Xbox One: A rollercoaster of conflicted opinions

27 05 2013

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Naturally, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last week or so, you’ve inevitably heard SOMETHING about the most recenMicrosoft announcement of the Xbox One. No doubt you likely have formed an opinion already as well, as I had.

I’m writing this blog piece for several reasons, one as I was forced to modify my original opinion of their announcement, and what it truly meant to the industry and me. For those of you that actually missed the announcement, basically they’ve been under siege for basically “ignoring” the “core” gamers, incorporating barely standard hardware architecture, “ignoring” indies, and possibly having some questionable implementations in their online service with how games will function.

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Before I get on to my point of the blog, whether you agree with it or not, keep in mind they still have a lot yet to announce (as far as the actual gaming part of the Xbox is concerned), so I wouldn’t count them out just yet. However, that being said I was personally in the camp of the “disappointed”, which appeared to be an opinion that was ubiquitous for the most part.

That is, until I started digging and reading some very thoughtful articles, namely on Gamasutra, and other places. I literally had an epiphany while wading through the commentary (which was getting pretty hostile). This one thought struck me like a bolt of lightning, “It’s not about you anymore”. The more I thought about it, the more it began to make sense.

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Traditionally, what did a dedicated gaming console target? Why “gamers” of course! (I use that term loosely as I think it sucks and doesn’t apply any more to our society). However, I believe Microsoft has come to the conclusion that it’s no longer worth the risk “banking” on the consumer that JUST wants to play games. For this reason we’ve already seen a natural progression of the Xbox 360 steadily turning into a multi-functional set top box.  The difference here is that I believe they have stopped directly targeting the younger generations. Here in lies my biggest point and argument for this piece. Think about the average generation of “gamers” that were in line to purchase the Xbox 360 when it debuted? Think about it, you could probably guarantee you had your fairly standard fare of 16-30 year old males, which usually makes up the largest cross section of people that consume video games (or at least used too).

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So now ask yourself, after almost TEN YEARS (If I’m not mistaken the Xbox 360 launched around 2005) what are those people doing now? I can almost promise you that a good portion of them aren’t playing as many games, as unfortunately when you progressively get older, you usually have less time due to commitments, families, jobs, or whatever laundry list of responsibilities you’ve managed to tack on. My point is, these individuals would likely be heavily interested in a set top box that does most everything, ESPECIALLY TV, while satisfying their need to play games when they find the time. Take a good look at the Xbox One, everything about it screams that Microsoft is targeting an audience that has grown up and has different needs/expectations, not the newest one.

So next point, why isn’t Microsoft targeting younger audiences/generations? I could go on a tangent about entitlement generations and how they’d rather pirate everything, but that is not the point of this piece. Honestly think about it though, younger generations have grown up with tablets, smart phones, and almost all of the content they consume being readily available and in HD. They don’t appreciate what consoles used to represent, and honestly I don’t think they will probably care. The long and short of it is I suspect younger generations have had their attention divided across multiple sources of attaining digital content versus older generations that had fewer options, arcades, consoles, or a PC (if you were loaded with cash).

Let me finish by putting some flames out and acknowledging that yes, there are undoubtedly a lot of “younger” consumers that enjoy games on consoles, my point is that consoles as we used to know them are beginning to be less relevant and thusly you’ll start to see them go through a transformative process, they must adapt or fade into the history books. I have plenty of commentary on that, but that’s content for a later post.

-Cheers