These are products designed and fabricated by global corporations who do state-of-the-art work in the area of knowledge management. Global corporations ranging from Sony to Sega provide upgrades for existing offerings on an ongoing basis.
Computer games are a product line that can become obsolete within months of being brought into the market. This is aggravated by the fierce competition among knowledge management global corporations. In October 2000 Sony released its PlayStation 2, a technological improvement over its original PlayStation. By this time, computer games had become a US~$20 billion a year global business. Sony had sold 75 million original PlayStations. PlayStation 2 was not only a new offering in computer games, but had a 128-bit processor. The original PlayStation had only a 32-bit processor. The high- powered processor of PlayStation 2 enables it to play CDs and DVDs and can be used with components that permit Internet access and the use of digital cameras and digital music players. With this, computer games fabrication moved to an era where the units could become part of a composite home entertainment unit. PlayStation 2 was put on the market even though it did not have a modem. In other words, it was put on the market even though Sony had not taken PlayStation 2's innovative features to their logical conclusion. Meanwhile Sega introduced its computer game Dreamcast, which was compatible with Internet usage. However, Dreamcast was less powerful than PlayStation 2.
The worldwide market preferred Sony's PlayStation 2 to Sega's Dreamcast. Time Magazine (2001a) reported that while Sony was the market leader with a 66 per cent share, Sega had only 14 per cent of the market.
Various consequences for Sega arose out of this preference and the fact that for four consecutive years it had been making huge losses. The chief consequence was that its image as a loss-making entity made independent game-developing companies steer clear of it. This meant that although Sega had state-of-the-art game consoles for sale, it had no takers because not many customers were interested in the games that were sold with the game consoles.
This was an ironic turn of events for Sega, given that it is one of the pioneers who developed the game console. It is continuing to do pioneering work in the area of hardware development. It is working on making its game console platform compatible with mobile phones and personal digital assistants.
What the experience of Sega suggests is that knowledge management cannot be divorced from general management principles. It may be tempting for knowledge workers to work on technological innovations that are marvels, and developing them can afford them tremendous satisfaction. However, the realities in the market and the preferences of consumers may be entirely different. And if consumers are not prepared to buy technological marvels, the company that has developed them cannot generate profits. As far as consumer games are concerned , consumers want the game to have appeal . The other features merely serve as supplements.
Computer games global corporations are competing to make games aligned with digital home entertainment systems. They are also competing in another arena: that of the actual computer games. These games must have a certain durability of appeal to make them worth playing. The issues facing intercultural management here are:
Expertise in knowledge management is more difficult to acquire than expertise in intercultural management. Companies engage in a war for talent when it comes to attracting and retaining skilled knowledge management personnel. Such personnel are sought out from the whole world.
Global corporations can impart intercultural skills to their knowledge management personnel after they have been recruited.
The training that knowledge management personnel receive is often obtained from higher education institutes that cater to an international student body ( Time Magazine , 2000a).
An interesting offshoot of the intercultural usage of computer games is intercultural access to music via platforms like Playstation. There are composers today who write cross-cultural music for computer games, and in the process acquire fans from all over the world. The Playstation presents music in a format comparable to CD sound quality, which makes it an attractive medium for popularizing modern music.
Time Magazine (2001e) has described a successful composer of this modern genre , the Japanese Nobuo Uematsu. Uematsu's compositions have won international acclaim and have been appreciated by people from diverse cultures. Some of his pieces of music have been so popular that they have been released as singles all over the world. Part of the reason for his cross-cultural appeal lies in Uematsu's ability to imbue his music with 'grandeur and depth', an ability that seems to have universal appeal. His tunes are robust and emotive with a strong melody that is catchy. They also have complex layers that appeal to a more discerning audience.