MY OWN WORST ENEMY
Microsoft has handled 2013’s E3 public relations with all the grace of a paraplegic blue-footed booby.
Almost every pitch has failed to connect with the average consumer’s strike zone:
- The only thing clear about their convoluted DRM policy is that it will be more restrictive than before;
- Despite the fact that the target demographic for the Xbox One overwhelmingly have reliable broadband connections, they’re still greatly peeved by just the thought of having their systems online 24/7;
- Idiotic comments by Mattrick and other key Microsoft reps label their company as incompetent and arrogant (an eerily similar disposition to Sony when they announced the PS3);
- The revelation that game demos at E3 were running off Windows 7 PC’s with an Nvidia card, as opposed to an actual Xbox One dev kit with its AMD chip, makes them look further shady and untrustworthy (this was exacerbated when multiple dev teams revealed the same was not true for the Sony demos);
- No one wants to pay $500 for what is perceived to be an under-powered PC that, despite its many entertainment options, still has far too much overlap with existing devices in the average consumer’s home;
Fortunately, bankrupt marketing strategies executed by inept fools can still co-exist with great service, a well-designed product, and enticing video games. More than anything, they’ve just given the intense morons of the internet something to bitch about. Much of what we learned above is either not surprising or not very meaningful considering how much needs to be hashed out in the coming months.
In short, I give them a pass on almost all that nonsense – judgment should be deferred until this Fall.
THE FLUFF MONSTER
But their new sponsorship plans are a horse of a different color. Just after their press conference this past Monday, they proudly announced an Xbox One partnership with Mountain Dew and Doritos. Read the fine print and there’s a lot of annoying little details beyond the black Xbox branded Doritos bags and Mtn Dew cans, but the headline is the giveaway of “1000’s of Xbox One’s”. There have been similar ploys in the past, but this is by far the biggest, an “unprecedented experience” we’re told.
Predictably, one enters by posting a comment on Nelson’s website, thereby completing the unholy triumvirate of consumption, media, and social networks. Simply state which Xbox One game you’re most excited for and everyone’s happy: you’re in the running to get XBone’d, Microsoft generates artificial buzz for their titles, and junk food peddlers have further cemented the association between themselves and the biggest entertainment industry in the world.
But the internet holds just as many people happy to leap at the chance to humiliate companies like Microsoft as it does shameless brand lackeys. The first wave of comments resembled shots like:
Definitely the PS4 version of Metal Gear Solid V
Can I share the Doritos with my friends, or will they have to pay a fee to eat my corn chips?
if you win will you have to authenticate ownership of the dew via online connectivity, or will someone just come over and knock it out of your hand if you try to share them.
If I don’t check in with Microsoft every 24 hours, will they deactivate my doritos?
NOT A SIGNIFICANT SOURCE OF THE FOLLOWING VITAMINS OR MINERALS
Every angle of this marketing campaign leads to a disheartening analysis. The implication of the partnership is that video games are an empty, disposable form of entertainment; that the experience is devoid of substantive content.
Such food products further confirm the stereotype that ‘gamers’ are slovenly wed to the couch in their parent’s dark basement, 7-Eleven junkies through and through. Fueled by conveniently consumed caffeine and hollow calories, this husk of humanity subsists on the most meager of scavengings while bravely destroying his eyes and hands, bent in some unnatural position for hours.
And finally, there’s nothing new or different about these re-branded food stuffs. This further insinuates that there was never a reason for these products to exist in the first place beyond the aspirations of profit and the cyclical demands of a new product line.
Although maybe that’s ultimately a positive – what would an Xbox flavored chip taste like? Money? What about the soda? The tears of our insipid culture’s last dying Muse?
THE ORACLE OF DELPHI
So what is the Microsoft perspective on the video game industry? Are they banking on games being the future of entertainment? What kind of relationship do they seek to establish with their customers?
Consider that they have a unique opportunity as the most popular console maker right now. Instead of placing their emphasis on video games proper, they’ve spent an enourmous amount of money trying to skip to the front of the line for devices that can stream stuff. What compels them to be a part of this queue in the first place?
Further consider the stereotypes they’re enforcing – whether consciously or not – by inking such partnership deals and creating the kind of games so strongly comported to the white, male, 16 – 32 demographic. This kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy is in almost perfect lockstep with the rest the other entertainment industries.
We probably shouldn’t be surprised. Isn’t this the same company that named their previous product the Xbox 360, implying a kind of pointless merry-go-round only to settle back into the same place they started? I’m going to remain as optimistic as possible, but so many aspects of their branding agenda just leave a bad taste in my mouth.