After much speculation, Xbox revealed the name of its new console today: the Xbox One. Wait, huh? You know, “one,” as in “the one,” or the first “one” of its kind. Except that this Xbox isn’t the first one, and this discrepancy could confuse anyone who isn’t an avid gamer. The last Xbox was the Xbox 360, and the one before that was simply the Xbox, which would technically make this the third generation Xbox.
If Xbox wants to widen their appeal to the casual gamer, they’re missing the point with a name that needs to be explained. The casual gamer may not get that this is “the one device I need” or “the one you’ve been waiting for…” They’re likely to take the name literally, especially when it will sit on the same shelf as the Sony PlayStation 4 (the fourth-generation console). They might think this is a re-design of the original Xbox or a stripped-down version of the Xbox 360, not the latest-and-greatest.
This numeric confusion recalls another gaming name kerfuffle: the Wii U. Nintendo considered renaming the Wii U because many thought it was an accessory not a console, even after a huge announcement at E3. The names still confuses customers to this day, prompting Nintendo to write specific marketing materials to explain that the Wii U is a new machine. Many customers still refer to it as “the new Wii.” All this happened after public confusion over another Nintendo product, the 3DS, which customers had difficulty differentiating from the former DS. In fact, they had to print bold red stickers that said, “This is not DS. This is Nintendo 3DS.” Jeesh.
Clearly, all of these names aren’t fulfilling their primary purpose: to help customers differentiate between different products. Which leaves me wondering, what happened to “Xbox 720”? It was the rumored code name of the project, and it seemed perfectly kosher. Or what about the other rumored possibilities, “Xbox Infinity” or “Xbox Fusion,” both of which seemed like strong candidates? Since the Xbox 720 nickname was so widespread, will some people refer to it as that? It’s just as likely that many will call the Xbox One “the new Xbox.”
When asked whether the name “Xbox One” might be confusing to customers, Microsoft program manager Jeff Henshaw said, “…if you look at the original Xbox…there’s no resemblance anymore between the two. You can’t confuse them in anyway. So when people say ‘Xbox One,’ it’s going to be reflective of this new generation of experiences. I really don’t think there’s going to be any confusion.” Somehow, I’m not so convinced.
Yes, the name “One” communicates the all-in-one home entertainment system message and lends itself well to marketing campaigns. It’s short and packed with meaning, but the name “One” itself is diluted. Years ago, it might have been a powerful and unique, but now it’s overused, almost as much as the term “game-changer.” For example, HTC just launched its new One phone – and this is in addition to several “one” products from Google like the Nexus One phone, Google One Today, Google OneBox, and Google One Pass.
Boo to Microsoft for crowning its console with ingenious features—cloud computing and a refreshed Kinect body sensor—but coming up with such a yawn of a name.
Overall grade: C