Monday, October 2, 2006

I bought a new game console today...

Nope, not a Wii (can't get 'em yet), nor a PS3 (can't get'em yet, and money doesn't grow on trees!)

I bought a V-Smile "TV Learning System" which, despite the name, is a straight-up game console, right down to the razor'n'blades business model.

It competes head-to-head with a comparable product from Leapfrog. The leapfrog one looked more appealing, quality-wise, but the V-tech (the parent company that owns the V-smile brand) one supported two controllers. I have twins. You do the math.

First off, let me say this: It went straight back to the store. The video quality is awful, and the two games we got, while listed as suitable for 3+ years, clearly aren't. They are very comparable to other products listed as 4+ (e.g. the Leapfrog leapster or l-max). And unlike some of the leapfrog stuff, they've done a very poor job of wrapping any kind of learning around their games. They are really just very lame games with letters/numbers/shapes wrapped around them. (e.g. "duck under/leap over monsters while collecting the letters!" does not a languages skills game make!)

Now, despite the fact that I'm returning it, I'm glad I bought it. Made me think a little about this business as a whole.

Some questions it raised:

  1. Does DFC/IDC/etc include such products in their analysis of the size of the market? Leapfrog made about 650M last year, and the 'learning toys' division of V-Tech made about $400M. Granted, it's a wide range of products, but with things like these and the handhelds (leapster, v-smile equivalent, Fly, etc) making up a significant portion (judging just by percentage of their retail shelf space devoted), there's somewhere around a half-billion dollars in *gaming* HW and SW unaccounted for.
  2. Why is the quality so crap? I can't beleive that the delta in the BOM to get to a *half decent* level of quality isn't worth the extra customers it would pick up. The quality of the software experience is one thing, but the video quality was so low that I had an immediate negative reaction to it. How many others returned it for the same reason?
  3. Would a better path be to license an old console design and wrap a different form factor around it? License an SNES or Sega Genesis design and stick a different cartridge connector on it. Would be miles ahead of what they are delivering now.

Anyhow. It's an interesting space, and another example of an overlooked games market along the lines of what Raph talked about in his Austin GDC presentation.


Darius Kazemi said...

The quality is crap because V-Tech's corporate motto is "Our Quality Is Crap (TM)". Have you ever used one of their cheapo phones? Don't.

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