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Tooling Up New Gamers

Chris Spearing explains how Logitech is hoping to open up new markets for peripherals with the next-generation of consoles.

Last week Chris Spearing explained Logitech's plans to address the most dedicated of gamers, while still catering for the mainstream user.

In part two of the interview, the country manager for UK and Ireland explains his perspective on Nintendo's consoles, and how Logitech is looking to new markets as well as existing ones in the future.

GamesIndustry.biz: Would you agree that the DS has also brought in a whole swathe of people who might not have gone for the PlayStation Portable?

I think the PSP, although it's a good product, some of the games for it have been regurgitated PS2 games, and I think your platform is only as good as the games for it. I think if people already had some of those games before on the PS2, it's less of an enticement to go out and buy the PSP.

But with DS, they've really hit the nail on the head with Brain Training, and those kinds of things, where people have viewed them in a different way, not as your traditional games.

People can see the advertising at home, and whereas they wouldn't normally be interested in that kind of handheld product, they like the idea of being able to train their brain. It's a different kind of market that you're attracting as well as your traditional gamers, and I really do admire what Nintendo has done there.

They could have come to market with another me-too product, like the PlayStation or Xbox, but they really thought about it and did something different. You can see it in the titles, you can see it in the hardware, and I think they've kept their business alive where it could easily have died if it didn't take a different route.

Are we going to see Logitech create peripherals for these platforms, for the Wii?

Yes, we do a huge amount of research in the market as to what people are playing, what platforms they're using, what type of games they like, where the market is going.

We obviously work very closely with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo about their future plans. We're licensed for Xbox 360 products, we've been a very long term partner of Sony - we made steering wheels for them when Gran Turismo 3 came out, and helped develop EyeToy - we're actually first to market with cordless controllers for console or PC gaming, that's the norm now with the latest generation of consoles.

And again with Nintendo, we made a steering wheel for them before, and we hope to have at least one product out for the Wii this year, although we've not announced that yet.

With the more recent consoles, such as the PlayStation 3, you've obviously got a much higher price point there, so you are attracting the more dedicated gamer, and obviously the more affluent as well.

Our research shows that for those real gamers, money doesn't seem to be an object. If they think that something will give them better gameplay, or make them more competitive in the game, then they'll spend as much money as they can to be able to do that.

We've always been very close to Sony, especially on the steering wheel side, and we also work with Polyphony on the Gran Turismo games, and what the next generation of steering wheel needs to be for that game.

We work with Kazunori Yamauchi, and every time there's going to be a new development of the game, we go to him and ask him what he wants the new wheel to be.

We have our G25 wheel, which gives you two and half turns from lock to lock, it's a metal wheel, leather bound, you've got proper pedals that give you proper feedback, gear shift, all those things, so every time we bring out a steering wheel, it's designed for what Kazunori wants. He's our guide to perfection, because he makes the best driving games, and that's how we work with developers on what the next generation of peripherals will be.

We're always going to developers and making sure that they're using Logitech's software developer's kit to ensure there's steering wheel compatibility with the games.

At these LAN parties is there an element of trying to 'keep up with the Joneses?'

Yes, that's normal for people under the age of 35 to want to have whatever it is, whether it's their mobile phone, whether it's their gaming mouse, to look good and be the best. That's a normal thing in today's society.

But there's also an element with these hardcore games that they want to win, and they know that if they buy these products they can tune them slightly to how they play, or get the best out of the particular game they're playing. They know that gives them the edge, and we've got lots of gamers that have come back to us and said "Yeah, this has really made a difference to my gaming." We've got a lot of testimonials like that from gamers which has been really cool.

There's a bit of a debate going on right now about motion-sensing versus rumble. What's your take on that?

We've always worked with Force Feedback technology where we could, but it's whatever gives you the best gameplay really, that's what we're about. For us it's not about trying to make cheap controllers and sell as much as we can. Of course we're a business, but we believe that we'll be successful by making the best products and having the best technology in those products.

But to answer your question, it's really about having the right experience for the right game. So if it's a driving game you need Force Feedback ideally, to get the different degrees of rumble effect, having strong motors that are able to yank the wheel left and right if you hit an Armco barrier, or just rumble gently if you go over a rumble strip.

But having the motion sensing in the Sixaxis, that really works for some games. And for the Wii - you've seen people rush out and buy the Wii for that realism, if you're swinging a tennis racket, you know how to do it. Hopefully we'll be at the forefront of pushing that further, combining some of the two.

Can the Wii Remote be improved upon from a technology point of view?

If you couldn't improve on it, we wouldn't be in business, and that's the same for all products. Don't forget our core business is mice and keyboards, and when you buy a desktop PC it will have already come with a mouse and keyboard, but we've built a huge business on the back of selling upgrades to that. And we'll continue to do that in the gaming area as well, so of course - yes - we can always improve on it.

Chris Spearing is Logitech's country manager for UK and Ireland. Interview by Phil Elliott.

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