Normally the format of this blog would be simple: take an existing news story or other item (in this case last week’s excitement around E3) and weave a handy lesson in PR or technology around it.
However, this year I quite frankly don’t know where to start. Was Microsoft’s launch and showing of the Xbox One (or XBone as the inevitable abbreviation seems to be turning out) a lesson in how attempting to adapt to the increased functionality of devices and attempting to take control of an entire user ecosystem needs to be balanced with a clear message and clear benefits to end-users at every step of the way? Or was it a sign of how brute force may be one way for organisations to claim ownership of their software? Was it a slightly worrying sign of just how some organisations see their customers? Or was it saying that you should really work out a naming convention for your products and stick with it?
Was Sony’s corresponding PlayStation 4 announcement and apparent PR victory as far as customer goodwill is concerned a lesson in how to read your customer base and know when to stick with what works? Was it a sign how relative success can easily switch between close competitors, within the space of a single hardware generation? Does it suggest that success in technology is won or lost before your product even hits the stores (or resellers)? And should we consider that a single, swiftly-made video can be a huge PR tool in the right hands?
Will Nintendo’s Wii U’s relatively slow year and slate of software for 2013 and 2014 demonstrate how standing your ground and planning for the long haul can make up for a poor first impression? Or will it show that when all’s said and done customers look to vendors for reassurance and that’s something they have to provide?
Is there also something to be said about the relative homogeneity of software, with relatively little to differentiate one product from another? After all we’ve been promised emotive experiences this generation, which is fair enough; provided the primary emotion you want to evoke can be summed up as RRRRAAAAAAARRRRRRGH. Does this point to an inevitable commoditisation of both software and hardware, with those products that can differentiate themselves standing out even more starkly?
Lastly, what is the potential for suggesting that there is a time and a place to upgrade, and you need to measure exactly when that is to get the best value for money. After all, if you’re like me this is always the best point in a console’s lifecycle: when everyone clears off to the next version and you can sit back and buy all the software you missed first time round on the cheap and pick up the last few gems being produced. At least as a spectator, we’re seeing another round of always-entertaining system wars: although whether it ends up a classic like Spectrum vs. C64, Amiga vs. ST or Nintendo vs. Sega is still up in the air.