Niche to mainstream – repositioning through firmware?

As a technologist I love ‘new stuff’ that’s pretty much a given, but I’ve also held firmly to the idea that the stuff I have and what I do with it somehow set’s me apart from the mass consumer space. In some ways that’s good (I get to feel somehow superior and a little be special) and in some ways it’s bad (I have to be proud to be a geek!).

So I have mixed feelings when I see what’s happening to my game-tech. Nintendo have innovated on a grand scale with the Wii, not so much in the technology (although the new Motion Plus controller add-on demo looks really cool!) but in how the technology is consumed. Nintendo have done what I (in my professional life) have been telling internet hosters to do for a long time now, hidden the technology. They’ve basically said to the consumer population:

“Look, don’t worry about what’s inside the box. There’s some bit and pieces but that’s not important, look at how much fun you can have with it!”

What is really inside a Wii

And they’re right! No one who owns and uses a Wii gives a monkey’s tuppence about how many polygons per second / vertex shaders / flops / flips / or doodads the things has, they just know that it’s fun when you switch it on and that the WiiFit balance board is pretty cool!

Now this is fine… the Wii was designed around that innovation and delivers well upon it. My Xbox360 however was not, it was designed to be a kick-ass piece of tech and to deliver the hi definition fantasies of tech-geek gamers everywhere – I know, I’m one of them. The ‘consumerising’ of the UI as announced at E3 this week has me concerned that I’m about to become mainstream, that my kick-ass tech is to become muted, simple, easy to digest and somehow diminished and I don’t think I like it.

Now there are some good things coming out of this too, in fact the ability to effectively re-invent the usage of a piece of kit through a firmware download really excites me simply because it’s never been done before on this scale. The extension of the integration between the console environment, the games that are played upon it and the online capabilities are also of huge interest to me from a strategic thinking perspective but avatars… really? Mind you… if they can somehow manage to make my DVD drive a bit quieter I’d buy that for a dollar!

So I’m interested more in the ‘how’ than the ‘what’ in this exercise at the moment, but I’m sure that when it does arrive I’ll dive straight in a build my avatar as soon as I can.







7 responses to “Niche to mainstream – repositioning through firmware?”

  1. Michael avatar

    W00t, new writer alert! Hello John.

    While I don’t like the whole avatar thing, I can see it’s an attempt to muscle in on Nintendo’s “casual/non-gamer” turf – as if the potential for all those people was never there. Well, who’da thunk all it took to begin with was a game controller shaped like a REMOTE CONTROL to draw ’em in, eh? Hmm…

    I am quite clueless about the tech side of things myself but I’m not a casual gamer. Again, hmm…

  2. Martin avatar

    Welcome John, good to read your blog. I too like the lure of technology but am not that knowledgeable about the workings. I have it in my head just now that if I upgrade to an Elite it will somehow enhance my gaming….I know it wont but the lure of the black console is too much. Anyone know where I can get one as a freebie?

  3. Tony avatar

    Hmmm, I appear to be a strange mix of the two things, wanting nerdery and also simplicity. For example, I have a Mac because (despite working in software) I have no interest in messing about with my computer at home, I just want it to work quickly and easily for normal tasks.

    On the other hand, I really want all the P’s and G’s in my tech – 1080 of the former and 3 of the latter.

    But even then I want my 3Gs wrapped firmly in something simple and pretty, with little messing about, so in this case the iPhone…

    Am I a strange hybrid, the “casual nerd”?

  4. John avatar

    Thanks for the welcome!
    This new direction for console gaming IS going to cause us ‘original gamerz(!)’ the be a little taken aback at the de-mystifying of our tech.
    Like Tony though, I’ve got an iMac which I use for 10+ hours every day, simply because it does everything I want it to do without having to worry to much about how. Equally I have a Mac Mini which I couldn’t wait to take to pieces (about 1 week after I bought it!) to see just how they got everything in there and smack in some more RAM.
    The key thing here is to know what you REALLY want and to make your tech deliver that for you. I have taken my 360 to pieces too to change out the fans, I’m not going to make a habit of it but I know how it works. I LIKE the Mii concept in it’s place and the idea of these little fellows going out over the internet to visit their chums when I’m not around makes me smile.
    Casual nerd? No.. next gen thinker! 🙂

  5. Laura avatar

    Hiya John, welcome to Ready Up!

    I’m proud to be a geek, I don’t know alot but as you said it’s nice to feel a bit superior + special 🙂
    I’ve been on a Mac now for a few weeks and it’s weird, where are the screws? I keep calling it a “Mac PC” though, slip of the tongue honest!!

  6. John avatar

    Well, I’m old school so for me PC = Personal Computer and encompasses EVERYTHING – including my old Amiga 500/2000’s, Atari ST’s Acorn Atom’s, BBC micro’s…. I could go on! (I may be getting old!)

  7. Tony avatar

    I actually found a screw on an Apple product several months ago. There’s one underneath an iMac which allows access to the memory for easy upgrading.

    It took me a while to realise why it seemed odd to see one!

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