Bill Nielsen, director, Xbox Marketing.
REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 13, 2003 — At a time when nearly half of all U.S. households own a video-game console, kids of all ages are begging for the hottest video games this holiday shopping season to play via their television or computer. The popularity of digital entertainment is underscored by the fact that sales of video games in 2002 hit a record 6.9 billion — twice the sales of home DVD players or digital cameras. Analysts predict that 2004 will be another top-selling year.
With more young children and teenagers playing video games comes the demand for top-quality choices this holiday season, but how do consumers know which video game is the best for the person on their gift lists?
Press Pass spoke with Bill Nielsen , director of Xbox marketing, about Microsoft’s commitment to educating parents and grandparents about video games and helping consumers determine how to purchase the appropriate games this holiday.
“Since the beginning, Microsoft gaming experts have considered age-appropriate content a No. 1 priority, whether it’s a game for the popular Xbox video-game console or a PC game for Microsoft Windows,” explains Nielsen. “We also strongly encourage families to utilize the parental control functions in the Xbox video game system in conjunction with an industry-approved ratings system. It is important to note that Xbox is the only console that provides built-in parental controls to ensure that kids play games appropriate for their age group.”
Press Pass: How do you find the perfect video game in a nutshell?
Nielsen: Interestingly enough, our formula is straightforward, similar to the process one would conduct to buy a new TV or DVD player. We all know that people love to receive software and video games as gifts. The key is to do your homework and get educated before you buy.
Press Pass: If I’m unfamiliar with video games in general and am making a purchase for the first time, how do I get started?
Nielsen: First of all, please understand that you are not alone. In the age of digital entertainment, parents, grandparents, friends and relatives are left with holiday wish lists that can make their heads spin. We recommend having a conversation with your child or the person you are buying the gift for, and ask them about their specific game preferences. For example, do they play games on a PC, or on a console like Xbox? It’s important to know which console your gift recipient owns because games are not compatible across all systems.
“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and “Tetris World’s Live” are part of a special holiday offering from Xbox that also includes the Xbox console and two months of Xbox Live, all for US$179.99. Click image for high-res version of this box shot.
Next, find out what types of games the person prefers. There are a wide variety of new titles coming out for Xbox and all can be found at www.xbox.com. In fact, Microsoft will have approximately 400 new Xbox games available by the holiday season, appealing to all skill levels and interests. If you’re looking for some popular selections, check out Sports, Racing, Strategy, Flying, Action, and Simulation games. Some of the most anticipated titles include “Project Gotham Racing 2,” games under the new XSN brand such as “NFL Fever 2004,” “Amped 2,” “Top Spin,” as well as “Grabbed by the Ghoulies,” to name a few.
In addition to specific game titles, an Xbox Live subscription or starter kit is another way to expand the Xbox gaming experience. Gamers can join the 500,000 member strong Xbox Live community playing online using the console’s built-in Ethernet port and communicating via a headset. This year, Xbox Live is taking the service to a whole new level with the release of XSN, the first truly virtual sports league for any video game console. Gamers can set up a league on XSNsports.com and track up-to-date stats on your PC throughout the season. Additional Live enabled titles include “Project Gotham Racing 2” and “Crimson Skies.”
Press Pass: Age-appropriate ratings for movies and television have been in existence for quite some time, but what about video game ratings?
Nielsen : Just like movies, video games are assigned a rating to assist with the purchase selection. The ratings are issued by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and Xbox game titles have ratings ranging from EC for “Early Childhood” to M for “Mature.” Fortunately, video game boxes include the ESRB rating located on the lower-right or the lower-left corner of the front of the box. In addition, content descriptors are located on the lower-left or right-corner of the back of the box.
Press Pass: What about the game consoles themselves, do they help parents identify and restrict adult content?
Nielsen: Microsoft Xbox is, in fact, the only video game system that allows parents to restrict kids from playing violent games or from linking to other players over the Internet for multi-player gaming via Xbox Live. This built-in Parental Control System means parents decide which games their children can play based on the ESRB rating.
Press Pass: What other resources are available to ensure children are safe?
Nielsen: One of the best research tools available is your daily newspaper. The daily’s feature video game reviews similar to a movie or book review, in the technology or lifestyle section. Another great resource of course is the Internet. You can find additional gaming information online at these Web sites (links available at right): Xbox.com, Choosing Children’s Software.com, Common Sense Media, and Entertainment Software Rating Board.
Xbox makes a great gift for the entire family. Microsoft is offering an Xbox console, a two-month trial subscription to the Xbox Live Service, and two game titles, “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” from LucasArts and THQ Inc.’s “Tetris Worlds Live,” an enhanced version of the favorite optimized for online play, all for only US$179.99. The console is equipped to allow you to watch DVD movies or play music CDs complete with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound. Additionally, this holiday Microsoft will release Xbox Music Mixer, the first alternative title for Xbox that turns your Xbox console into the ultimate party machine, allowing you to play music, view photos, and sing karaoke.