3dfx Thumbs Nose at Consoles

With Microsoft planning to jump into the console fray soon with the X-Box, IBM partnering with Nintendo to manufacture the Dolphin CPU, and Sega's Dreamcast using a PowerVR graphics chipset and Microsoft's WinCE OS for some games, it's a time of great convergence between PCs and consoles.

With Microsoft planning to jump into the console fray soon with the X-Box, IBM partnering with Nintendo to manufacture the Dolphin CPU, and Sega's Dreamcast using a PowerVR graphics chipset and Microsoft's WinCE OS for some games, it's a time of great convergence between PCs and consoles. Even some of the biggest console games like Resident Evil and Final Fantasy VII/VIII have shown up on the PC, and several of the PC's biggest games have come to consoles, further solidifying a relationship of cohabitation instead of partisanship.

But 3dfx Interactive, one of the leading manufacturers of 3D graphics accelerators for the PC, has unveiled an "in-your-face taunting" ad campaign targeted at console game players. It consists of three, full-page advertisements running in the new issues of magazines like Electronic Gaming Monthly, the Official US PlayStation Magazine, Expert Gamer and PSExtreme, to name but a few.

The ads associate console game playing to bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, and never having seen a woman naked (insinuating that all console gamers are male). Mostly consisting of text, one particular ad running in the current (November) issue of EGM reads - "That's cool if you're still gaming on console. Oh, by the way, did one of you guys lose your blankie? Because we found one... Most of us started out our gaming careers on a console. And that's fine. But things change as we mature. We stop sucking our thumbs. We stop wetting our beds.. ."

We spoke with, Michael House, 3dfx's director of marketing, about the ads. He told us that this is mainly an educational campaign, to make console gamers aware of the gaming alternative the PC presents. "What we're doing with this campaign again is educating consumers that 3dfx and the PC are going to continue to deliver the ultimate entertainment technology, and that you have a choice. What do you choose to play your games on? The PC has a lot of significant benefits out there that you should take a look at." 3dfx itself has tried at least twice to enter the console world - once with Sega and "Black Belt" (which later became the Dreamcast and used Video Logic's PowerVR instead of a 3dfx processor). And again with Microsoft, which was rumored to be in talks with 3dfx to use some of its graphics technology in the upcoming Microsoft console known as X-Box. Are these ads the result of those failed attempts? House tells us, "Not at all. And in fact, we don't see those as failed attempts. We believe that we're delivering the best gaming experience on the PC, and we're simply looking to educate console gamers on that capability. Certainly we have aspirations of delivering a more consumer-like device for the marketplace, but I wouldn't call those failed attempts."

Why the plain, text-heavy ads, instead of flashier pieces showing the direct benefits of 3dfx's technology? House told us, "If you put out another ad that looks similar to a console ad, it can be misconstrued as either a game or in fact a console-gaming ad. We wanted to come up with a unique look and feel, and a unique message that would really cause people to stop, read, and react. Instead of having something that may not necessarily fit perfectly in that particular book or magazine is something that would get that level of attention." "Part of it is... the console gaming books tend to appeal to a younger demographic. Boys at that age tend to have that 'my dad is bigger and badder than your dad' or 'my PC's badder... I have the bigger gaming collection' so it tends to play into the general mentality of the kids in that particular demographic. We wanted to feed off of that type of outlook in order to have them consider 3dfx as a gaming alternative."

Does he think that these ads will alienate console gamers instead of attract them to 3dfx's technology and/or PC gaming? "No. I think that it shows an attitude that I think will have a connection with that particular audience."

Gamers will decide with their well-earned cash whether to spend it on PC or console gaming this holiday season.

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