Earlier this month we revealed that Westfield was looking to upgrade its stores and bring them into the 21st century, now it has unveiled more information on precisely how that will be done. The answer, in short? Interactive entertainment that looks back to the past.
In other words? They're using old video games.
For example, they're using Kinect to create a massive space where people can play a gesture-based version of Pong. We're talking about playing pong on a 15 screen video wall, with Kinect.
What else? Gesture-based pinball on the very same screen.
I find it almost symbolic of retail. In its attempt to move forward on a grand futuristic scale, retail has shown its age. Because it's difficult to escape the facts here: what Westfield is proposing is essentially an old man's vision of the future. It's an 1970s version of the future.
Why not Minecraft on a 15-screen video wall?
Essentially I think what Westfield is attempting to do here is appeal to the broadest base possible. The logic I suppose, is that everyone understands Pong, everyone understands Pinball. Old people understand it and, of course, young people understand it.
“The teams at Westfield Garden City and tkm9 didn’t want to simply rehash smartphone-style games on large screens, instead we wanted to give shoppers an experience they can’t get anywhere else," said Tanya Michaelides, group managing partner of tkm9, one of the agencies behind this reboot. "We did this by taking familiar, classic arcade games and combining them with our experience in large experiential activations. This is a very different approach in the retail games category and the result is a series of games people will want to revisit again and again.”
"Familiar". "Classic". The language is clear. Synonyms for these words include "comfortable", "safe", "old".
But will old people who don't necessarily understand video games want to play Pong on a incredibly huge, intimidating screen? I'd argue no. And will younger people want to get involved? Probably, but I suspect most of them won't even know what Pong is.
What I see is a company trying desperately to move forward while clinging to the past. Again, symbolic of retail as whole. I don't necessarily see retail's business model crumbling apart -- traditional shopping will always exist in some capacity -- but I do see this move as an example of a large company trying to piggyback gaming to remain relevant (and failing).
The first Westfield to get this treatment is Westfield Garden City in Brisbane.