In Next-Gen, Understanding Your Audience Is Key
I love both my PS3 and my Xbox 360. I appreciate both console platforms for what they deliver and the promise of each game released for their respective platforms. Master Chief is my greatest friend, and I have been met with much disdain for loving the Halo franchise, for enjoying a gaming experience so uniquely Xbox. With the Xbox One reveal and Microsoft’s E3 showing, I was saddened by the lack of core gamer consideration. At face value, it was if core gamers were not in Microsoft’s bigger picture, and I had accepted that times change and that Microsoft wanted to attract a more mainstream crowd. So far, I have enjoyed what Sony has to offer with the PS4 and what was displayed in terms of games. Xbox One’s E3 game showcase was equally satisfying and was most probably the best of the night relative to my own interests.
Foremost, I disagree with the idea of blind faith to one corporation be it Sony or Microsoft. The reality was, before the reversal of Microsoft’s policy, that Sony was offering a next-gen console at a more affordable price point without the hassles of the Xbox One’s DRM policies. For myself, and many core gamers, this is simply what we wanted from a next-gen console and it is exciting to have next-gen so near to us, as of E3. At present, I would consider both the Xbox One and PS4 on equal footing as contending viable next-gen platforms. Nintendo’s Wii U has not even made it to the semi-finals of this race for our wallets, and both Sony and Microsoft are the true contenders. However, there is a great deal of good will towards Sony and the PS4 at the moment, and Microsoft might be seen as flip-flopping on their policies in a Mitt Romney kind of way. But this is only relevant to the present stance on the consoles which will most definitely drastically change now with Microsoft’s DRM reversal, which is probably one of the major hopes of Microsoft’s PR department.
From this whole mess, what can be discerned is the key tenet of understanding your audience. This was demonstrated aptly through the power of the media. When people from across the online media spectrum such as Angry Joe and Jim Sterling brought attention to Microsoft’s policies for Xbox One, gamers’ disapproval of Microsoft’s policies were highlighted in the mainstream. Ultimately I think much of the sudden policy change had to do with a build up of negative feedback and the final straw which was Jimmy Fallon’s showcase of the PS4, with the game Knack. Fallon made remarks about Microsoft’s Xbox One policies and Mark Cerny retorted in kind about the advantages of the PS4. Other gaming journalists believe this DRM reversal to be the ultimate marketing ploy employed by Microsoft. I think differently, as stated above. This is of course a difference of opinion, which doesn’t matter now that both consoles are on equal footing, and the real war over our hard earned cash can begin.
What is gained from this sudden upheaval in Microsoft’s DRM policy is the knowledge that gamers through various media outlets can unify their voices, be it through media personalities and gaming websites, and express their thoughts on console platforms. The supposed minority have representation, which is both the beauty and curse of gaming media on the internet. Publishers should take heed from Microsoft’s example as next-gen will definitely be different from the previous generation, and understanding your audience and effectively catering to them will be key to being successful. In the games industry itself we’re seeing a lack of understanding in who the audience is for a given game. AAA developers are trying to attract a mainstream audience, the Call of Duty crowd, to their games regardless of the niche appeal. This niche appeal made these games popular with a certain crowd, who are a minority but important nonetheless.
Funnily enough, Microsoft has realised from the overwhelming negative feedback that much of the Xbox audience, who many consider to be a minority, felt about the policies they planned to implement. With Don Mattrick making matters worse, for Microsoft things weren’t going too well. But the policies have changed and both Sony and Microsoft fans should be happy. Happy that at this moment in time both consoles can compete on equal terms, and that gamers are not getting a raw deal anymore.