Major survey-based marketing firm Ipsos Insight has released the findings of a Immersion Corporation-sponsored survey aimed to determine to what degree customers intend to invest in next-generation game consoles, as well as participant interest in force feedback technology. In particular, the research highlighted wants and expectations surrounding the inclusion of force feedback within the upcoming PlayStation 3 console's controller, particularly when playing PlayStation and PlayStation 2 titles.
Sony indicated at E3 in May that the PlayStation 3 would not support force feedback in its new wireless controller, an omission it noted was due to hardware interference caused by its gyroscopic controls. However, Immersion, which is currently in the process
of suing Sony over alleged misuse of controller rumble patents, announced in June
its TouchSense vibration technology that it claimed to be “compatible with motion control and tilt sensing.”
The survey included 1,075 respondents aged 18 and older who both own a video game console and play games for more than four hours each week. Ipsos noted that participants were drawn from a statistical sampling of the Ipsos North America online panel of more than 800,000 U.S. households. According to Ipsos, the study found that Microsoft “may gain” market share over Sony in the next-generation console race over the coming year, with possible “greater gains” as consumers learn about the lack of force feedback within the PlayStation 3 controller and console.
Specifically, the research found that 72 percent of those surveyed noted that rumble/vibration feedback in games enhances the gameplay experience, while only 5 percent agreed with the statement that “the rumble feature should be totally removed from all video console games.” A majority of respondents agreed that force feedback was a positive element in a game, with the following breakdown offering percentages of those who noted that rumble or vibration was an integral part of the gameplay experience:
- Racing (71 percent)
- First-person shooter (70 percent)
- Fighting (66 percent)
- Sports (61 percent)
According to Ipsos, the survey also found that 83 percent of those surveyed consider it to be "important" or "very important" that a new game console be backwards compatible with existing software developed for the previous console generation. Further, 69 percent consider force feedback part of the definition of what it means to be backward compatible. Only 18 percent of those surveyed indicated that they had ever used a controller that featured motion or tilt sensing, and respondents indicted that, if given the choice, the inclusion of rumble with or without motion/tilt sensing was preferred on each of the three next-generation platforms (59 percent on the PlayStation 3, 52 percent on the Xbox 360, and 44 percent on the Wii). Motion/tilt sensing alone was preferred only by 8 percent of respondents for the PlayStation 3, 7 percent for the Xbox 360, and 6 percent for the Wii.
The research found that 74 percent of participants were unaware of Sony's decision to not include force feedback within the PlayStation 3, while 58 percent indicated disappointment at the news. However, Ipsos noted that disappointment may have been lessened by the fact that 82 percent believe there will be or probably will be third-party gamepad controllers that will support vibration feedback for the PlayStation 3 within the first year after its launch. However, the firm was quick to note that the console itself must support this technology for it to work, and thus far Sony has made no such announcement.
Looking to consumer interest in next-generation consoles, 65 percent of respondents noted that they have already purchased or plan to purchase one or more of the next-generation consoles in the coming year. In addition, 48 percent reported an intent to purchase between one and five video console games in the next year. However, the research found that among those surveyed, respondent purchase plans indicate a possible decrease to 48 percent share of next-generation consoles units for the PlayStation 3 by summer 2007, down from 61 percent who indicated ownership of a PlayStation 1 and 2. This is compared to an increase to 37 percent of for the Xbox 360 over 20 for the original Xbox, and a slight decrease to 15 percent for the Wii from the GameCube's 19 percent survey respondent ownership.
Finally, of those who indicated plans to purchase a PlayStation 3, 5 percent of people noted that they will “definitely” not buy the PS3 if the rumble feature is excluded, while 32 percent are somewhat less likely to purchase the upcoming console. 14 percent were found the be unsure how it might affect their purchase decision. 46 percent reported they would definitely still buy or were even more likely to buy a PlayStation 3 given the lack of force feedback.
“There's a lot of chatter about how next-gen consoles and highlighted features may shake up the console market-share picture,” commented Todd Board, senior vice president of Ipsos Insight. “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.”
He added: “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. A whole lot more gamers clearly value rumble than have had any chance to try or place any value on motion/tilt sensing.”