The future, it’s coming, and quite fast it would seem. Microsoft’s Xbox Scorpio and Sony’s Playstation Neo are edging all the more closer towards store shelves and while everyone else is worried about how each company is going to truthfully market these things, I find myself asking a rather less important question – Are console launches at risk of becoming less special?
Already the head of Xbox marketing Aaron Greenberg has been quoted as saying “this is the last great console generation” implying that the need to in effect “launch” a full-blown console is no longer required, instead choosing to iterate on the already established console architecture to bring it more in line with PC customisation and upgrading.
Whilst Greenberg almost definitely has a point, he’s going a little bit too far. The Scorpio will undergo a “launch” sometime next year in the same way that the Neo will have to, it may not be a new generation but as we move into this fast-approaching iterative trend, console launches will be celebrated to just about the same degree as IPhone releases – in short, not very much!
The main reason all of the past console launches have remained so memorable is due to the simple factor of anticipation. The longer and longer a particular console generation rolls on, the more hype there is to see what happens next. When the PS4 and Xbox One launched towards the very tail end of 2013, there was so much excitement and build up because the PS3 and 360 had been in our homes for a record 7 years. Gamers were excited about what was to come, and although the jump had not been quite the same sized leap as the HD era that came before it, people went crazy for new hardware.
If consoles begin to follow the same trend as mobile phones, not only are they at risk of becoming less memorable but predictable too. When you buy the latest IPhone you’ll be more than aware that at least a year later (maybe even less), the C or S variant will become available. Since 2007, the mobile phone market has been caught in this loop, making sense for those who want the newest, latest, best.
It’s a bit more forgivable with mobile phone hardware as for most people their phone is a way of life, it fulfills many applications from checking social media, streaming video and of course phoning/texting family members. Video Game consoles primarily serve a single purpose, meaning that there’s less need for such quick iterations unless a big enough leap in technology demands it. The more frequently similar versions of hardware are introduced, the less celebrated they’ll become.
PS4 remains the fastest selling console of all time, dishing out an impressive 1 million units on the first day alone in the United States (That’s more than the Wii). What this tells us is that people will come out on day one of a console’s release to treat it as an event. I personally love being part of the excitement that builds around it, it’s essentially a far safer black Friday exclusively for gamers.
Needless to say these more iterative versions of hardware are coming, and fast! Much like the way PC often sets the template for how console gamers play games (Steam anyone?), we’ll soon need to adapt to a less special form of launch. Whereas up until now we’ve all remained on the same page as groups of fans who swarm to a store between every 3-7 years, Neo and Scorpio are set to reduce the usual excitement you’d typical find surrounding the launch of a console and that makes me sad. I’m sure I’ll get over it though!