The Westfield Of The Future Is Powered By Old Video Games

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.


    I'm impressed Brisbane is getting this first. Maybe they want to start simple with Pong/Pinball before ramping up to something like Minecraft (licensing issues, maybe?). I don't think we should be too negative. It's a step in the right direction, and maybe they'll develop it with further helpful feedback.

      Have to say I'm a bit surprised by this myself. A little anyway. Unusual to make Brisbane first choice, but the choice of Garden City is weird especially when you've got Chermside to compete with. But perhaps with the latest upgrades, Garden City will take the crown as the southern hemisphere's largest shopping centre!
      Mostly just stoked, cos I live 10 mins from Garden City!

      Last edited 16/09/14 9:36 am

        Do you mean Carindale? Chermside is pretty far away considering it's on the northside.

          nah definitely Chermside on the North Side was/is the biggest shopping centre in the southern hemisphere afaik. Carindale is big, as is Garden City, but it's about to get even bigger! The construction is pretty much done for the outside now. Just sucks you have ticketed parking there now :\ Sure the first 3 hours are free, but you can spend an hour of that looking for a spot most days!
          Also I didn't mean competing with it in a sort of regional sense. Just that Chermside has been the one to get all the really major works and upgrades, so I would have expected them to launch something like this there, but I guess it makes sense with the new parts of Garden City opening. They can tie it all together like a marketers dream.

          Last edited 16/09/14 11:06 am

            Australia Fair on the Gold Coast is the biggest in the Australia and I'm pretty sure we don't have the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere.

              Perhaps it was at the time it opened or something. I just vaguely remember hearing something about it a few years ago

        Wow, we must live pretty close together. I'm just down the street from Garden City myself, for the moment at least (Planning to sell the house and move on the road. :) )

      Garden city was in need of a facelift for years, so the currently underway constructions are more than welcome

    So how does this make them money? Are they gonna charge people to play and watch other people play? How are they making money if people are just standing/sitting there playing. If you ask me it'll just be an excuse for lazy parents to dump their kids while they do the shopping, while the person supervising the games doesn't get paid to be a babysitter.

    I'm the opposite of @markserrels, I think this is a sign that "bricks and mortar" retail is dying, and they're desperately trying to draw customers in. It's only a matter of time before all shopping is done online.

      They’re the shopping centre, they aren’t selling anything but retail space and price based on traffic. If they can increase traffic then they can justify increasing rent prices.

        True, didn't think of that. I'm under the impression that rent in shopping centres is already astronomical these days. Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but don't they also get a percentage of all sales from shops within the centre as well?

          Rent in shopping centres is astronomical. If you aren't a major success then you're probably running at a loss. Personally if I opened a shop that wasn't a major franchise I would avoid them like the plague. I haven't heard of them taking a percentage of sales though. I wouldn't be surprised if they increase rent if they estimate a shop is making high sales.

            They do take a cut of overall sales, and that cut is determined by how much floorspace your shop takes up.
            Even in country towns (which is where my experience comes from) the rent / percentage of sales is utterly gobsmacking.

    Garden City woo, can see that from my window as I type this. I shall wander up intending to try this giant pong one of these days, but will most likely sheepishly watch a few teenagers playing it while I pretend I dont really want to.

      We should have a "pretending we don't want to play Pong" Meat! :P

    I don't think this sounds appealing to any member of my famiily. Kinect pong? People were angry at the xbox one because it was compulsorily bundling the xboxs with Kinect.

    Why not Minecraft on a 15 screen video wall?I'd assume because you can't make a dong in pong.

    I'm no fan of shopping malls, and this doesn't seem at all exciting to me, but it would take a lot more work and resources to adapt something like Minecraft to a retail environment.
    Minecraft was a game designed to be played at home, (possibly while connected to other users who are also playing at home).
    On the other hand, Pong and pinball gameswere initially designed to be played in public places -- the games are short and take place on a single screen, which makes them spectator friendly, and easy to step up to, play, and then walk away from. They were games that were created for bars and shopping malls, so it's easy to see why Westfield would pick those games out of something more contemporary.
    I can't imagine that they had a whiteboard full of games and deliberetely picked the two oldest ones, it's just that the oldest generation of video games were designed from the ground up to be played socially, in public, retail environments. The question shouldn't be 'why not minecraft???', but 'why not make something new to fit that environment)?' The answer is probably that 'new' costs $$$$.

    I think in this case you're imagining a problem where there is none.
    Garden City's actually my local shopping centre and I usually have to go there a couple of times a week. The first part of their upgrade is officially opening later this week but from what I've already seen they appear to be moving forward by focusing on the strengths of retail (as opposed to online), like being able to be social, and being able to actually try or touch or look at what you want to buy before buying it.
    The upgrade appears so far to be also based on comfort, and making it a place you actually want to be in, rather than just a place you have to go. There's comfy seats all over the place and I'm guessing the giant Pong will be in that same vein of wanting to enjoy yourself while you're there.
    I'm also quite happy about them having power points and USB ports in a section of the seating at the top food court.
    I don't at all see what they're doing as a desperate attempt to move forward while clinging to the past, I see it as a step in the right direction. Creating community spaces.

    Last edited 16/09/14 11:12 am

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