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What's in a name?: How a platform's name projects product vision.

Good morning/afternoon/evening N4G,

What attracts us to gaming platforms? More of the same or stark contrasts to what we knew and loved/hated? We tend to be a little heavy-handed in a console's assessment after buying it and somehow we seem surprised at what the product offers. Common ones this generation are "PS4 is just a more powerful PS3" and "XBOX One is just an XBOX with a better camera". Well, yes and no. There's a clear effort to incorporate touch, motion, and position into the player's experience, but more on that in a bit.

Consoles aren't arbitrarily named. Quite often, the names communicate a level of vision for the product, and I think we overlook that. Look at Nintendo: NES to SNES (a more powerful NES) to N64 (use of 64-bit, third-dimension graphics, 4 controller ports, and a thumbstick), GameCube (dual thumbsticks, mini-discs, GameCube for Broadband, LAN), Wii (completely modified control input, bluetooth, DVD9, self-loading slot, and multiplayer focused experience) and Wii U (play with others but with a more centralized experience thanks to the Gamepad, adding a more definitive layer of a "we" experience, or a "you" experience; HD graphics with HDMI output). Each console in this case builds upon experiences of previous models, but when the names really differed, it warranted substantial changes in the product offering.

So back to what I was saying before (PS4/XBOX One = more of the same). You can't criticize them for that. Let's look at PlayStation 4. The product is communicated as "PS3, and more" and, according to my research, 4 is in fact greater than 3. Sony has added some great features to PS4, and we can totally appreciate that. It's not meant to produce an experience that alienates PSOne, PS2, or PS3. In fact, it's more of an addition to the family, much like most games and their sequels where many core mechanics are [at least intended] to have been improved in later iterations. iPhones are another piece of hardware that share this pattern, each one within a family meant to improve upon the previous iterations. Although, PS4 may not be a particularly accurate name for long with the advent of Morpheus. Obviously, Sony wasn't happy with the PlayStation Portable (an oxymoronic name, if you think about it) and completely recreated their vision for a handheld with Vita focusing on life: staying connected, fast, and ever in motion.

Regardless! The Super Nintendo was basically the NES improved and the N64 was different from the SNES in many ways as the GameCube was radically different from the N64 as the Wii is drastically different from the GameCube and the Wii U is comparable to the Wii.

Microsoft's XBOX line has extremely similar input by design with the name specifying its vision where XBOX 360 focused on global connectivity and XBOX One strives to be a living room representative. The controllers, services, and focuses are largely analogous with each other in the XBOX family just as is the case with the PlayStations (1-4).

My point is, can we really criticize a company for doing "more of the same"? If PlayStation 5 comes to fruition and is an improved upper-tier PS4, would it be a surprise? If the next XBOX is realized and it is definitively similar with camera and controller, would you be shocked? Probably not, and you shouldn't be. A different name would really constitute a company extending quite far outside of their comfort zones. Nintendo retired Gameboy and created the DS, succeeded by the 3DS and are quite different from Gameboy yet similar in many ways to each other.

Not that any of this particularly matters to the well-informed consumer, but I just figured it was good food for thought. So let's not berate manufacturers for being literal. If you didn't catch that, well...I'm sorry...?

Have a great one, gamers.

iceman063430d ago

I always find things like this interesting. I remember seeing some articles on marketing psychology related to branding and how powerful a name can be and vice versa. Not only names, but color palettes and even "buzz" words that are associated with products. It's very interesting. That being said, I STILL can't get with the name Wii. It just didn't really register! LOL

BillytheBarbarian3430d ago

The "i" in the iPod craze is the reason for the Wii's name. They put two "i"s to make it seem better than that subconscious thought of iPod and iPad being a positive thing. Even PEPSI changed the font on their logos in 2006 so they could capitalize on the iPad iPod subconscious of being elite or more sophisticated. The little "i" is still having a good run.

DarXyde3424d ago (Edited 3424d ago )

Wii is an unusual name, but it does serve 2 purposes (at the very least) to emphasize "we" in a way that alludes to playing together and the two i's represent two people with heads. The i's are likely a play on Apple's products, as you've suggested, only further suggested by the "all-white" marketing of the console, reliability, sleek and small design, and underpowered when compared with competitors. It was so similar to Apple's products that one might've thought Nintendo and Apple were merging, which many people did a few years ago.

Side Note: Good to see you again, Billy! It's been a while! Haven't seen you since GamePro's days! ;)

Picnic3415d ago

In Sony's case, the names of each of their consoles is no surprise since each one has been a huge seller and 'Playstation' is literally a great description for what the product is and does.


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