Game Wave Carves Its Own Niche in the Video Game Market
By Jim Bray
With new, high definition versions of the popular X-Box and PlayStation going head to head in an increasingly crowded marketplace, does the world really need another, brand new game platform?
In the Grand Scheme of Things, probably not. But a Canadian company (well, a Toronto company, anyway) thinks it has discovered a market that's being under served currently by the big game makers, and it's determined to fill that need.
The company is ZAPit Games, and they're taking on the big boys, er, big children, as personified by Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. Their Game Wave console eschews traditional game controllers in favor of what are basically conventional, though proprietary, remote controls – something that sets it apart from the competition already because you don't need fifteen fingers per hand to play it.
On its own, this opens up the potential for a broader market than traditional gamers, since many people (myself included) have the dickens of a time remembering which button to push when (let alone identifying these buttons!).
It also limits the functionality somewhat, of course, but that isn't necessarily a fatal blow. It merely means the games have to be more straightforward to use. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, either.
And it allows ZAPiT to go against the traditional grain with its marketing. Rather than flogging the Game Wave to kids already glued to their PlayStations or Wiis, they're pushing the system as the perfect platform for family gatherings, parties or other mixers (as long as they're relatively small). That seems like a niche in which they just may find success.
The Game Wave console is a dome-topped and nearly featureless (in appearance, not function) gray plastic hunk that comes with four color-coded remote controls in the box, with batteries included. You can add another pair of remotes if you want, expanding the game play to six people at a time.
The system also comes bundled with a game called "4 Degrees – The Arc of Trivia," which they say offers 25 hours of no-repeat trivia play in which the contestants go head to head against each other and the clock. I don't know about you, but I think I'd be ready to throw the partiers out of my house long before they hit 25 hours of game play, but never let it be said that it isn't better to offer your customers too much rather than too little.
ZAPiT sent me a Game Wave console to try, and included with it another trivia game and a Blackjack one as well. I tried it out in the bosom of my family, ready to dump all over it as a "who cares" product in a world of glitzy games. I was convinced – without having tried it – that it was a product in search of a market.
And maybe it is - but darnitall I liked the Game Wave, and I think ZAPiT's marketing strategy may be bang on. I can see the Game Wave fitting nicely into the party or family gathering niche, an attractive choice for people who may play "parlor games" but who aren't into the "traditional" game console.
The graphics and audio are okay; kids who cut their teeth on an X-Box shoot 'em up may find them a tad bland, but that's not what the Game Wave is about.
ZAPiT offers other games, including a word search game and a variation of "hangman." I haven't tried them, but if they're anything like the ones I did try, they'd probably be good party or mixer fare, which fits in well with ZAP-iT's preferred niche.
The console sells for $99 U.S. and comes with four remotes (*batteries included) and a storage dock for them. They also throw in audio and composite video cables and the 4-Degrees game. Extra games are $25 each, and an extra pair of remotes (with batteries) is another twenty bucks.
The console also functions as a regular DVD player, though there's no digital audio output port so its Dolby Digital/dts capabilities are limited. But when the kids are screaming for mom and dad to stop playing blackjack and pay attention to them, you can park them in front of "The Little Mermaid" and let them veg out while the grownups hang out with a board game, cocktail, or both.
I have no idea if the Game Wave will be a success, but if nothing else it's an interesting niche product that snag some sales from customers who may not be into gaming platforms per se.
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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