations of the target market. If you want to sell a console in Japan you will need several killer RPGs. Without these you will never reach mass market levels in Japan. RPGs have the longest development cycles so you will need to start production of these games 1-2 years before system launch. In the American market you need a broad spectrum of good games. Make sure EA is producing sports games for your console. In the Korean market you need great online games. Starcraft still rules in Korea, so you would want to make a game that trumps Starcraft.

Make the hardware conform to the loose standards in the market. The current loose standards are a hard drive, ethernet connection, DVD drive, and 4 controller ports. System add-ons have historically never been successful and I believe they never will be. Try to anticipate the market needs for the next 5 years which is very difficult. This is one area that is difficult to fault the game companies because they have to balance hardware and pricing which leads to tough design decisions.