When it comes to the age old console war, one key element in winning that war is promotion. If you want to be the slickest console on the market you better splash the cash and get your product noticed. There are several ways of doing this, from the all singing all dancing website to the little flash banner ads that swamp your favourite sites. This series of articles is aimed at why design and promotion is important to the games industry and through it we will be looking at virals, adverts, TV, websites and games design.
Today we will be looking at the main three console’s websites, discussing why they work, why they look the way they do and discussing their target audiences.
Lets start off with the Nintendo site. As soon as you select your region you are whisked into a world of colour and imagination (and advertisements); in fact the site is currently one giant advert for Zelda Spirit Tracks. The downfall of this way of promoting something so heavy is that when landing on the site your lead to believe this should be a IGN style “skip this advert” page.
The other thing you will notice when landing on the Nintendo site is that there is sound. I’m a firm believer that if you want to hear sounds you should have the choice to turn it on, not scramble for the mute button – but I’m getting old and don’t like new things.
The Nintendo site is clearly aimed at a younger audience, with pages about the actual products aimed at an older audience. A philosophy of getting the Kids excited with colour and activity then pass it on to Mummy and Daddy for the credit card….simple. The pages for children and colourful whilst the pages for us regular sized adults are stark, white, grey and all very sensible for what is essentially a very fun company. The Nintendo brand is on the cleanest on the market, where Sony go dark and Xbox are somewhere in the middle.
Brand Thought: white, the colour of purity and virginity. Perhaps this is why their products are youthful and shy.
When I loaded the PS3 site on my Mac in Firefox it didn’t work. The flash just wasn’t there, not a great start but Safari jumped to the rescue and loaded the Flash reel. The site is much darker than its competitors, telling me they are aiming for an older audience, perhaps because of the technology located within the box being pricey but I believe PlayStation has always gone for an older audience.
The layout of the site is more blog orientated than any other consoles site, they seem to want to sell the lifestyle of the site rather than the products. Essentially if you purchase this wonderful PS3 your life will become richer and you will make more friends. The home page features some nice movement and loads of links. The actual PS3 portion of the Sony site is much more static, not much movement to be had on this section just a whopping great big banner, half the size of my 24″ screen displaying what looks like ‘my first 3D project’ artwork. But do you know what? It works. It’s the cut and paste approach to design, the scrapbook idea that never gets old.
The thing that I don’t like about the site is that there is no consistency in the pages, going from tab to tab throwing different design ideas at you. The brand seems to be lacking in direction, almost like everyone is pitching in and updating pages without any discussion on what they should all look like. Unity my friends. Unity.
Brand Thought: dark, promoting dark, gritty, close to the “cutting” edge. There is no fun to be had with dark colours, just serious powerful gaming.
Microsoft’s Xbox 360
The Xbox website is probably the nicest looking site out of all three; clean, fun and very much on brand. The site is immediately split into Games, Entertainment, Movies, Music and Social Networking. No fuss, just a few rotating banners about what’s new. This makes heading to the sections easy to navigate. But, alas, “Domino’s” blares out at me.
The site seems to be aimed at a wide audience, keeping it simple and sharp not alienating any potential costumers. Out of all of the three main console websites that I have looked at today, the Xbox site is constant throughout, where Nintendo goes from colourful to dull and the PS3 site seems to be a mixture of random ideas, not sticking to any theme or brand.
The site is designed to look like the dashboard on the console, interactive and fun. The games section really comes to life, trailers everywhere, jumping 3D boxes and loads of cool Avatar action. Out of all that we’ve looked at, this site tells me “were an entertainment company”. Every page jumps to life with Avatar fun… except the boring support pages, but I guess that’s to be taken as granted. Nintendo did the whole Avatar thing first but Xbox seem to do it better.
Brand Thought: green. Everyone loves a little lime in their Corona, right? Green to me signals moving forward, fun, dare I say it “whacky”, perhaps even a little adventurous.
The last thing to say about all the sites is that they all feature some form of community and login area, a must for companies promoting Entertainment brands and social networking. We may be all playing MW2 online but every headshot is a potential new contact for your ever growing friends list. The websites need to reflect these changes to your personal gaming space and although I cannot speak for them all, they seem to do that well.
The refreshing thing is that most sites promote lifestyle and good times, not sitting around with empty Pot Noodle cups everywhere, sweating in the darkness of your own doom. Gamers are the new Rock Stars, dontcha’know!
Over to you? do you really care if a console has a good website? what does the site need to do for you? Is this just the ramblings of a mad man? Discuss.