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Consumer Study Shows Video Game Console Purchasing Behavior May Be Influenced By Vibration Feedback Technology

Ipsos Insight Study Shows Consumer Expectations Of PS3, Xbox 360, And Wii Portend Potential Market Share Shift For Sony, Microsoft, And Nintendo

Monday, September 25, 2006

San Francisco, CA – Ipsos Insight, the third-largest, survey-based marketing research company in the world, today released the results of a consumer market research study to measure consumer intent to purchase next-generation video gaming consoles, including attitudes toward vibration feedback (or rumble) technology. The study, sponsored by Immersion Corporation (Nasdaq: IMMR), 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. The game players were drawn from a statistical sampling of the Ipsos North America online panel of more than 800,000 U.S. households.

The study highlights the importance that many active console gamers place on rumble/vibration feedback in their gaming experience across a wide range of game genre. The study also highlights current gamer expectations and desire that the rumble/vibration feature be present in Sony’s PS3 and for the PS3 to include the feature when playing PS1 and PS2 games. The study results indicate that Microsoft may gain share in the next year at the expense of Sony among these active console gamers, with possibly greater gains as consumers learn about the lack of the rumble/vibration feature in the PS3 controller and possibly the console.

Vibration Feedback Is A Popular Feature With Majority Of Gamers

Almost three in four respondents (72 percent) agree that rumble/vibration feedback enhances their game experience in one or more of these ways “most of the time”: makes the game more fun, involves the player more in the game, makes the game seem more real, helps the gamer play better. Only 5 percent of gamers agree with this statement: “The rumble feature should be totally removed from all video console games.”

Players of a wide range of console game genre affirm vibration feedback as a very positive part of the gaming experience. A majority of gamers agreed with this statement: “I like it and I want it in the game” or “I think it's essential to the fun, realism, and overall experience” regarding vibration feedback for racing (71 percent), action/adventure (70 percent), first-person shooter (69 percent), fighting (66 percent), and sports (61 percent) games. These types of games account for 72 percent of all video game units sold in the U.S. in 2005, according to the NPD Group’s point-of-sale information as reported by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).

Madden NFL 06 (PS2/Xbox) and Gran Turismo 4 (PS2) were the three top-selling video games in 2005 by units, according to the same ESA report and NPD Group data. Gamers often wrote enthusiastic and passionate comments when asked to describe the best use of rumble/vibration feedback in a specific video console game, such as these comments on the top-selling games:

  • “It is good in games like Madden because it seems so life-like when guys get hit. I also think that without it Madden would be just an ordinary game.”
  • “On Madden it makes it feel more real, like I’m not just watching a game but actually playing.”
  • “In Madden Football ... when the kicker has a crucial field goal. ...feeling the heartbeat through the control makes the anxiety and pressure real.”
  • “Well, like in Gran Turismo when you are racing in rally races, the rumble lets you know how much your car is sliding so that you know how much gas to give it.”
  • “For PS2, Gran Turismo 4 needs the rumble feature to connect you to the car so you can more adequately feel how the car is handling.”

Expectations And Preferences For Next Generation Console Features

More than four of every five gamers surveyed (83 percent) feel that it is “important” or “very important” that the new version of a video game console offer backward compatibility for video games made for the previous console version. Furthermore, more than two-thirds of respondents (69 percent) consider rumble/vibration feedback part of the definition of backward compatible.

Two of the three next-generation console systems (Sony’s PS3 and Nintendo’s Wii) have announced a motion- or tilt-sensing feature in their gamepad controller, while two will have the vibration feedback feature (Wii and Microsoft’s Xbox 360). Only 18 percent of gamers reported ever having used a gamepad controller with motion or tilt sensing to control action in a PC or video console game. Gamers were asked what feature set they would like in a controller, assuming both motion/tilt sensing and rumble were technically feasible. The rumble feature with or without motion/tilt sensing was preferred on each of the three platforms: 59 percent on the PS3, 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 PS3, 7 percent for Xbox 360, and 6 percent for Wii systems.

About three of every four respondents (74 percent) were not aware of Sony’s announcement that the rumble/vibration feature will be removed from the new PS3 controller and nearly six out of 10 gamers (58 percent) were disappointed with this news. Respondent disappointment may have been tempered 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 PS3 console system within the first year after its launch. However, thus far Sony has not announced capability in the PS3 console for vibration feedback, and it is believed that many console gamers are unaware that this capability must be present in the console to experience vibration feedback with any gamepad controller, first- or third-party.

Microsoft May Gain Market Share vs. Sony

Video console gaming remains a popular entertainment pastime, with about one-half of gamers (49 percent) saying they play about the same amount as a year ago. About one in four (26 percent) say they play more, and another one in four (24 percent) say they play less, with those who play less citing “having less time to play games” as the major reason.

Roughly two-thirds of gamers surveyed (65 percent) have already purchased or plan to purchase one or more of the next-generation consoles in the coming year. The anticipated average number of next-generation console purchases by these gamers was 1.4 per household. Nearly half of all respondents (48 percent) reported an intent to purchase between one and five video console games in the next year.

The majority of previous-generation consoles owned by respondents are PS1/PS2 (61 percent), followed by Xbox (20 percent), and GameCube (19 percent). Conversely, when factoring in both Xbox 360 purchases to date, and planned next-generation console purchases by respondents in the next year, Microsoft may be poised to gain ground. Specifically, assuming all three next-generation consoles are on the U.S. market by Dec. 1, respondent purchase plans indicate a possible decrease to 48 percent share of next-generation consoles units for PS3 by summer 2007, compared to an increase to 37 percent for Xbox 360, and a decrease to 15 percent for Wii.

However, among those who indicated they were planning to buy a PS3 in the next year, the desire to purchase is clearly affected by the lack of vibration feedback. If the PS3 does not support rumble in the console (for either existing PS2 or new PS3 games), 5 percent of people indicate that they will definitely not buy the PS3, and 32 percent are somewhat less likely to purchase, with 14 percent unsure how it might affect their purchase decision. Fewer than half (46 percent) reported they would definitely still buy or even be more likely to buy a PS3.

Todd Board, senior vice president of Ipsos Insight, said: “There’s a lot of chatter about how next-gen consoles and highlighted features may shake up the console market-share picture. 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. 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. Certainly there’s little evidence in our data that motion/tilt sensing should come at the expense of rumble.”

Study Design And Results

Ipsos Insight drew the sample of age 18+ console gamers from the Ipsos North America online panel of over 800,000 U.S. households. These panelist households are pre-profiled on a wide range of measures, including presence of a gaming console in the household. Participants were first screened for number of hours spent playing video console games per week. All respondents playing more than four hours per week completed a 10-minute Internet questionnaire. The detailed questions gathered data on typical game play, propensity to purchase next-generation consoles, and opinions about console features including backward compatibility, motion/tilt sensing control, and rumble/vibration feedback technology. Data were collected between Aug. 21 and Aug. 28, 2006. With a total sample size of 1,075, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the results are accurate to within +/- 3.0 percentage points.

The full report on the survey can be downloaded at the top of this page and is also available to journalists through A&R Edelman. Contact Alexandra Skillman at 650-762-2842 or askillman@ar-edelman.com

For more information on this press release, please contact:
Todd Board
Senior Vice President
Ipsos Insight
todd.board@ipsos-na.com
415.597.4013

Media should visit the Technology & Communications practice Press Center for more background information on Ipsos Insight and press kit material.

About Ipsos Insight
Ipsos Insight is a marketing research consultancy that provides solutions to Fortune 500 companies in the areas of market assessment, brand management, innovation, and new product development. Our industry experts combine the discipline of marketing with the science of marketing research to offer expert consultation and strategic advice that builds powerful brands.

Our client service teams specialize in consumer products, technology, communications, health, pharmaceuticals, financial services, entertainment, retail, foodservice, agrifood, energy, utilities, and lottery and gaming. To learn more, please visit www.ipsosinsight.com.

About Ipsos
Ipsos is a leading global survey-based market research company, owned and managed by research professionals. Ipsos helps interpret, simulate, and anticipate the needs and responses of consumers, customers, and citizens around the world.

Member companies assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media. They measure public opinion around the globe. Ipsos member companies offer expertise in advertising, customer loyalty, marketing, media, and public affairs research, as well as forecasting, modeling, and consulting. Ipsos has a full line of custom, syndicated, omnibus, panel, and online research products and services, guided by industry experts and bolstered by advanced analytics and methodologies. The company was founded in 1975 and has been publicly traded since 1999. In 2005, Ipsos generated global revenues of €717.8 million ($853.8 million U.S.).

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Consumer Study Shows Video Game Console Purchasing Behavior May Be Influenced By Vibration Feedback Technology



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ToddBoard Todd Board
Senior Vice President / Vice-président sénior
Ipsos MediaCT
Work+1.415.597.4013