Dead to Bragging Rights
On Nov. 22, Microsoft got its half-year jump on video game competitors Sony and Nintendo by releasing the XBOX360 (yes, that is all one “word”), even though the original XBox is still a viable system. While this bodes well for hardcore gamers who want to see the technology pushed forward at a faster pace and while competition between companies ultimately benefits the end-user, the release of the system was not wholly without incident.
Microsoft did an excellent job promoting the new system, giving away over 9000 of them through Pepsi’s “Every 10 Minutes” contest, where they gave one away every ten minutes, I think (but I’m not positive), making sure that if you didn’t win or buy an XBOX360, you would most likely hate yourself until you got one. That’s how well marketing works.
While Microsoft priced the system at $400 for the real system and $300 for the “Core System” (which, by lacking the practically essential hard drive, only really serves to mock the consumer when all the real systems are gone), retailers weren’t going to have any of that. They knew that if you were dumb enough to stand in line for 16 hours to shell out $400 for a completely new (and thus, widely untested) product along with money for games and extra controllers, that you were also probably dumb enough to spend enough money so that your life would soon resemble Indecent Proposal.
Thus, the XBOX360 was sold in many places as a “bundle,” which is when the system gets packaged with a bunch of accessories you probably don’t need or want and just serves to jack up the price. Some retailers were especially unscrupulous by disregarding a first-come, first-serve policy on selling the system and instead just sold it to whoever bought the system along with the most merchandise. And then, of course, there were those who managed to pick up a system for $400 or just win one and then sell it on eBay for five times the MSRP.
But after you’ve spent $2000 on a new console, then the real fun can begin, and there were certainly reports of super-fun times, such as the system overheating or the cooling fans being too noisy or just crashing. Some reports were true while others were just fabricated to fight Microsoft’s evil empire (actual quality of the system be damned), even though Microsoft is actually losing money on each XBOX360 sold. I’m not saying they’re selling the console out of the goodness of their cold, dead hearts, but they’re not selling a cheaply-made system so they can reap massive profits. Microsoft is banking on the sale of accessories and XBox Live subscriptions along with the six-month space they have to dominate the next-generation console market.
So with the price-gouging and threat of system instability, why invest in the system now? I suppose some people might just have a bizarre loyalty to Microsoft (is it non-conformist to root for the overdog?), but most buyers are probably just hardcore gamers who spend pretty much all their money on video games. They’re the guys who will buy a Game Boy Micro, even though it’s just like their Game Boy Advance SP, except that it can be crushed under the weight of a pack of gum. But within the hardcore gamers and every group of product afficionados, there’s a subset known as the “Early Adopters.”
Before I explain why Early Adopters are less than bright, let me explain exactly who qualifies as one. While most of us swim in the soothing waters of the mainstream, there are those who boldly go first (as well as those who meekly go last, but they’re just those people who are humorously behind the times, usually because they have no money...who says poverty can’t be funny?), and they are known as the Early Adopters.
They’re not trendsetters because trendsetters usually don’t intend to start a trend in the first place. It’s the Early Adopters who do the heavy lifting of picking up the trend and carrying it over to the mainstream to see if it will float or sink.
There’s really no reason to be an Early Adopter other than bragging rights. Unless immediate success relying on word-of-mouth is a factor (like properties that require a mass audience, i.e. TV shows), the Early Adopter is unnecessary because the afficionados will always pick up any new product, simply because they’re passionate about the type of product.
But if you’re just trying to get in on the next big thing before everyone else, then you’re a fool because the proverbial juice isn’t worth the proverbial squeeze.
How can anyone respect an Early Adopter is beyond me. “Oh, you have a first-generation iPod? Wow! With such incredible foreknowledge, I can’t believe you didn’t see the incredibly short battery life of the product!” Or, “Oh, you really thought that the pet rock was the next big thing. Oh well, I’m sorry your living room is full of packaged rocks.”
Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to new technology. I guarantee
you that in one year the XBOX360 will be more technologically sound and cheaper
to buy. You’re much better off being the guy without an XBOX360 than the
guy who just spent his life savings only to get a broken one.