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How Much do Video Games Matter When Buying a Console

4 minute read | May 2010

The prevailing logic goes: make a must-have video game and it will have an influence on the consumer’s decision to invest in the necessary hardware. While it is assumed that high profile game titles can move gaming systems, recent Nielsen Games research suggests that consumers are driven by a myriad of factors. Surprisingly, the purchase of a specific game title actually ranks lowest in a list of purchase motivators.

Using the recent platform exclusive God of War III (GOW III) release as a lens, Nielsen explored the motivating factors for purchasing a Playstation 3. GOW III was greeted with extensive media coverage, midnight launch parties at video game retailers and excellent critical reviews. Certainly Sony and the gaming industry at large expect that GOW III will achieve blockbuster sales figures and stoke interest in the PS3. But how important are specific games titles, even those that are destined to be platinum sellers, in motivating potential hardware buyers considering the many entertainment capabilities of present-gen consoles?

Over a three week period prior to, during and after GOW III was released, Nielsen interviewed more than 700 active gamers ages 7-54 who do not currently own a PS3 but are definitely or probably interested in acquiring the system in the next six months to better understand the factors behind their purchase intent.

Among those gamers motivated to acquire a PS3 because they are looking forward to buying a specific game, GOW III was the clear winner. However, overall results indicate that specific game titles rank as the least frequently cited reason for being interested in purchasing a PS3.

When asked to rank the five most important reasons (out of 10 possible, with a rank of 1 indicating the most important reason) for being interested in buying a PS3, gamers included “I am looking forward to buying a specific game” 12% of the time, lagging behind all the other potential motivators by a substantial margin.

PS3 Purchase Motivators Included in 1-5 Ranking
RANK Motivating factor % citing motivator in 1-5 ranking
1 I want the Blu-ray capabilities 65%
2 The recent price reduction has put the system in my price range 63%
3 I like the library of games available 62%
4 I want to upgrade from my PlayStation 2 62%
5 My friends have a PlayStation 3 and I want to connect and play games with them 56%
6 I am interested in PS3’s other online capabilities 50%
7 I am interested in PS3’s other multimedia capabilities 49%
8 I am interested in playing multi-player games online via PlayStation Network 42%
9 Offers that bundle a PS3 and HDTV have motivated me to want to purchase both 36%
10 I am looking forward to buying a specific game 12%
Other 4%
Source: The Nielsen Company

Base: Those interested in purchasing a PS3 in the next six months

While Blu-ray capability and the PS3 price reduction are included most often overall, there is evidence that suggests that software and gaming strongly motivate these potential buyers, with the library of games cited by 62%. In addition, the desire to connect and play games with friends who already own a PS3 and the ability to play multiplayer games on the PlayStation Network that speak to the appeal of PS3 as a gaming platform are also included by many gamers, indicating that these respondents are motivated to purchase the system in part for its gaming capabilities. A specific game as the motivator is included by only one in every eight gamers (12%) intending to buy the system

Despite the fact that buying a specific game does not rank high on the list of reasons for acquiring a PS3, GOW III was the most popular game among those who mentioned that a particular title is a Top 5 motivator of their console purchase. Across a list of 20 PS3 titles including Heavy Rain, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Little Big Planet and Gran Turismo 5, one-third (33%) of gamers indicate GOW III as their first choice. With no other game garnering more than 13% of the first choice vote (Final Fantasy XIII comes in as a distant runner-up) and most titles falling at 3% or below, the strong appeal of GOW III is readily apparent.

Not to be overlooked is that nearly half (49%) cited interest in the console for its multimedia capabilities. This is especially interesting because the tagline for Sony’s recent marketing campaign, “It only does everything,” touts the entertainment versatility of the PS3 even as it features specific high-profile games, including GOW III, in select ads. Considering the data, it appears as though this marketing strategy complements consumer sentiment. While many potential PS3 buyers will see GOW III as an important asset, more often the game will be considered one of many reasons to acquire the console rather than the sole motivator.

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