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Opinion: Xbox One Wasn't Built For You
A look at the possible marketing decisions behind the Xbox One... and why "you" may not be the target market.
May 22, 2013
5 Min Read
Recently, Leigh Alexander wrote about her disappointment with the Xbox One release announcement; specifically opining that the system seemed built for some mythical worshipers of an fabled "entertainment altar."
Leigh, I'm sorry to break it to you, but you're not the target market.
We can't all be the target for every product, not even for the products for which we want to be the target market. Every time Apple releases a new iProduct, I shrug and continue my life, because I know I'm not the target market for those things. But that's OK, and I don't get upset when I watch an Apple release and realize that Apple has, once again, failed to build something I would want to buy.
See, the thing is, I'm a big device spender, not a big content spender. I like to buy a super-powered gaming PC with lots of exciting hardware (mice, keyboard, and, yes, force-feedback joystick), then game on the cheap, surfing Steam for sales and subscribing to just one MMORPG at a time. I'm the target for the Intels and Nvidias and Crunchyrolls of the world, not for movie studios or sports networks or console manufacturers. And I've accepted that. I'm just not a content spender.
The Xbox One target market is big content spenders.
Traditionally, consoles have sold at a loss on the premise that the manufacturer will become profitable on the sale of games. Unfortunately, the sale of games has taken a nose-dive as of late, with things polarizing towards the rare few huge blockbuster titles that are immensely profitable and those abusively extortionate F2P titles that are immensely profitable. This means that selling a console at a loss to make it back on games is a very risky gamble.
Microsoft decided to change the formula on that gamble. Their marketing people must be convinced that static or classical media (movies, TV, music) are the primary focus of spending, at least in the short run. If they're selling the Xbox One at a loss this time around, it's not to make it back on games, it's to make it back on premium viewing.
Their marketing research must have tried to identify what kind of person is most likely to spend a lot of money on premium viewing. Is it the hardcore gamer who buys one game and plays it endlessly, mastering it? Or is it the large family with a large house and large living room, with lots of kids to entertain and people too tired from busy jobs to want to do more than wave their hand at the TV and have some novel entertainment delivered to them?
The Xbox One isn't designed for people who already get their premium viewing.
To all the people who happily Skype on their tablet, spend endless hours happily watching Crunchyroll on their desktop PC, who watch Netflix on the train on their smartphone... you already have a vehicle for your content. You don't need another. Maybe you don't even have a living room. What could Microsoft possibly have sold to you that you would buy to consume more premium viewing? You're already set on that front.
Microsoft didn't build this console for you. They couldn't have. Even if you wanted to buy a gaming console to play games, you're only a small fringe market now. You're not worth building a console for, at least not by a big company like Microsoft. You're not going to spend enough money on content to be worth it.
Complaining about the Xbox One is like complaining about F2P, another favorite pass-time here on Gamasutra. Yes, the model sucks. But, for some people out there, they're the perfect way to divest oneself of huge amounts of onerous cash. F2P games target whales... and so does the Xbox One.
Whales! Content Whales!
The other day I walked past a man (father, presumably) with two boys (sons?) and as they were walking from Gamestop with a new game in hand, I overheard the father say "do you want to go to Future Shop on the way home? Maybe we can find a movie to watch tonight."
I was dumbfounded. The concept was so foreign and alien to me, of simply wandering into a store and buying a movie as an impulse purchase for a single night's viewing. And to do that for the benefit of children who can barely comprehend the value of such media!
Suffice it to say that I'm not a father, I don't really like kids, and I don't buy movies.
But the take-home lesson for me was that people like this DO actually exist. And they must be immensely profitable. Now imagine if you're Microsoft, and you see this person wandering from store to store buying stuff, don't you want to be the one to take him by the hand and say "don't go to Future Shop on the way home; just go straight home to your Xbox One and we'll have the perfect movie there for you and your children."
Leigh, clearly, if you wanted the Xbox One for you, all you have to do is become a dad and get some sons. And a big living room. And a fantasy football league, of course.
And then spend gobs and gobs and gobs of cash buying stuff through the Xbox One store.
No? That's not you? I guess the Xbox One wasn't built for you then.
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About the Author(s)
Simon Ludgate has worked at numerous game companies, including Strategy First, Electronic Arts, and Gameloft, as well as a journalist and radio personality with GameSHOUT Radio. He recently obtained his Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto iSchool, with a focus on Knowledge and Information Management. His areas of expertise are broad, though he has a particular interest in massively multiplayer online games, both subscription- and microtransaction-based. He currently maintains a blog at soulrift.com and can be contacted through that site. Twitter: @SimonLudgate
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