I downloaded the new Xbox Live Experience and Dashboard for my Xbox 360 last night, and while the functionality is taking a little bit of time to adjust to, I’ve already decided I don’t like a major part of the strategy. And more importantly, it may be a big mistake for Microsoft.
Everyone in the world knows the success that Nintendo has had with the Wii – which ignored the graphical arms race to focus on party games and family friendliness, plus little WiiMii avatars etc.
But I didn’t buy an Xbox 360 for those reasons. I bought it because I loved the Xbox Live functionality, enjoyed fairly mature games, and saw the potential for digital music and film distribution.
I liked the fact the Xbox was seen as slightly more hardcore than the family Wii or the trendy PS3. I liked the fact it was more of an unusual choice, and that in my opinion it looked quite stylish. I like the fact the dashboard system was quite simple and functional.
But with the new dashboard update, Microsoft has essentially forced me to turn my Xbox 360 into a less fun Wii.
And suddently the Xbox looks more like a copycat than a leader. That’s the marketing mistake.
The two incarnations of the Xbox did something different to the rest of the market by concentrating on online gameplay, and becoming the first console to make good use of broadband. That was the Purple Cow. It’s what built a following for both Xbox and Halo.
It’s what made me tell friends and colleagues why they should get an Xbox and meet up online. Why I talked about how Microsoft were being brave enough to blaze the trail for online gaming. And why people talked about Sony killing their brand. There was talk about convergence, and owning the living room. And as someone who grew up with videogames and has now reached middleage, it was a sign that the average adult could engage with gaming on their own contemporary level, rather than as a childish indulgence.
All that’s now gone.
Not because now I’m forced to represent myself as a cute little fella in a suit and comedy hat.
But because I’m forced to admit MS has copied the success of Nintendo in the cute market, and forced consumers who paid for a different brand and image to copy as well. It’s no longer a hardcore choice, or a Purple Cow. When two competitors start chasing the same ideas, and Nintendo already has the lead and a price advantage, it’s a battle the Microsoft brand can’t win.
Have you upgraded to the new Xbox Live experience, and do you agree or disagree? More importantly, how do you feel about the avatars, and the fact it brands Microsoft as copycats, not tech innovators – and could a brand with the legacy of Microsoft ever compete on that level against Nintendo?
Note: edited a reference to prices, as I incorrectly priced the 360 as more expensive than the Wii.