The Next-Gen War Has Changed: The Long Road Ahead

It’s been almost eight years since the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii launched. It was quite a spectacle; the gaming industry boomed and helped create new ventures in e-Sports and online broadcasting. Gaming became a mainstream phenomenon.

Yet, there seems to be a lack of enthusiasm for the new console launches.

When the PS3 and 360 were announced, my jaw literally dropped when I saw what was in store for me and my friends. It was impossible to contain the excitement and buzz for those consoles. We wanted it. We couldn’t wait. Our fingers were ready to push buttons and wobble joysticks like fiends.

This year’s launch of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 had no magical sense of excitement like the one that I felt with its predecessors. The graphics look spectacular, but it’s not a major leap from where we left off. The launch lineup for both consoles is mediocre, with no title taking the lead as a must-own.

It feels so… underwhelming.

Yet, that hasn’t stopped both consoles from having record-breaking sales on their launch days. It’s a sign that there has been a shift in the industry: the conversation has moved from the “measuring sticks” debate on who has better processing power or visuals to a battle over the ultimate living room experience.

Graphics are no longer the key selling point. The extended capabilities each console has to offer – instant streaming, a stronger online community hub, social media and app integration – will be the heart of the console generation marathon. The PS4 and Xbox One are no longer just about playing games, but also about creating an extension to the gamer’s life. Games will always be part of the deciding factor, but now mainstream consumers have the option to choose how they want their experience enhanced.

One of my favorite features right now on PlayStation 4 is the remote play feature, allowing me to play AAA next-gen titles away from my actual console. My roommate, on the other hand, is completely sold on the Xbox One’s Kinect voice commands, letting him go hands-free to complete simple tasks to enhance his entertainment experience. It shows that Sony and Microsoft are really trying to provide similar but unique experiences to their user bases.

This (next) gen is also all about socializing. The last generation built an online foundation and paved way for the rise of e-sports. The integration of social media, online streaming, and game recording is going to be an integral part of the gameplay experience. Who knows what else Sony and Microsoft will have in store for us in the future?

The dust hasn’t settled and we probably won’t know who the real winner of this console generation is for a long time. With the limited fanfare, it’s hard to tell. Sure, Sony won the hearts of many with its policy on being DRM-free, but that quickly flatlined as Microsoft caught up with its own changes. I’ve got a good feeling that all of this is just a calm before the storm; I’m expecting the battle to heat up next year during E3 2014 as both companies start landing on their own two feet.

What are your thoughts? Feel free to share them with me on Twitter @RahottieR or @TriplePoint.

The Rise of Valve – Capitalizing on Digital Distribution Domination

Recently, we had some big news from one of the largest, and well respected, companies in the gaming industry: Valve announced that they were officially entering the console market with “Steam Machines,” gaming consoles that aim to bring the PC gaming experience to the living room. I’m pretty excited to see Valve enter a hardware industry that is currently dominated by only three competitors. They’re bringing a lot of new ideas to the table, such as a haptic-based controller, which may shape the future of the console landscape. Yet, what fascinates me the most is looking back and realizing that Valve has been leaving bread crumb trails all along, even during the inception of Steam.

Steam Client: Digital Domination

When Valve debuted Steam in 2003, it was an absolute pain. The amount of time it took me to patch and boot up Half Life 2 was tedious, and if it weren’t for the fact Valve’s flagship title was absolutely one of the best games of all time, I think it would’ve been dead on arrival. Still, Steam eventually became a pioneer for digital distribution. Many third-party publishers including Eidos, iD Software, Take Two and many others joined in to reap the profit margins from selling their titles online. The acceptance of digital distribution paved the way for consoles to develop a similar model on their platforms; if it wasn’t for Valve playing the role of the innovator in the gaming industry, I doubt the Xbox Marketplace or PlayStation Store would be what they are today.

Digital distribution is the foundation of Valve’s Steam Machines, and without proper dominance on that front, there was no way they could move onto building hardware.

Are You Starting to see the Big Picture?

It was made clear that Valve wanted to move in this direction at Sony’s 2010 E3 Press Conference. Valve’s Co-founder and PC enthusiasts’ most beloved figurehead, Gabe Newell, came onto the stage and stated, “As an industry we’re going through a transition. As an entertainment as a product to an entertainment as a service… it’s about giving gamers a complete connected social experience.”

This foreshadowed Valve’s motives. They wanted to grow their platform into something bigger, encapsulating not only the PC Market, but also console gamers. But the PC developer/distributor needed to create something that would make it easier for console gamers to embrace their platform… and that’s where Big Picture comes in – a new way to experience Steam.

Everything about Big Picture was designed to take advantage of the living room experience and bring console gamers one step closer to the PC world. It was a digital platform with an online user interface any console gamer could jump in and understand. Best of all, with over 2500+ store titles already available at launch, Valve was already one step ahead.

The Final Stretch into New Familiar Territory 

But they faced one final problem — most console gamers couldn’t afford a powerful PC rig to take Valve’s offering.

Valve needed to find a way to bring down the cost, and that’s where Steam Machines make their entrance. With multiple models, Valve’s approach to the Steam Machines hardware allows anyone to pick up a console at their own personal price point. Best of all, it’s customizable, making the idea of owning a Steam Machine much cheaper in the long run since you won’t need to buy a brand new console every year. It’s a win-win situation for Valve, its partners, developers, and gamers everywhere.

What makes it even better is Valve isn’t directly competing with the big three (yet). Their focus has been to dominate the digital distribution space; they already have the upper hand due to how much they’ve invested in the market.

Steam Machines are going to be Big

What we do know is this: Valve’s offering and entrance to the hardware industry is giving momentum to PC gamers and console gamers alike. There is something here for any type of gamer here, and the amount of flexibility will be a key strategy they will capitalize on. We’re one step closer in bridging the gap between both console and PC gamers, and I for one, cannot wait.



Building a Bridge Over a Chasm



Geoffrey Moore was ahead of his time when he wrote Crossing the Chasm.

After reading his analysis on bridging “the Chasm” between early adopters and the mainstream market, I realized that this was an essential idea that’s been overlooked by many young startups. Some companies don’t know where to begin with their marketing efforts, and slowly dissipate into the black hole of Silicon Valley. Others find themselves on the right track, but hit a bottleneck when they arrive at the chasm, unsure of their next step. With new seeds of innovations constantly sprouting throughout the world, Moore’s approach on crossing the chasm is very relevant today.

At its core, the book analyzes how to approach the various psychographic (personality) profiles from the Technology Adoption Cycle, primarily the minority of hardcore, geeky enthusiasts versus the mainstream majority. Moore states that very few companies distinguish the visionary early adopters from the pragmatic second wave of users who follow.  This leads startups to fall straight into the chasm rather than crossing it safely. Unlike visionaries, who see potential in a startup’s prospects and want to see it grow, pragmatists want to see how the company will bring personal value to them.

What Moore suggests is to take more surgical approach to each market segment. Rather than placing all the eggs in to one basket, Moore describes entering the mainstream market like the D-Day invasion. If a startup is able to methodically capture the audience from one small part of the overall market, its success can then travel vertically to other segments. From one niche market to another, it’s an opportunity that can allow a company to dominate the mainstream (with a little patience and a lot of luck).

Apple is a great example of crossing the chasm successfully. After launching the iPod, the company constantly reengineered its product to meet the needs of each market segment, making each version better, simpler, and more powerful.  Warby Parker, a startup once focused on providing the best online shopping experience for eyewear, now has physical showrooms across the U.S. that cater to a different market of traditional shoppers.

But where does PR come into all of this? As an agency, we define and reinforce key messages about a startup’s product or service, with slightly different messages to suit each segment of the press. As a startup comes to the edge of the chasm, proper PR can build a compelling message to target niche markets, helping usher the startup towards the mainstream as smoothly as possible.  Word of mouth remains one of the most powerful tools in commerce; approaching the right people with the right message is the backbone of the best PR agencies.

And yet… I can’t help but notice another issue that today’s startups face. Another chasm is growing between innovators and early adopters, one step “earlier” in the lifecycle. With so many buzzed-about startups entering the market on a monthly, rather than annual basis, it’s become more difficult to garner the attention of visionaries and VCs. After all, a startup can’t concern itself with mainstream success if it can’t win over the early adopter first. Perhaps, in the future, Moore will address this issue in a new book, and share his advice for this new obstacle.  In the mean time, I highly recommend Crossing the Chasm as a foundation for any young tech company’s marketing strategy.

Image Credit to IllustrationSource and WikiMedia 


Who is Your Email Wearing? A Guide to Fashionable Pitching.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from a former convicted felon, Neal Caffrey (on White Collar), it’s that you need to dress the part.

Neal is such a charming guy not just because of his smooth moves or his way with words – it’s the way he presents himself. I’m like Neal. I walk into the office almost every day with a tie and blazer. I consider myself a professional, and to play that role I want to look the part. The beauty of working in a metropolitan office (and not remotely in my PJ’s) is getting facetime with my colleagues, clients and journalists. Impromptu meetings and post-work meetups are pretty common, and with the right duds, can be a welcome surprise.

For me, presentation is key to a proper first impression, and in this day and age of PR, the right outfit is just as crucial as a solid email pitch.

The Subject Line: Stylish Outerwear Makes a Good First Impression

For starters, the subject line of your email matters just as much as the right outerwear. It’s the first thing a person notices, and you can’t really avoid someone making a snap judgment. Like a good subject, a well-fitted jacket or blazer will intrigue people. Of course, don’t over-do it; lead with something attractive, without screaming for attention, to pique their curiosity.

The Body: Everyone Appreciates a Hot “Bod”

It’s time to show off the main portion of your outfit, or in the case of an email, the content of your pitch. Similar to a purple striped shirt and dark jeans, or a maroon v-neck with checkered grey slacks, the core of your outfit should show you put in the effort, an indication you “took the time to care.” The right combination can do wonders, just like the newsy hook that will have a reporter curious to learn more.

The Details: Accessories Add Personality

Go further by accessorizing and personalizing your main attire. A perfectly knotted tie can bring your shirt to a whole new level; a pocket square for your blazer can make you feel classy. Accessories compliment an outfit and add a splash of detail (and confidence). In a pitch, that detail could be some facts to support your claim. However, don’t go on mixing and matching with just any accessory; too much fluff will make your outfit or pitch feel unnatural and forced.

The Call to Action: Wrap It Up With A Nice Pair Of Shoes

Last but not least, shoes. A good pair of shoes can bring your look to another level. If you haven’t acquired a nice pair of monk straps, wingtips, or leather boots, there’s no time like the present! In the wardrobe of your email, shoes are a call to action that gives a reporter a reason to take interest in your story. Find the right pair, and you might just strike gold.

Getting the right pieces can be tough, and assembling them properly is an even bigger challenge. Remember, it’s all about experimentation. I didn’t become a head-turning fashion guru overnight! (Kidding, kidding) But honestly, the same goes for assembling a persuasive email. As you come to understand each element of writing a pitch, you’ll see better results. Keep practicing – eventually you’ll find a sweet spot and build up your own personal style, a voice that’s uniquely “you.”

Photos from SuitSupply and VINSPI