Xbox One: What Microsoft Was Thinking

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So, yeah! The Xbox One! That was great, wasn’t it?

There’s been a lot of confusion surrounding Microsoft’s next gen machine. From people wondering why it took the presenters so damn long just to show an actual video game (still waiting, there was no live-action gaming in the presentation – just pre-rendered cutscenes) to unease over the ever-watching eye of the new Kinect, to a general concern over who their target audience is, things are only just fizzling down enough for us to see the Xbox One clearly.

It is my personal belief that this new piece of technology marks a new era of personal entertainment (a statement I’m sure Microsoft would heartily agree with). However, I think it also means gamers will, sooner or later, get thrown under the bus.

Who Are They Competing With?

Well, clearly not Sony. One of the thousands of Xbox One advice animals I saw flying around pointed this out. This may all appear like another console war, but really it’s not. Microsoft has transcended the fight with the Playstation and is now setting its sights higher. The console war has become “the battle for your living room.” The fight is now between Microsoft, Apple, and Google.

More aptly, I’d say, it seems like a fight for your very existence.

Seriously, we’ve got Apple with all their personal devices and apps for everything, as well as the rumored Apple TV. Microsoft now has their all-in-one living room console, and Google is taking an unorthodox approach with the controversial Google Glass. But with their recent announcement, it looks like Microsoft is setting the trend with the Xbox One.

Unfortunately, to gamers, the Xbox One looks less like this and more like this.

odd_xbox_one_meme_3

So Who Are They Marketing To?

Well, clearly not gamers. If anything, it seems like they’re marketing to everybody but gamers. From coaxing video game lovers along with the bait of game footage for almost 45 minutes during the reveal to turning a cold shoulder at indie developers and then backtracking after the public backlash, the actions of the company don’t scream “gamer friendly.”

If it seemed like the presenters at the reveal were trying to cram as much extraneous, non-gaming detail into their presentation as possible, well… you’re right. With a captive audience excited to see the new console, they could blitz all of their ambitions for the console, knowing that everyone would talk about the new features and virally spread their message. Now they just have to do damage control at E3 and unveil some cool games.

Microsoft is attempting to hold on to the base (the gamers) while expanding their target audience to basically everyone. Now that gaming technology has advanced to the point that a gaming console can do just about anything, that’s exactly what the new console will do.

What Happens Now?

Here’s what I see happening.

While Microsoft builds up their new market (the world) to be able to compete with Apple, they will play lip service to the gaming community. Larger developers will continue to publish games, some good, some absolutely terrible. The trend of “dumbing down” games to appeal to the widest possible audience will continue.

Microsoft will bank on the initial dislike of the Xbox One by massaging it with reassuring PR statements, calming the storm so that, when the console is released, most Xbox fans buy it simply because they want new games.

Eventually, once the new audience is brought in with the new features, Microsoft will subtly drift away from the gaming base. The Xbox One and future consoles will embrace their role as an “entertainment hub” rather than a gaming console.

Microsoft will adopt a more polished, professional look, both in their devices and their user interface.

The sentiment will increase that this new technology is being wasted on “play,” and PR reps will begin to talk about reaching the “full potential” of these consoles.

The marketing department will run some kind of subtly condescending ad or make some kind of statement against gamers. Something along the lines of “out of the basement, into the living room.”

Future gaming consoles will be entertainment centers with gaming capability. They will be heavily protected with safeguards to prevent tampering, one-size-fits-all mechanisms, lack of support for those without internet, and games that appeal to the largest consumer base.

I Don’t Like The Sound Of That. Any Alternative?

Yes. Support independent developers. Make a point to pay for their games, instead of pirating them. In time, they are going to be the folks who produce games that you actually want. And for the love of Pete, build a gaming PC.

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