PORT WASHINGTON, NEW YORK, August 8, 2007 – According to Next Gen Functionality & Usage, the most recent report from The NPD Group, today’s next generation video game systems show significant gaps between owners aware of functional features extending beyond video game play and those who are unaware of these features.  However, the lack of awareness of various functions and features are more pronounced on some systems than on others.

The study, which analyzes next generation system purchase intent, as well as owners’ awareness of, usage of, and attitudes toward next generation functional features extending beyond video game play, provides extensive insight into the consumer’s mindset when it comes to these systems.

Awareness Deficits Present Meaningful Opportunities

While playing games is the primary function of all video game systems measured in the study, it should not come as a surprise that, despite marketing efforts to educate the consumer, awareness of functions that extend beyond gaming are comparably lower.

However, when importance and, in some cases even usage, are notably higher than awareness, a strategic opportunity surfaces.  For example, PlayStation 3 (PS3) owners are downloading additional content as frequently as Xbox 360 (360) owners, but unlike 360 owners, the majority of owners and likely purchasers are simply unaware that this is even possible on a PS3.  Were awareness higher, one could logically deduce that download activity would increase as well.

Another such area, across all systems measured, is backward compatibility.   For example, at 71 percent, PS3 owners and likely purchasers, rate backward compatibility as the most important PS3 function, yet only 37 percent are aware it even exists as a PS3 feature.  The same types of trends can also be seen in different areas (varying by system) such as ability to link to portable systems and Internet connection via gaming device.

Nintendo’s Wii (Wii) is associated mainly with its unique motion-sensing controller, wireless connectivity and character customization.   The fact that motion-sensing controller is also rated as the most important feature means it is in line with high awareness ratings.  As in the case of PS3, however, Wii owners are also interested in the more “basic” features like connecting to the Internet and backward compatibility/playing older GameCube games.  It can be seen then, that this trend is about the new supplementing, but not overshadowing, the old.

For portables, PlayStation Portable (PSP) functions which current system users and likely purchasers are most aware of are the ability to watch movies and videos (52 percent), the ability to play music (49-percent) and the ability to view photos (43 percent), while Nintendo DS (NDS) functions that system users and likely purchasers are most aware of are touch-screen (57 percent), dual-screen (53 percent) and stylus function (49 percent).

Other functions, such as online gaming, also favored one system over another, with NDS users being more likely to use their systems to play a game with friends using wireless connectivity than PSP users are, and 360 users being more likely to use their systems to play games with friends online than PS3 users are.

“This study verifies what many of us already know: features related to playing games are by far the most important to consumers of video game systems,” said Anita Frazier, industry analyst, The NPD Group.  “While systems’ capabilities of providing owners with additional features may become more important in the future, currently the importance of these features and the awareness among consumers of these features is far from universal.  To make headway in this ‘next-gen’ race, manufacturers still need to be primarily concerned with the quality and entertainment value of the games themselves.”