By: Tatiana G. King
Now that the overture of Sony love, adulation, and utterly ridiculous dramatics of the PS4 event is over–what’s next? While Sony definitely tried to stupefy the audience (of what appeared to be a over a million live stream viewers) with absolutely gorgeous graphics and an almost obscene amount of graphical data; they still failed on some levels. For one, they never showed the console itself. According to Shuhei Yoshshida, Sony’s worldwide studios President, “the console is just a box…the console is just a console.”.
Oh Yoshida-san; I humbly beg to differ. This isn’t Metal Gear Solid and it’s not just a box. In my opinion, this is a device that will be in livings rooms, bedrooms, and game rooms everywhere. On the one hand the “just a box” adage is trying to push consumers towards the notion that shape and size and feel and touch of the unit isn’t important–it’s what’s inside (I think I just quoted Intel…). That’s all good and well but for ages game console buyers have always been very keen on the form factor of new systems. Except for maybe the Gamecube and Dreamcast, systems have progressively become larger–which is actually counter intuitive to the very idea that as technology improves, components get smaller. So hypothetically, the case surrounding the innards of a device will get smaller too. Understandably, these companies are fitting tons of components into these boxes (hard drives, RAM modules, cooling units etc.), so the extra space is a must. Gamers (casual and hardcore alike) understand that. Quite honestly, in this day and age the next step up from a console which, to be clear is a computer; is a gaming rig which can be relatively monstrous.
It’s obvious that console gamers don’t want a rig in their living room–if they did, they’d be PC gamers and wouldn’t care what Playstation or Xbox does. They want a device that can sit and (maybe) play nicely with the other devices under and around their TV but still be able to harness immense graphical and computational power. So the console should at least have some semblance of design around it. Even regular folks that just want a multipurpose entertainment unit to play movies and casual games don’t want a behemoth. For one, it really shouldn’t be much bigger than the current gen models. When the PS3 first came out, myself and others likened the shape to a George Foreman Grill. The Xbox was just an absolute brick of a machine (insert red ring of death joke here). Even the power brick was almost hilariously huge. I can’t say for sure that the design of either system caused a decrease in “x” amount of sales. But I can say, with great confidence that it turned off a lot of people. Some folks who are obsessed about design won’t even bother with a device unless they can get it in a color to match their decor. While this may not be a vast majority, it does happen.
I also find it strange that a statement like that could be said in the “Apple Age” where everyone and everything is going for a “clean elegance” look in design. Not only that, it has been a pattern among console makers for years to release a slim or mini version of the original console after the components got cheaper, more efficient, and it was technically feasible to bring the same amount of power in a smaller space. Not only did the console look better, it took up less premium real estate in every proverbial living room. So “it doesn’t matter what it looks like” but each company, like clockwork, invests in creating a slimmed down version of the same popular machines. Ok…
It’s one thing to say you don’t want to to put an emphasis on what the console looks like because that’s just not how you operate. It’s wholly another to suggest that what it looks like doesn’t matter at all. It carries the brand’s logo on it for crying out loud. If the PS4 is shaped like a giant triangle, the size of an O.G. Xbox I’m probably not going to get it. Yes, that’s an extreme example that probably wouldn’t happen anyway, but my point is people have their limits. It may be able to process and render the hell out of a million objects on screen while, simultaneously, broadcasting the carnage to 20k people on UStream. But if it fits nowhere in my ever growing jungle of devices under the big screen then what exactly am I supposed to do with it? While the box might not be the most important aspect of a console it still IS important. Design Matters.
What’s your take on this?