This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium
Great moments in Microsoft branding
I was starting to get worried. Microsoft’s latest attempt at branding the new Xbox was almost starting to make sense.
First, a bit of history. Back in 2001, we got the original Xbox.¹ In many ways, it was an anti-Microsoft product. First and foremost because it was a consumer gaming console. But more so because it had clean branding. It wasn’t ‘Xbox for Workgroups 3.11 XP 95 Edition’ or something like you might expect from Microsoft. It was simply ‘Xbox’. It was so simple. And had symmetry. Hell, it sounded like a gaming machine.
Then came the second generation of the machine which was naturally called the ‘Xbox 2’.
Ha! No no no. The second generation of the Xbox was called the ‘Xbox 360’ because it had to compete with the Playstation 3. And 3 is bigger than 2, you see. But you know what is bigger than 3? 360. They went from being behind Sony to beating them by a whole 357 generations. Brilliant.
In all seriousness, it was a sort of clever maneuver to get a ‘3’ in the name. In fact, Apple would use a similar move a few years later when the ‘iPhone 2’ transformed into the ‘iPhone 3G’. Of course, that was more of a functional name — it was the first iPhone with 3G service. Still ‘Xbox 360’ is seamless enough. Then things started to go off the rails.
The successor to the Xbox 360 was not the ‘Xbox 4’ or ‘Xbox 480’ or ‘Xbox 4000’ or any other variation to continue down the line they jumped and to keep pace with the ‘Playstation 4’. Instead, we got the ‘Xbox One’.
The Xbox One was not the first Xbox, of course. Again, that was the Xbox. It was the third Xbox. But ‘Xbox Three’ would make no sense after ‘Xbox 360’ and ‘Xbox Four’ seems odd. ‘Xbox IV’ may have been cool. Like ‘Rocky IV’ was cool. Drago! But no. Xbox One. Because reasons.
Then things really started to go off the rails. The Xbox One ended up getting a second iteration called the ‘Xbox One S’. Unclear if this was following Apple’s (also odd) iPhone naming schemes at this point (some will recall the ‘iPhone 3GS’ naming debacle complete with capitalization and spacing changes after launch). Was the ‘S’ also for “speed” here? It was the first Xbox to support 4K, so you’d think they could have course corrected with an ‘Xbox 4K’ name — but that may have implied that this was an entirely new console. So what about ‘Xbox One 4K’? Nah. Xbox One S.
This is where I’ll point out that there was apparently an ‘Xbox 360 E’ as well, but no one remembers that. Or at least, I didn’t.
Moving on, a year after the Xbox One S, we got the ‘Xbox One X’. Why that name? Again, it’s unclear. It’s more redundant than symmetrical. It did come out just a few days after the ‘iPhone X’, but as everyone still doesn’t fully know, that ‘X’ stood for ‘10’ not the letter ‘X’. And it was because it was the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. (We won’t get into why there was never an ‘iPhone 9’ — the ‘Xbox 2’ of smartphones.) In 2017, when it was released, the Xbox brand was 16 years old, not ten. ‘Xbox One XVI’ doesn’t quite have the same ring… So Xbox One X, it is — with memories of ‘C++ for You++’.
This brings us to present day. We’re on the verge of the launch of the ‘Xbox 5’ or ‘Xbox 6’, depending how much of a jump you considered the Xbox One X to be. The name? Well, now we have two names because we have two machines. The ‘Xbox Series X’ and the ‘Xbox Series S’. Because of course.
Honestly, in a vacuum, these aren’t bad names. They’re a bit automotive, and yes, hearkens back to both the Xbox history as well as the iPhone history. Thankfully, all the previous iterations of the Xbox are no longer for sale, otherwise this naming scheme would be a total clusterfuck.
The Xbox Series X is newer than the Xbox One X, which is newer than the Xbox One, which again, isn’t actually the first Xbox, but instead the third Xbox. There was also an Xbox One S, but that’s not the same as the Xbox Series S, which is newer. There’s also the Xbox, which was the first iteration, but is not the same generation as the Xbox Series series. Because ‘Series’ implies newer. Or something. Also the Xbox 360 is still 355 or 354 iterations ahead of all of these in naming sequence, at least. Got it?²
Again, at least we don’t have ‘Xbox 3.11 SE 2020 Edition’ — which in a previous Microsoft, we very well could have! Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X seem easy enough to remember.³ The one earlier in the alphabet is worse than the one later.
But wait, you’re not getting away that easy. Did I mention that apparently, the Xbox One will run Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X games? Which Xbox One, you ask? Good question. No idea. And also not all the games. But some. Also the Xbox Series S will not run all the same games as Xbox Series X because of “enhancements” the Series X is capable of for older games, apparently. Instead, it will run Xbox One S versions of Xbox One and Xbox 360 games.
So why buy the Xbox Series S instead of an Xbox One X? Because it’s faster. But not as fast as the Xbox Series X. But fast enough that it can play the same games. Sometimes. You could also just play them in ‘xCloud’ — which has a small ‘x’ unlike the Xbox’s large ‘X’. But it’s not a 10, remember. They’re saving that for the 10th iteration of Xbox, which will obviously be called the ‘XboX’.
¹ Or was it the ‘XBOX’?
² Could be worse, could be HBO.
³ Elon Musk would obviously release an ‘Xbox Series E’ in the middle here.
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Gilles Raymond is currently working on his new startup, DONE. In this recurring series, he has chosen to tell us the unedited version of his journey, from the first idea to the final product, the best and worst moments (past and future). No bullshit. Promised.
Episode 1, “The Two Foundations” The sale of my previous startup, a news aggregator called News Republic, to a giant Chinese digital group.
Episode 2, “Three Chinese lessons” What it really means to work for a Chinese company. The need to rethink how we interact digitally.
At the corner of Rue de Castiglione and Rue de Rivoli in Paris, overlooking the Jardin des Tuileries sits one of the oldest hotels in the city. The Hotel Continental was built in 1878, on the rubble of the
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As hinted by Louis, we’re currently going through a bit of a soul-searching exercise here at Point Nine Capital. It was triggered by the fact that our logo, website, and overall visual identity has become pretty outdated (and was never amazing in the first place). It’s never been a top priority for us as our core job is to find great companies and help them become even better. That hasn’t changed and will never change, and Benchmark’s website proves that you don’t have to have a great website (or any website at all) to be an excellent investor. But we’re not Benchmark (yet 😜) and lots of founders have never heard about us, which is why we’re putting in more effort to have a website that explains who we are, what we do, and how we work.
A short summary of what I’ve learned about branding reading a bunch of articles online ….and preparing for Point Nine’s upcoming rebrand (!)
When, like us at Point Nine, you’re a VC primarily focused on B2B businesses, the rise of DTC companies is somewhat puzzling. Many of these have raised a lot of money over the past few years but if barriers to entry are what’s driving outsized successes in VC, what barriers to entry do these companies build? What prevents another Glossier from starting to sell exactly the same products at the same (or even lower) prices? The answer is often their brand.
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Trying to assess the
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