XBox 360 - The Somewhat Bogus Unveiling

The very definition of style over substance.

In case you missed it, the Big Unveiling of the XBox 360 was "live" on MTV last week. And since you probably did miss it - the numbers were dismal - you can pick up the broadcast and watch it for yourself from any one of a number of torrent sites. There was glitz, there were flashing lights, there were some mid-grade "celebrities", there was an appearance by this week's Band du Jour ("The Killers") ... oh, and there was a tiny smattering of XBox 360 info.

So ... on the eve of E3, when it now appears that all three of the main players in the console wars will show their "next-gen" machines, how did Microsoft do? The answer depends on which target market you think that they are aiming for:

Hardcore Gamers: With the exception of the sad sort of Microsoft fanboys that still try and shill for Longhorn, the response from the serious gaming community has ranged from resentment to ridicule. Out of the half hour on MTV given over to XBox flag-waving, there were about 70 seconds of "gameplay" previews, and another 2 minutes of a group of joystick-heads playing a deathmatch in Perfect Dark Zero. But the "gameplay" previews were all trailers and renders from existing XBox titles, and the footage of Perfect Dark was edited into the show in a painfully obvious bit of post-production work. Whatever they were playing on stage in the "live" show certainly wasn't what the audience at home saw them playing on t.v. Any gamers who invested a half-hour of their lives waiting for three minutes of faked gameplay have to be very bitter indeed.

Casual Gamers: Casual gamers pretty much looked at the pretty pictures of games they have seen before and said "so what?" If they weren't already far enough into the gaming culture to be offended (see above) then they were probably left wondering what the fuss was about.

Girl Gamers: Big misstep here. The female gaming community has become more vocal, more involved, and more visible than ever before. Groups like the Frag Dolls are bringing exposure and personality to a niche that has been woefully ignored by both Sony and Microsoft in the past. So where were the notable girl gamers, the ones with the larger-than-life personalities that are changing the way that females think about and talk about games? Nowhere. There were a couple of faceless MTV girls listlessly holding XBox controllers but obviously not using them. There were a whack of club girls with big tits jumping up and down in front of the stage where The Killers were playing. And that, bizarrely enough, was it.

20-Something Frat Boys Who Regularly Sit Through Crap On MTV Like "Cribs" and "Pimp My Ride": Okay, these people probably thought the whole thing was pretty cool.

The whole mess could be packaged as a DVD entitled "How Not To Launch Your Product." To wit:

Step 1: Offend your core audience, alienate everyone else, and spend a lot of money doing it.
Step 2: Call the show "live" and then have obvious edits.
Step 3: Generally give the impression that you and your stuff have no substance at all.

On the plus side, there were a couple of songs from the band, which is way more music than MTV (doesn't that stand for "Music Television"?) usually plays in the average 4 hour block. I guess you take what you can get.

Posted: Mon - May 16, 2005 at 04:01 PM