April 23rd, 2008
Remember how awesome it was playing Pokemon Red or Blue on your old Transparent GameBoy Pocket? You could see right through the plastic into the guts of the machine. ^_^
It was a few years before the release of Pokemon though that Nintendo first introduced a range of coloured GameBoy Pocket consoles including my aforementioned transparent GameBoy Pocket. Actually I can’t quite remember if the GameBoy Pocket actually launched with the colours or not. In anycase this release was teamed with the equally awesome ‘Stick it in Your Pocket’ ad campaign.
This was historically a turning point for coloured consoles and was followed on by Nintendo with subsequent GameBoy Color and Nintendo 64 colour variations. Sony later jumped on board too with transparent PSone Memory cards. Since the release of the previous generation machines (Playstation 2, Gamecube and Xbox) it appears as though coloured and transparent consoles have been on a slow decline replaced by the idea of slick, sophisticated pieces of modern technology designed to outshine the DVD player and TV.
Coloured consoles are still around the place though, albeit severally withdrawn for the sake of tech. The three most popular colours of modern day consoles are jet black, pure white and metallic silver. See the problem? These colour variations fall into the 3 primary colours of consumer tech (household phones, kitchen electrical, home entertainment etc). There is as much variation here as there is between Sunbeam kettles. Even though they are pitched as colours, truth be told; they aren’t, they are just different shades of grey.
The portable scene appears to have faired much better with examples like the red and yellow PSPs and pastel coloured DS Lites. With the DS though once again we see a lack of anything truly colourful with the lightly hued pastels, demeans the point really.
Several brave attempts at coloured consoles have appeared in recent years namely they are:
- Pink Playstation 2
- Purple GameCube
- Spice Orange and Mint Green GameCubes
- Transparent Nintendo 64 Variations
Also in recent years coloured consoles have been released as part of special edition packs designed to suit the pack-in game or have often been limited to a Japanese only release.
So Why No Love for the Coloured Console?
I briefly touched on this before, the main reason for this move comes from a push by console manufacturers in favour of viewing video game consoles as tech devices instead of “toys”. Game consoles have been designed to sit next to the DVD player and TV so hence they should be designed to appear to belong in within that group of devices (again, the 3 primary colours of consumer tech). Since the inclusion of built in DVD players this has become even more apparent.
With the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 offering numerous multimedia facilities, consoles are now in reality swallowing members of the same tech group, or at least attempting to. Sony and Microsoft want their video game console to be the multimedia hub of the household. As the generations have progressed and as this video of technological cannibalism has become has become more and more apparent, consoles are no longer allowed to look like toys.
Portable consoles are exempt from this classification as you ‘Stick them in Your Pocket’ and not underneath the TV. These products are now grouped with mobile phones and PDAs so it is okay for these consoles to change their colour slightly. Even so both the PSP and DS the coloured offerings have been disappointingly limited, the pastel coloured range of DS is as weak as water in my mind. As for the PSP the red and yellow colours are distinct and make for fantastic colours. But I can’t help but feel disappointed when I can reference at least 5 awesome colours which have not seen a western release.
The Future of Colourful Consoles?
I believe that coloured consoles will remain on the path it is currently on, tied to special editions and girly pink variants with the occasional console with a splash of saturation. There is still plenty of opportunity for coloured consoles, the Wii itself disproves the idea that consumers want a multimedia PC in their lounge room. But will that change as more consumers enter our medium?
There really are too many variables to toss around in both the video games, multimedia PC and home entertainment industries to accurately make a solid prediction as it would first require a firm idea on the future of home entertainment.
In anycase, colourful consoles are eye catching, unique and attractive, for it’s marketing impact (as well as the nutters like me) there will always be a spot for colourful consoles. I wonder though when will we see another transparent console?
Side Note: Xbox 360 Faceplates/Modded Consoles/Console Skins
As a final thought to ponder, how do you think the above console modification process affect the situation?
BTW we spell color as colour in Australia. Same with favour etc.