I love my Xbox 360. I loved the original Xbox. In fact, I was so amped over the Xbox that I sold off my PS2 and all the PS2 games. I’ll likely do the same eventually with the original Xbox in favor of just the 360 (especially since the backward compatibility list pretty well covers the games I’d want to keep).
But there is one area that the whole Xbox community falls well short of Sony… childrens’ and family games.
Now, before you point to the Xbox Live Arcade and say “those are all kid-safe”, hear me out.
First, just because a game isn’t gory or violent doesn’t mean that’s a good game for kids. It may be “kid-safe”, but it’s not kid-centric. Is there redeeming value in letting a kid play Joust or Geometry Wars?
Second, consider what happens if you go to Amazon.com, choose Video Games, Xbox 360, and then select the “Kids and Family” category. You get three games — two sports games from EA Sports and Ridge Racer 6. While they may be “kid-safe”, they’re certainly not kid-centric.
One of the things I really liked about the Playstation world was that there were actually some good educational games for kids to play. When she was 3, my daughter used to love playing Elmo’ Numbers and Elmo’s Letters. The graphics weren’t going to win any awards from the Joystiq crowd, but there were a lot of upsides. She got to play a game “just like daddy does”, it was a fun activity for us to do together, and she learned as she played.
And I don’t think a game has to be strictly educational to provide some learning opportunities. The various Sim- and Tycoon games offer the opportunity for creativity and problem-solving. Adventure games that require puzzles to be completed along the way, and so on.
I know the 360 hasn’t been out very long, but this is still a problem for original Xbox titles as well. Go to the “Kids and Family” section on Amazon for the original Xbox and the list is dominated by EA Sports titles and various racers. The two relatively kid-centric games on that list are Lego Star Wars and Madagascar (both seem to have little redeeming value beyond mindless entertainment).
Finally, I know that the market for these types of games is pretty small. This seems like an area where the Xbox Live Arcade and Marketplace could come through. No need for packaging or media distribution and a couple of decent titles would market themselves. I’d have a reason to go get some Microsoft Points.
In the meantime, thank goodness for the V-Smile…