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Opinion: Xbox One Wasn't Built For You
by Simon Ludgate on 05/22/13 06:45:00 am   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


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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Christian Nutt
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> Leigh, I'm sorry to break it to you, but you're not the target market.

That's a rather reductive way to look at Leigh's analysis. It wasn't about whether the Xbox One appealed to her and only her.

Ardney Carter
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Are you sure? She opens talking about herself and closes talking about herself. Even includes this remark in the opening paragraph:
"Other people are excited about this, probably. I'm not."
That, to me, indicates the following thoughts are written largely from a perspective focused on herself.

So even if, as you assert, the piece wasn't about whether the new Xbox appealed to Leigh or not given the way it was written surely Simon could be forgiven for interpreting it that way.

And there's nothing wong with writing a piece about your personal reactions to any given event. Doing so also makes Simon's response entirely appropriate.

Simon Ludgate
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I think my intent was to agree with Leigh, in so far as she points out that the press conference seemed to suggest "you" was the target market in terms of "everyone" (in her third paragraph).

I interpreted her article as suggesting that Microsoft was somehow "wrong" in making this broad assertion of "you" but focusing on the narrow "entertainment altar" worshipers. And my response is to suggest that the entertainment altar worshipers are the only "you" that matters from a market perspective.

I interpreted Leigh's article as saying "hey, wait, what about those of us that don't have entertainment altars, aren't you leaving us out of all this?" and my article is basically a response that says "Yes, none of us altar-free folk matter to the Xbox One."

Axel Cholewa
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I even interpreted Leigh's article as saying MS was behind its time, unmodern and badly equipped for the "bright future without living rooms". To me, it did read as being about her and her friends, and these people should have been the ones MS should've catered to because they are the future.

No offense, but Leigh's article seemed pretty snobby to me.

Daniel Koppel
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The funny thing is I probably fit the target audience more than most. But to be honest I'm not sure I'll get it this holiday either. I have 2 kids and when I first got them into XBox gaming I was excited. Then I realized I lost my xbox. It now plays Minecraft endlessly or other games I rarely play. I've heard similar stories from my younger friends that they used to think Netflix on XBox was great. Now others in the household spend all day watching Netflix.

Tablets, PC's, and Laptops are personal viewing devices. I think in general the consumption of entertainment has moved away from social and more to the personal realm. If Microsoft thinks the gold is in conquering the entertainment alter in the living room, thats probably the TV thats turned on the least these days. The kids watch shows and play games in the playroom, the wife watches her shows in the Bedroom and I have My sports channels in the Basement. The living room TV is really only used to watch movies as a family.

Craig Bamford
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How, pray tell, is it that the people who are "big content whales" wouldn't have invested in platforms like the iPad or the PC, when there's loads of content on those platforms that they'd want? And if they had them, why on earth would they care about the One when those devices do everything the One does? (So would their nice HDTVs, for that matter.)

For that matter, why is Leigh a "fringe" where these people aren't? These content dads with loads of money to blow on content that somehow DON'T spend it on hardware--a group whose existence is unsupported by anything outside of Simon's assertion--sound about as "fringe" as they get. F2P whales exist, yes, but if they were "content whales" in the sense Simon asserts, the F2P model wouldn't have become so predominant to begin with. The whole "whale" phenomenon is FAR more complex than that.

Meanwhile, what with the American middle class freefalling, it would seem that there are one hell of a lot more people like Leigh than there are "content dads". (The One's whole content model is basically useless outside of the U.S.) Anybody who recognizes this would see that Xbox One is targeting a group that's either small or simply doesn't exist.

How on earth is that a viable business model?

Aside from Simon, I suppose, who would possibly APPROVE that?