Restaurant Wars
Posted by Articles [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 23 May 2013, 9:33 am

I write this a mere three hours after Microsoft's big Xbox press conference. It represents my collected thoughts at the time, not a Nostradamus-esque foretelling of exactly how it's going to be. Everyone else is busy talking about specs, games, rawkin' graphix, connectivity, online issues … fine little details that will change a hundred times before any actual launch. I'd rather take a few steps back and see where Microsoft has decided to steer the ship.

I had two thoughts Tuesday while watching the Xbox One reveal. The first thought was that Microsoft and the rest of these console companies really need a fashion consultant to properly dress them before they go out on stage. Seriously, Donny baby, call me! I'll even do it pro bono. No longer will you have to face the shame of your jacket flapping in the breeze as you walk across the stage, or sharing the stage with a Doctor Who underling who paired a suit with Chuck Taylors.

The second and more relevant thought I had while watching the press conference was that Microsoft has chosen to pursue a very specific core demographic with this launch. I am not in it.

And that's okay.

Console gaming has traditionally been like eating a family-style meal: Everyone sits at the same table, eating from the same dishes. Sure, there may be some variety —  Platform Beans definitely taste different than Country-Fried RPG — but ultimately, it's the same people sitting down to the same meal. We could argue about why this has been the case: technical limitations, a relatively small pool of gamers, teeny tiny marketing budgets. But this is clearly no longer the case. New restaurants open up every day, promising new cuisines. Not just cuisines, but entirely new styles of eating. Imbibe by touch screen! Waggle your waiter! Share an asynchronous meal with someone halfway 'round the world!

New restaurants naturally bring in new diners. Those who found the family-style Grandma's Kountry Cookin' unappetizing find ever more options to entice them to the table. As the pool of diners expands in both size and demographic makeup, it allows increasingly specialized restaurants to break into the market and remain financially viable. Who would have thought ten years ago that AngryBucks Coffee and Architecture would be on every street corner in America?

To finally break this tortured analogy, the game is changing. The combination of growth, demographic shift, and technological innovations allow for more profitable specialization that diverges from the main Console Borg. The Wii U doubles down on the Wii's insistence of carving its own niche and converting Octogenarians and families at the expense of "core gamers." The Xbox One, judging by Tuesday's reveal, pushes that divergence even further.

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