Sony’s forthcoming Playstation 3 gaming console is nothing if not controversial. It’s slated to include a market-leading Blu-ray optical drive, but it’s already almost a year late to market, it’s going to be selling for the highest price ever attached to a console game system (maybe—Sony just dropped the intro price in Japan, at least), and, dadgummit, while Sony is providing wireless game controllers, they will not feature the so-called “rumble” vibration feature Sony first brought to the gaming table back with the Playstation 1.
And, according to market research firm Ipsos, gamers are gonna be pissed when they find out.
Ipsos interviewed 1,075 gamers over the age of 18 who play more than 4 hours of video games each week, and asked them how they felt about rumble features in their game controllers, and how they felt about the PS3 controller lacking a vibration capability. Unsurprisingly, 72 percent of respondents felt that rumble feedback enhanced to their game experience “most of the time,” and 83 percent felt that it was “important” or “very important” for a new game console to maintain backward compatibility with previous consoles, and 69 percent of respondents considered support for vibration feedback to be part of the definition of “backward compatible.”
Now here’s the fun part: Ipsos is speculating that Microsoft and Nintendo may be able to gain market share on Sony’s Playstation empire when Playstation aficionados finally figure out the PS3 will not offer vibration feedback. According to Ipsos, 74 percent of respondents were not aware that Sony didn’t plan vibration feedback for the PS3, 58 percent were disappointed when they found out, and 82 percent thought that there would be third-party controllers with vibration feedback within a year of the PS3 introduction. But so far as has been publicly disclosed, Sony hasn’t even included under-the-hood support for vibration feedback in the PS3, which would make third-party solutions difficult or impossible.
Ipsos thinks lack of vibration feedback may mean gamers will look somewhere besides the PS3 for their virtual knocks. Some five percent of respondents who indicated they were likely to buy a PS3 said the missing rumble support will put the kibosh on their purchase; another 32 percent missing rumble support made them somewhat less likely to buy a PS3. Only 46 percent said they would definitely buy or be more likely to buy a PS3 without rumble support.
What does this mean for Microsoft? If all the next-generation game console systems are to market by December 1, 2006, Ipsos forecasts that Microsoft might be able to its market share from 20 percent for Xbox systems today to 37 percent for the Xbox 360 by summer 2007, while the rumble-free Nintendo Wii would have 15 percent of the market, down from the 19 percent currently enjoyed by the GameCube.
“What’s interesting about this study is that, although it focuses on what many may see as a secondary purchase driver, in fact a majority of console gamers use rumble/vibration quite regularly and clearly value it, and a majority expect existing rumble/vibration capability to carry forward to the PS3,” said Todd Board, senior vice president of Ipsos Insight. “In addition, a majority don’t currently realize Sony’s PS3 controllers won’t allow for this backwards compatibility, and that there’s no particular reason to expect third-party solutions to fill that gap. In light of the price premium we’ve all seen discussed regarding PS3, this appears to be a potentially hidden but pervasive risk factor attached to their release strategy.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Ipsos’s projections shake out, come June or July of 2007.
Edit 9/25/06: We originally reported that the wii will not have vibration in the systems controller. The controller will in fact have rumble capabilities. We apologize for the misinformation. – Ian Bell