Business Analysis: AT&T Offers 1000 Free Rollover Minutes To Loyal Customers

I know the main question many of you fellow AT&T customers have is probably this: is the Free 1000 Rollover Minutes legit or a scam?  The simple answer is: yes, AT&T *IS* giving away 1000 free rollover minutes..  To select loyal customers, that is.  Initially, the belief was that this offer was only being extended to AT&T iPhone customers yet I’ve found reports that Blackberry, Inspire, and other smartphone users have gotten it as well.  I decided to see what a AT&T Customer Service Representative (his name was Solomon, in case you were curious) had to say about it.  Here’s what he told me (or at least what the script told him to say):

Currently, we are only offering the free rollover minutes to loyal AT&T customers.  If you did not receive a text message with the offer, requests will be processed on a case by case basis.

He then went on to add that, if I got the confirmation stating that I would receive my free 1000 rollover minutes in 4-6 weeks, then I qualified.  There seems to be a few discrepancies here, especially since he said it may take 6-8 weeks.  I imagine the demand is rising rapidly, especially since this offer only popped up on the interwebz around Saturday, February 12th 2011.

AT&T Security Guard

Hey, every business needs a gatekeeper.. Why NOT a big, bald guy?

I suppose that is the sort of beat-around-the-bush response you can expect from any CSR (Customer Service Rep in vanilla speak).  You can see the value in having AT&T limit how many people go on to tell their friends.  Quite frankly, I was surprised there was no mention of the free rollover minutes loyalty offer on their web site, prerecorded messages, or even the official AT&T Facebook page.  That said, I have a feeling that they’re going to approve everyone automatically but they’re going to position the offer as a perk for “loyal customers”.  At this point, they’re probably trying to control call volume while not creating any more buzz about this whole thing than there needs to be.

Why is AT&T offering this now?  Why do the loyal customers matter at this point?  For jaded AT&T customers, the Verizon iPhone news, as announced on the magical date of 1/11/11, presents a way out but there’s more to it…

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Gaming Shop Talk: Microsoft’s Majestic Marketing – Halo 3 Zero Hour

Today is the day that many geeks and overly-competitive gosu gamers have been waiting for: the Halo 3 launch. For me, it is business as usual. I played the beta and wasn’t particularly impressed and I am not a huge fan of Halo to begin with (you’ll have to forgive me for that) but, whatever way you chop it up, this is a historic day. This is the story of a somewhat obscure developer that hit it big by allying with one of the biggest brands out there – Microsoft! It is also the story of how online multiplayer games really got put on the map. Halo brought a gleam of hope to those that wanted something different…

Halo 3 - a ray of light for a different type of gamer!

For many years, the online gaming community has thrived in great numbers on the PC front but it was mostly underground, cult-like, not very organic or viral. Some home consoles tried to capture the magic of PC gaming but failed, mainly because they treated multiplayer modes as an after-thought. Along comes Halo to change everything. Halo is, without a doubt, the killer app of the XBox, comparable to Final Fantasy and Super Mario, easily. It is all a matter of brilliant marketing. The XBox cultivated a huge gaming space that was, for the most part, a vacuum waiting to be filled by a big idea. Bungie was a quiet developer that gave Mac users what they rarely got: fun games that weren’t family-oriented or overly-nerdy. Marathon arguably started it all yet few people even heard of the game. In this case, it is clear that the Bungie brand made little difference as crossing over to the “dark side” (Mac users tend to dislike anything Microsoft) would have lost the long-time followers. Surely, the amplifier of the Halo franchise was something outside of the developers and branding, surely the market was ready and waiting for something to come along. Halo certainly filled void by meeting the needs of those that wanted hardcore competition in a not-so-nerdy package. Finally, an FPS that was fast-paced, revolved around multiplayer (both coop and versus), and didn’t have a complex control scheme!

Had Halo been released on the PC like Microsoft originally intended to, it would not have been as popular; instead, they attacked the console market and used college dorms as marketing hives, the gaming bees buzzing about about their latest gaming addiction. Why do I say this? Well, the game is a rehash of what has been done before but, since it was new to those that only knew console gaming, it was easy to spread.

The brilliance of Halo was never it’s unique storyline or break-through architecture. The technical aspects are all commonplace in a marketplace where ideas are just repackaged and regurgitated. The marketing is where the real money was made and where the Halo franchise became rock-solid. The console market was in dire need of a fast-paced online multiplayer game. Something that was easy to find (accessible), easy to talk to others about (smooth), and simple to play (inviting). The major gripe for people that dabbled in other First Person Shooter (FPS) games is that keyboard-and-mouse control schemes were too complex. Halo opened up the FPS genre to the masses and targeted the most aggressive, competitive gamers as well as everyday, casual gamers that needed something simple to enjoy with friends. These two segments spawned many fans spreading the message: here’s something UNREAL! Continue reading

Finding the Perfect Toothbrush: A Lesson in Marketing

A few articles back, I talked about Oreo and how their message is simply this: we are America’s favorite cookie. These are the sorts of messages that can backfire but, executed properly, you really boost the perceived value tenfold. The brilliance in Oreo’s current strategy lies in their use of contests and celebrity lick races, promotions that people talk about with others. These are ideas that spread in a viral manner or, as Seth Godin puts it, ideaviruses. The key to this strategy is creating simple, consistent messages that anyone can spread onward; of course, you have to get people excited.

In this article, I’d like to discuss a marketing strategy that is a little less buzz and hype-driven yet still viral in nature. Let’s look at a simple thing that everyone uses (well, mostly everyone): a toothbrush. Traditional marketing and old money business people will tell you that the better toothbrush will sell more but what does “better” actually mean? It depends what your target customers are. For kids, both big and small (some of us are still kids at heart), cartoon-stickered and music-generating toothbrushes are the epitome of oral hygiene devices.

Does this cow do anything for you?

For the rest of the world, style still matters but effectiveness, practical use, becomes a greater distinction. Think about the last time you purchased a toothbrush and how often you make this decision. What affected your decision? Did you go for the toothbrushes in the front or did you look further back on the shelve? Was it an impulse buy, perhaps triggered by a clever end-cap display or cashier counter arrangement? Did you even notice how hard or soft the bristles are? Was the type of grip and general structure of the toothbrush a big focus for you? What was the final tie breaker (assuming you were initially indecisive)? The chances are that, if you were put in a group of 50 people, your decision-making process would be quite distinct. Once we recognize that not all consumers think the same way is a humbling experience for all business people…

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StumbleUpon, Digg, Web 2.0/3.0, Social Media – Why Should YOU Care?

Let’s play a game. I will toss some buzzwords at you and you stop me when you come across something that interests you. Here we go… De.licio.us, Technorati, Digg, StumbleUpon, Web 2.0, social media… Anything yet? Chances are nothing in that sentence really grabbed you. If it did, you may be amongst the 5% that actually cares about the ubiquitous Web 2.0 format and the push for social media. For everyone else in the world, why should YOU care? Let’s explore that now…

If none of the aforementioned buzzwords spoke to you, you may not be excited about the boom in social networking (the above diagram explains it all – well, not really); that is, all the sites like MySpace, Facebook, CherryTap, Hi5, LinkedIn, and the like that are out there. These sites are all part of a great movement called “Web 2.0” by some, or immersive user-driven web design by others. The terminology changes around depending on whom you speak with. Those on the technical side will use more tech-speak while those more on the business or “soft side” of things will use more seller talk and marketing terms. In the end, Web 2.0, or whatever you call it, is about making the web useful to the average user again.

If you used the Internet before the dawn of the World Wide Web, you may recall Bulletin Board Systems (arguably the precursor to modern-day forums software such as YaBB, SMF, and PHPBB), Gopher, Usenet, Telnet, and other fun services that are now all but obsoleted. In these modern times where instant gratification is demanded by virtually everyone, people want things fast and their way. The savvy information seekers of the Digital Age know to use the Web to avoid what can otherwise be more noisy, crowded information channels (i.e. television and other well-established mediums). Web 2.0 comes along, as nothing more but a general idea, and says “the web is the vehicle for those adventurous, insiquisitive seekers – give them the keys to that vehicle.”

Social Network Craziness Somewhat Simplified

Original Source: Relenet Social Network Services

 

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Oreo Double Stuf Race – You Guys Win!!!

I just wanted to share a few thoughts on the recent CWTV Oreo Double Stuf Race promotion. First and foremost, thanks to all of you that actively voted and told your friends to do the same. I saw some exponential growth in the traffic going from my pages on MySpace and WordPress. In the final hour, many of you put in hundreds of clicks which really kept my brother in the race.

According to the last vote refresh I got to see (right before the poll page was taken offline), the top two videos were Oreos In Bed and Deliocioso. I think I share the sentiment of most people out there when I sit in complete bewilderment and wonder just how in the world such a piss-poor entry made it as a finalist, let alone won the grand prize. Apparently, since other people found the jump from 5% to 63% [practically overnight] to be rather suspicious, an investigation got started. I don’t mean to sound like a sore loser but, really, my brother’s video was infinitely better than “Oreos In Bed” – I would have rather seen “The Last One”, “Search for Stuf”, or “I Love Oreos” in the #1 spot since they had much more substance and production value.

I reviewed the Oreo Double Stuf Race contest rules and it seems that 70% of the vote is based on “personality” – call me crazy, but I don’t think there was much personality in that bed scene. What there was in that video was a whole lot of suggestive sexual content. Boobies sell and I guess that is enough for the general public. Sad times indeed…

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Promotion: Oreo Lick Race Challenge

Get ready for what will be quite possibly my shortest post, especially for a blog, EVER! ::drum roll:: I will quote myself from today’s WOMM (Word Of Mouth Marketing) effort, for added effect:

Vote for my bro, Antonio (a.k.a ToNy4MVP, for those of you who played ARC or traverse the interwebz a bit) of St. John’s University, at (or after) 3:00pm EST at http://www.cwtv.com/thecw/oreo – he is one of 15 finalist out of thousands upon thousands of entries. Very excited for him… Los Oreo’s SON MUY DELICIOSOS!!!!

Tell your friends, link to this article, spread the word… The future of Oreo’s is in your hands. I thank you and so do Oreo lovers everywhere!! =oD

This just in: Tony’s video now at the top of the vote. I see a few of you folks clicking through to the site and voting. Many, many thanks. While there is a nice prize package and commercial deal involved for the grand prize winner, the really nice thing is that Nabisco will give $30,000 to the charity of the winner’s choice. Sweet deal – literally! I wonder if that is tax-deductible… *wink* Just kidding, folks! It really is a good cause so let’s show people the power of the blogosphere – spread the word!

Oreo Speed Racer - GO GO GO!!!
[ Image provided courtesy of Jayski’s Silly Season Site ]

Let’s all chant: Deliocioso! Deliocioso! Deliocioso! Yes, “deliocisio” is mis-spelled but we’re going to coin that cause it’s just that hot. It’s WAY more “fetch” than “rediculous”! Anywho, Oreo has a stellar promotion here and it goes to show you the power of brand marketing. Everyone knows the Oreo is the best cookie in the world – w00t!

Related Links:

Hype is Overly-Hyped

I am fortunate to make a strong connection with a brilliant marketer and interactive systems expert over in Poland earlier today. Tomasz Sucheta is a student of the Regis McKenna. Though I come from another school of thought, I agree with lots of what Regis teaches, especially his focus on relationship building. Personally, I always make it a point to take what others say with a grain of salt and use best-of-breed systems rather than any single approach, but Regis teaches what can easily be considered a complete approach to modern marketing.

In one of the latest Digital Symbiosis articles, Tomasz Sucheta quotes some of Regis McKenna’s most inspiring words. The premise of this abstract revolves around the infamous hype machine that modern marketing has become. Here’s a quote directly from Mr. Sucheta’s site:

“Hype dominates the very idea of marketing, and despite some vibrancy, much of marketing has become obscure and even ridiculous. Thanks to the deafening noise of hype, we no longer know what is real, what is effective or what common set of principles should guide the marketing process.”

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Brand Marketing: When Perceived Value Wins

In my previous post, I talked about the marketing phenomenom known by many as “Starbucks”. In my opinion, Starbucks is one of the most powerful marketers in present day, up there with powerhouse brands like Disney and Apple. I highly recommend reading this post along with my previous post. I realize they are more long-winded than usual but that just means the articles are loaded with lots of useful gems and nugget of knowledge!

Reviewing my brief Starbucks case study, one of the key points I made was about how consumers often go with what is convenient and familiar, rather than what provides better quality or “value”. After writing that piece, I came across a brand marketing/power of presence blog by Lance Winslow which inspired me to revisit this topic. He is right on-point when he states that the power of presence and brand marketing theories apply to just about every facet of society. Starbucks definitely has the power of presence nailed, especially in Washington and New York. The interesting thing about the Starbucks brand is that many people can’t figure out what the logo really is yet they can spot it from a mile away – now THAT’S powerful!

The beauty of the Starbucks brand, to me, is that they are selling status – yes, STATUS! People figure that, if you can afford Starbucks on a regular basis, maybe two or three times a day, you are doing well for yourself; after all, spending $7-35 a day for coffee and perhaps a snack seems like such a frivolous expense when there are cheaper alternatives. Strabucks has become so viral that many company cultures revolve around people treating others to their products. I can recall many a workplace where there would be designated “coffee guys” that would go on runs for several people at once. Often, these coffee runners would be expected to pay for the coffees of those they are trying to suck up to. Amazingly, this gesture goes a long way. Buy your boss a coffee from the food cart on Main Street and you’ll get a funny look but buy him/her Starbucks and you get the “job well done” look.

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The Gaming Console Wars: Marketing Analysis

Before I get into a deeper look at the systems, I want it to be known that I am basing my opinions here on very initial impressions as gathered by following trends, chatting with other folks on the subject, and just gathering my own data. I don’t care about third-party research or the so-called “facts”. I’m offering a somewhat different look for those that are willing to look at it.

If you are a fanboy/fangirl, this is probably not the post to read.

Now that formalities are out of the way, let’s get on with the fun stuff. I’d like to go through some quick points and then go through my usual stream-of-consciousness review afterwards. Here are the big players to be discussed further:

>>> Wii >>>

The Story: Old and new meet to bring gaming back to the masses. Whether you are a “core gamer” or newbie, Nintendo has something for you.

The Myth: The system is only for kids.

The Truth: While it could be said that the Wii is better for kids than, say, the PS3 and 360, such a statement does not do the system justice. The Wii experience is something that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and gamers of all kinds so long as you are open-minded and don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

Segways: Wii owners probably like small, cute things and pretty colors. If they own iPods, they probably go for the mini or nanos. A matching iPod would be so slick. Nintendo really bundled in style with the sleek design of the Wii but they also “kept it real” by keeping their core gamers more than happy. Sleek design, throwback hits, strong returns, and Wi-Fi out of the box. It’s the DS Lite strategy on crack and I love it!

Target Market: Core Gamers, Casual Gamers, New Gamers, Online Gamers

Availability: Limited but more abundant than Sony’s self-imposed supply shortages – damn them to heck!

YAY:

  • Classic games available for download, typically around $5-10. Hopefully that price will drop to make it more appealing but, regardless, it is a smart move. Imagine all your NES, SNES, Master System, and Genesis favorites available better than they were to begin with… It’s only the beginning!
  • The motion-sensitive controllers make way for new mechanics. It’s what Power Glove and U-Force should have been but now with far more third-party support, which is what really counts. Games are being designed specifically with Wii controls in mind, rather than just ported over in a Willy-Nilly fashion. PS3 has something similar but the combination of two separate motion-sensitive devices is far more accurate and allows for more creativity when developing games.
  • Nintendo is so confident that people will enjoy the Wii mechanics that there will be versions of games available on the Gamecube as well, providing distinctive experiences all on their own.
  • Some extra bells and whistles were dropped to make the price competitive. Nothing that is really needed has been left out so no worries.
  • The Wii sported what, to me, looked like the most diverse and impressive selection of launch titles but that is purely a subjective matter.
  • Integration of features with the DS will enhance gameplay but not restrict it for non-owners.
  • Nintendo seems to be the most sincere in their approach to the consumer. They have managed customer expectations brilliantly and I respect them for that. They do not care about next gen, they are all about the NEW GENERATION!
  • Accessories are cheaper and more available as a whole so you don’t need to invest a whole lot to be able to get friends up in the action or expand the functionality of the console.
  • If you love party games, minigames, and social gatherings, there’s really no better choice than the Wii. Time and again, you’ll see that Playstation fans will tell you that their favorite games are all single-player games whereas the XBox and Nintendo gamers are enjoying multiplayer settings. I also see a trend in the growing “only child” (recluse) Playstation gamer sector. Coincidence? I think not.

NAY :

  • Very little online multiplayer seems to be available right now when compared to the competition. The infrastructure is there but it’s not being leveraged. I hope they don’t botch it up like they did with the DS (i.e. an awkard friend management system).
  • Technology is lacking on the graphical and sound output side of things but this was intended. This means that Nintendo loses out on those that need to have eye candy and mere bragging rights over gameplay and fun.
  • If you are looking for a DVD player or complete multimedia center, this is not it. The Wii is pure gaming fun for the all; nothing more, nothing less.
  • The DS-enhanced features of the Wii have not been showcased and, really, most people that own a Wii at this point have a DS so it seems counter-productive for Nintendo to neglect this.
  • 480p does not seem very appealing to most people even though this is how we’ve seen TV for a looooooong time and it was fine until HDTV came along and told us that it was no good. If you do not have a REALLY good TV, this is merely something on the data sheet that will be leveraged by snobs or elitists to make the Wii seem like a lesser system.
  • The sensor bar, which is required for motion-sensitive mechanics, can be annoying for those that have little space and curious pets, especially the flying cats.
  • On a similar note, the games that depend upon the physical motion mechanics can be annoying when played with several people in tight quarters. I live in New York City so, as you can imagine, my living quarters are not much better than your typical shoebox.
  • If even a little physical activity wears you out, the Wii’s flagship games may be too much for you. The Surgeon General warns that too much Wii may cause heart attack or stroke – OH NOES! I’m kidding, BTW. Sadly, people complain about the need for actual motion because people do not want to exercise when gaming simply because gaming is meant to be a relaxing experience, unless you are playing DDR, but that’s different!
  • Many reports indicate that the battery life on the Wii-mote is not very good, especially if you are a hardcore gamer. Extended gaming sessions should only take place with plenty of alkaline batteries handy. Hopefully, Nintendo devises some sort of docking station to answer PS3’s sexy and simple USB-based recharging system.

>>> Playstation 3 >>>

The Story: The best graphics, the best game franchises, and the sleekest system. Sony sells raw power in a stylish package. If you are a true gamer, you have to get this system. These are the beliefs that the supporters of Playstation 3 repeat in their heads – and you better not argue otherwise!

The Myth: This is the best and only system a hardcore gamer should have.

The Truth: The Playstation is only as good as it’s flagship games. I’m not sold on the controllers, the inflated price, or the big hype. Sony is notorious for bloating up their prices just because they have a strong brand. This is coming from a guy that has had everything Sony in the past. Right now, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, DMC, Dynasty Warriors, and the few other games that may appeal to me are not enough to make me want the system. I’m a PC gamer so I’ve seen all the other stuff already; moreover, single-player games don’t do it for me. If you feel the same way, look elsewhere. Even the most optimistic folks must concede: it’s going to be a while before Sony really makes even a spark in the online gaming arena. Final Fantasy Online is not enough – the PC has it!

Segways: You’re probably an artist or rebel of some sort. Many Playstation owners give a wholehearted middle finger to XBox and, sometimes, their supporters. I can understand why seeing how you’re often on one side of the fence or the other. Even the game libraries are very distinct, in spite of some overlapping offerings. Playstation games just tend to have more of an epic air to them. They are creative, spectacular, flashy, and content-rich. Microsoft tries to copy this but it doesn’t seem to work for them. The rebellious, often loner personalities of the Playstation purists often means that they only care to play solo. If you’re looking for a online multiplayer haven, Playstation, as a whole, is not there yet. No worries – your iPod works with your PS3! The fun doesn’t stop there: Anime lovers can enjoy a nice little niche of little-known, cult titles straight from Japan – another middle finger to the XBox!!

Target Market: Core Gamers, New Gamers

Availability: Less than 400K units in the US currently.

YAY:

  • Sony seems committed to keeping online multiplayer action free which is certainly very attractive to those that prefer human interaction over the often linear gameplay offered otherwise.
  • Sony has the core Final Fantasy games on their platform and that alone makes PS3 a system to have.
  • Playstation, historically, has offered some very unique titles that do not even get copycat versions on other systems. PS3 is naturally poised to offer some very distinctive games, as expected from the Sony line-up.
  • Backwards compatibility seems to be less selective and more robust as a whole for the PS3. Built-in PSOne and PS2 emulators means that the PS3 has a huge library of games, making the PS3 a very worthwhile entry system for those new to the Sony world of gaming.
  • Building upon the matter of backwards compatibility, PS3 is so committed to their products that they have made it so that each system improves the performance of former generations of products. Bless your souls. Microsoft should borrow some pages from Sony’s book on product loyalty.
  • The PSP adds to the features that the PS3 offers, including support as a wireless controller. People can finally get the most out of the PSP, which has seen a mostly ho-hum game library up until recently.
  • Partnerships put Sony in a good position. IBM’s Cell Technology alone really seems to overshadow SMP, Dual Core, or any comparable technologies.
  • Launch titles for the PS3 were far superior than they were for XBox 360 in it’s dawning moment.
  • The staples for the XBox 360 have, for the most part, been refined and moved to the PS3. New features, better gameplay, and overall “sexiness” will make it hard for people to choose the more watered-down versions on the XBox.
  • The PS3 versions of the 360 games seem to be cheaper or equally priced from what I’ve seen from my favorite vendors, both online and in retail outlets. You get a better experience for the same price or cheaper? Hmmm… Tough call!
  • The six-axis controller (United States Patent 5828813) design lends to true 360-degree control in 3D environments which will be great news for FPS and RPG fans alike as games become more immersive and interactive.
  • For those who have invested in creating a complete home theater environment, the PS3 offers a very powerful multimedia experience that shows what Hi-Def is really all about.
  • Though I do not like the feel and lay-out of the Playstation 3 controllers, I must say that I absolutely love the fact that you can recharge them via USB and a full charge lasts you quite a while. Pressure sensitivity, DualShock technology, and what is quite arguably the best analog implementation out there almost makes me covet a PS3 controller.
  • The Sony platform seems to have more power of presence than Microsoft can muster up.  The brand power and overall viral nature of the Playstation 3 seems to far exceed that of the 360 but supply chain issues are not meeting the demand fast enough.

NAY:

  • The online multiplayer community seems pretty weak so far, even after considering that it was only recently launched, and the focus still seems to be on epic/rich single-player content.
  • If you are tired of the typical single-player grind, PS3 may not be the system for you, especially if the flagship games do not appeal to you.
  • Limiting the launch supply of core systems was not cool, no matter what the driving force behind it was. It would have been better to delay the launch than create a crazy which had people literally killing others to get their hands on the system.
  • Lowering the price of the PS3 in Japan and not the US really sent out some mixed signals, regardless of what crap the marketing people try to feed us.
  • If you are like many gamers that have found the PSP library to be weak, the PSP support may not really thrill you, especially if certain features are restricted to only PSP users in the future. Besides, what are the chances that you’ll run into PSP owners that have all the games you have? Single-card download play is the way to go – PWNT!
  • The high-tech overkill of PS3 makes the price point a bit too lofty. Even if you can afford to spend the cash, it almost seems like a waste knowing that the price will inevitably drop and a PC with better specs can be purchased for the same price, which is clearly a far better investment (unless all you care to do is game, of course). Maybe it’s just me but, if I buy a gaming console, I just want to game. For other entertainment, I have other venues.
  • The lack of supply in the US has fed black market junkies as they realize how much people are fiending for this item. PS3 units are selling for upwards of $15,000 (yes, 15K USD) – RIDICULOUS!
  • The level of control offered by the six-axis controllers pales in comparison when placed alongside the formidable Wii-mote and Nunchuk combination. Don’t worry: PS3 has better graphics!

>>> XBox 360 >>>

The Story: Microsoft doesn’t do story telling. They offer the ubiquitous gaming console that provides a PC-like experience with similar offerings as the Playstation and things like this and that. Basically, it’s no secret that Microsoft jumps on top of every trend in their efforts to extend their monopoly/empire. The XBox is a solid system but it doesn’t really excel in anything other than having some sexy specs on the data sheet. Heck, while the other systems focus on those broke 20 and 30-somethings, XBox goes straight for the middle-aged. “Hey Bob, want to play a few rounds of Madden on XBox Live?” “Sure John!”

The Myth: Microsoft has the biggest budget and can thus produce the best quality.

The Truth: While Microsoft may have a bottomless pit of money to draw upon, they seem to be investing this capital in all the wrong places. In terms of exclusive titles, the XBox has always had little to offer. Multiplayer is their big advantage and perhaps that extra cash may help out in that arena. They should consider expanding the XBox Arcade and free offerings if they plan to push that pay-to-play model much longer.

Target Market: Online Gamers, Core Gamers

Segways: Those that buy into the Media Center approach (integrate everything and force our standards upon everyone with an iron fist) to things and generally like the Microsoft way stand behind their faceless an short-lived products. It’s not all bad news. Microsoft offers loose integration and support of their own products cross-platform and even natively. If you jumped on the Zune without reservation, you more than likely have no complaint about the XBox 360 or are at least looking to get one, if you don’t already own one. XBox Live is the big thing for XBox and XBox 360 owners alike. Computer geeks and techies tend to like the XBox and consider it blasphemous to not own one or prefer another system over it; heck, I experienced this in my last (and final) full-time job in Corporate America, where everyone looked at me funny for owning a Gamecube and Playstation 2.

Availability: In a gaming store or multimedia megastore near you, if you care!

YAY:

  • Though it is clear that both Sony and Nintendo plan to jump on the online multiplayer bandwagon en-masse, Microsoft still holds the trump card with XBox Live.
  • Backwards compatibility is reliable and supports key titles. DOOM 3 is amongst these titles so, if you’re like me and you don’t play games to beat them, you can pick up where you left off on a brand-new XBox 360.
  • Games like Gears of War and Dead Rising will remain exclusive for the foreseeable future. These exclusive games are tempting and quite unique in themselves.
  • I find that the controllers on the XBox 360 are the most comfortable out of the latest batch of gaming consoles. They are intuitive and familiar for long-time gamers, whereas the Playstation controllers are only better in the eyes of the fanboys and fangirls, or those that liked the cramp-your-hand style of the SNES controllers. Of course, this is a matter of personal preference.
  • For those that can’t afford the more expensive XBox 360, there is the core system option. It has no hard drive and apparently comes with a wired controller instead of the wireless but it still does everything else, apparently.
  • Halo fans cannot live without the XBox.  Halo 3 is the game almost every XBox owner wants and needs.  Halo has become so viral on it’s own that it has almost single-handedly kept the XBox platform thriving.

NAY:

  • XBox Live is pay-to-play which kinda stinks when you consider that you also have to buy the games and the price model is pretty rigid. I am still trying to convince friends to buy certain games AND get on Live, simply because XBC and other tunneling services have been made almost completely useless.
  • Backwards compatibility only applies to certain titles which, once again, resounds Microsoft’s incessant insistence to abandon product lines whenever they have a new pet project on-hand.
  • Game performance for the XBox titles does not seem to be improved on the XBox 360, for the most part, whereas the PS3 and PS2 both provide noticeable improvements on PSOne games.
  • With over around a year as a headstart on the marketplace, Microsoft has failed to build a very attractive game library for the XBox 360. Promises of better things on the horizon aren’t enough. Halo 2, to me, was good but did not live up to the hype. I, for one, do not like empty promises.
  • There are reported issues of overheating, system lock-up, and other bugs which require third-party upgrades to support extended play. Again, for this, get yourself a PC with a built-in cooling system and temperature monitoring!
  • Microsoft seems to have completely abandoned local network play so now the LAN party appeal is gone.
  • Overall, this quote shows how Microsoft’s marketing effort has been received by the hardcore gamers: “seriously, nobody cares about the XBox 360”. Check out any hardcore gamer discussion online, in a magazine, or on a show and you’ll see that this is the rule, not the exception.
  • Why Microsoft even offers their core system is beyond me. They should just bite the bullet and offer the next-step-up at the entry price. Why? Hard drives are dirt cheap these days so, really, the tech-savvy folks will find a cheap after-market solution if you do not give people a readily-available solution. DO IT!
  • A lack of variety really hurts Microsoft. XBox was mostly focused on FPS, hack-and-slash, and sports games. So far, there is little to show me that they are changing this. Supposedly, Microsoft is appealing to the more mature gamer yet they renig on their approach before offering the occassional non-mainstream (and sometimes kiddyish) game. Fable was supposed to be the answer to Final Fantasy (or something like that); it definitely fell short of expectations!

The term “core gamer” is used a lot by the marketing folks at these major companies. For our purposes, we’ll make it an all-encompassing container group that covers brand loyalists and fanboys/fangirls, as well as those that are serious gamers. The antithesis of the core gamer would be the casual or new gamers. When I discuss the target market here, I am referring to the markets that really seem to respond to the system, rather than whom the systems were intended for. The intentions of Sony and Microsoft are harder to mention beyond wanting to sell as much product as possible (which is what everyone wants) but I can honestly say that Nintendo is the only major player that has set their positioning for mass appeal, rather than appealing to the elitists, snobs, and fanboys/fangirls.

I know that even after all this analysis, some may be torn regarding what systems they want. Maybe each system has a game or two that really appeal to you. Personal preferences like controller types, physical appeal, system dimensions, and environmental accentuation are things that no one can choose for you. Personally, I find that the Sony controllers are my least favorite. I think they tried too hard to be stylish and do something different that, in effect, they got rid of the intuitive nature of gaming and made the system more for hardcore gamers. If you are a long-time Playstation person or a gaming veteran, it’s fine, but it’s still there.

Really, looking at launch titles generally tells you what type of gamer the companies are looking to focus on, even if they have targeted other consumers. XBox 360 is still doing the maulers and FPS games, trying to get some sort of online multiplayer action wherever possible. PS3 appeals to those that love the killer franchises which, according to many hardcore gamers (including myself), are pretty much untouchable. Wii comes in and offers a very distinct experience. I honestly cannot put this system in the same arena; not because it’s not as good but because it is so different that you can’t really draw comparisons. Wii’s appeal is that Nintendo is trying to break away from the snobbery of gaming and focus on the fun instead.

Snobbery of gaming, you say? Yes, there’s tons of it. Though many of us gamers are rebels in our own ways, we’ve fallen into a vast mainstream here: people now compare gaming systems as if they were luxury sports cars, focusing mostly on the labels, aesthetics, and hype. Just look at how people over-reacted when the Smash My Console folks took out the PS3. The fanboys spoke out by the masses, dismissing the social experiment as childish, wasteful, and pathetic. OH NOES – one less PS3 in the US until Sony decides to release more units. We better get them soon cause surviving on water and air alone is not enough!!

The biggest lie right now (propagated by the aforementioned snobbery) is that Wii is yet another system geared towards kids but anyone that played GameCube enough saw that Nintendo finally broke down and said “violence is fine, let the ESRB handle the dirty details.” The gaming industry has become like everything else: hype wins over quality. Clearly, this discussion is beyond the scope of any single post or thread so I’ll be expanding upon this as time progresses. >>> STAY TUNED! >>>