The lights are on
Gaming is as big as ever, and the next home consoles are preparing to step into the spotlight and possibly expand the category even further. Is there a ceiling to our sky-high expectations? Console makers have long salivated over the possibility of bringing in both casual and hardcore gamers under one big tent, particularly by expanding systems' capabilities. But can you be everything to everyone?
I think it's extremely hard for a video game console to fill that role. Even as technologically advanced as these systems are becoming, it's not easy to attract both the hardcore audience and the casual one. The hardcore need to be convinced that your new platform is X times better than the previous one, while the casual audience is more difficult to lure since they are not naturally heavily engaged with your product. The more features you add to appeal to one side or the other, the more everyone starts to wonder exactly what they are paying for. Is your friend who bought the PlayStation 3 because it was a Blu-ray player enticed by the PlayStation 4 because it lets you share video clips from games?
With gamers, you can always sell them on the games, but I think it's easier for casual fans to enjoy their time with a game and then move on to something else – and not necessarily the next game in your franchise. It can be difficult to justify why the upcoming turn of the screw is exponentially better than the previous one. Even regular gamers are not immune to selective purchasing. How many of you only get a sports game or racing title every few years rather than buying every annual installment?
If non-gamers aren't going to be lured by games, contented inertia with the current product can be a force against buying a new system. You certainly see people with outdated phones who don't upgrade simply because they don't feel they have to. The Xbox One could fall in this trap. Since it doesn't replace your DVR, it already fails on its promise to be the machine that's the center of your living room.
But there's no harm in trying, right? It's too cynical not to expect a company's best effort. You should absolutely still swing for the fences with a system. But the consequence of over-reaching for the whole pie instead of just a slice of it is an arrogance that can devalue your relationship with the consumers who got you to this position in the first place. The more you try to appeal to everyone, the more you drift away from having an identity at all. Ambition can serve consumers, but it can also be fueled by the need for publicly held companies for ever-increasing growth, and not necessarily producing the best product.
Of course, good old-fashioned irrational excitement trumps reason every time, and that's why these new systems are coming out at Christmas time where there will likely be the customary feeding frenzy. But what are we actually buying other than our own aspirations?
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