I'm not really bothered by Microsoft's press conference. Sure, I've tossed my fair share of snark onto Twitter as anyone else has. That's what it's there for, right? That and retweeting everything George Takei says.
Thing is, I got exactly what I was expecting. In fact, I got more than I could have bargained for. Microsoft has been using the Xbox 360 as a testing ground for all of their upcoming projects, and in the end their new interface was just a beta for the Xbox One (which I shall simply refer to as the XOne, and imagine it capable of transforming into some sort of murderous death drone because that's what a name like XOne brings to mind). All that television talk? The logical next step. ESPN and Sports? Business as usual. Call of Duty DLC lands on Xbox first? Spoilers, Jesus dies.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't care about it, though. I'm an enthusiast. Of course I care. I want a gaming machine to be targeted my way first and foremost. I want Microsoft to care about me, and to cater to my wants and desires.
But I'd also be lying if I said I believed I'm their target demographic anymore. Hell, I'm surprised they're even bothering with E3. I really don't think the show has any sort of mainstream appeal, unless maybe the local news stations are trying to explain why the roads are more clogged than usual to the average commuter.
So who is Microsoft's primary target? I really don't know. I don't think it's mom and dad, because they aren't going to be watching the announcement. I don't think it's your typical tech-head, because they already have a Roku box for half the price (assuming they even use such a device at all instead of just ad-hocing their computer into a media server bursting with pirated media across their entire home). Maybe it's the typical eSport energy drink chugging Family Guy loving "bro-gamer" (even though there are a surprising number of females in this category, so that term isn't quite accurate), but I'm even skeptical of that.
Almost twenty years ago these guys were telling me Mortal Kombat was the bomb in Phantoms and that Final Fantasy VI was crap.
I think Microsoft's target demographic is a nebulous, undefined thing that they just imagine is "the consumer". This is why information on used games and always-on is so ill-defined at the moment. They are targeting everyone but the enthusiasts, because all of those other consumers don't ask questions like "If you have to connect to the Internet once a day, then is it really any different from always-on?" They just read the bullets on the box and say "sounds good!", without truly considering why those bulleted points are specifically written to seem better than the competition.
What really bothers me is that this is the typical attitude towards demographics in general in this industry. Big time business men are targeting the 18-35 white male demographic because they believe that to be the typical consumer.
Okay, the 13-35 white male, because no one is so naive as to believe companies aren't counting on little Timmy's parents buying him the latest Grand Theft Auto despite the M rating.
But let's assume 18-35 is still accurate. Have you ever really thought about that age gap? How absolutely huge it is?
To illustrate what I mean, I was kind of a jack ass when I was eighteen. Sure, there were some things about me that haven't changed. I loved Metroid, I was fascinated by games with great mechanics, and I was a greater fan of single-player and co-op experiences than competitive multiplayer. However, I was also convinced that Japan was a backwards country that was falling behind in the realm of good game design. I played very few Japanese made games at this point, was getting sick of anime, and even said a couple of harsh things that caused permanent harm to what could have been a really awesome friendship.
Ten years later, at the age of 28, I wish the Western gaming industry would learn something from Japan. I wish more Western RPG's would play like Dragon's Dogma instead of Skyrim or Dragon Age. I wish we could have the sheer variety of characters and settings that you see in Japanese games. Hell, playing 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors has me wondering what it would be like if a Japanese developer made a game like Telltale's The Walking Dead.
I'm pretty sure I prayed to God for this game when I was six years old. Meanwhile, Bethesda continues to recycle Morrowind's mocap and A.I.
In other words, what I want to play at the age of 28 is not necessarily the same as what I played at the age of 18.
So why is the gaming industry lumping me into a single demographic category as if I haven't changed at all?
This monday Jim Sterling lamented Namco Bandai trying the spray-and-pray approach to marketing that so many other AAA Developers take. With the Xbox One, I think we're seeing that same strategy on a marketing level.
It's astounding to me. The games industry continues to employ marketing teams that have absolutely no clue what they're doing. I mean, that's the only explanation, right? The games industry hasn't truly expanded to mainstream levels, and it probably never will. Games aren't a passive medium. You can't sit down and just enjoy a show of pictures go by like with television and film. It requires input, and it thus requires the user to learn a set of rules, guidelines, and instructions.
That's simply too much work for most mainstream audiences. Video games on their own will never be as popular as those other mediums, because the interactive nature many of us love will never catch on.
Pictured: Apparently, the 18-35 white male demographic
Thus Microsoft is trying to cater to a different audience, cast a net in a different part of the sea. The problem is, does that audience want to pay a minimum of $400 for a device that they have to literally tell to switch to television? Or are they fine with just their television?
If I were Microsoft, I'd be hoping I hired a really, really good marketing team to convince the masses that, yes, they do need to spend $400 on a pointless, bloated, consumer-hating piece of technology.view gallery