We haven’t exactly been bullish on Lenovo’s (SEHK: 0992) eedoo iSec
game console “home entertainment center” and its prospects in China (or anywhere else, really). In fact, just a couple weeks ago I wrote a post about why the system costs too much and is screwed. But don’t fall into the trap of believing that the system is screwed just because it costs too much, there appears to be no interest in it, and it’s still kind of unclear whether or not it’s even legal. Another challenge facing the system is that some of its developers, who aren’t based in China, have struggled to adapt their games to Chinese tastes and habits.
This article on Gamasutra in particular is fascinating, as it details the travails of Israel-based iSec developer Side-kick trying to get things to work for Chinese consumers:
The team ran into some surprising control problems when testing with actual Chinese consumers. A handball game, for instance, worked fine in Side-kick’s own internal tests, but just didn’t work with many Chinese test subjects, especially women, he said.
“At first we didn’t figure it out, but then we learned that in China they’re using smaller motions — think tennis vs. ping pong,” Bendov said. “So we actually had to adapt the larger movement window for our market to the smaller, more delicate motions for their market.”
Difficulty was another area Bendov said needed adjustment for China’s unique social culture. “The first couple of levels, you can not fail,” he said. “It was a big issue that there won’t be any embarrassment, where in the Western markets, that’s kind of a motivation for the user to retry.”
This should be a concern for Chinese gamers, given that Side-kick isn’t the only foreign company developing games for the iSec. Are all of them going to be as cautious about localization as Side-kick appears to have been, or will the system be launching with a bunch of games that just don’t click for Chinese players? There’s no way to know, but it’s certainly another reason to worry.
A bigger problem with developing and tweaking games specifically for the Chinese market, though, is that tends to make them relatively unmarketable elsewhere. Western gamers used to sweeping motions and an immediate challenge, for example, would be likely to write off the game described above as both finicky and way too easy.
That’s fine, of course, but it does create a do-or-die situation for Lenovo in China, as expanding into other regions with the console and it’s China-localized games would mean either (a) entering highly competitive markets with poorly localized games or (b) spending more time and money retweaking and localizing games for the international market.
It seems clear that Lenovo’s chips are all on “China” — makes sense, since it’s a Chinese company — with the iSec, which makes me pretty nervous for them. As I’ve said before, their console costs way too much for the China market especially (at $470 it’s more expensive than an Xbox 360, PS3, or Wii) and there doesn’t appear to be anyone in China interested in it. And that’s leaving aside other problems, like the fact that it appears to be launching only with motion games, most of which look terrible, and it doesn’t have any other special features to justify the exorbitant price tag.
So, uh, who’s excited for that December launch?