For a multi-billion dollar industry that is supposedly at the vanguard of 21st-century technology advancement, video games sure like to keep things basic.
Think about it: there’s very little that’s premium about console video gaming. You can’t buy a fancier version of the Switch with an OLED screen and stronger buttons. You can’t buy a PS5 in a smaller form factor with a brushed gunmetal case.
Isn’t that weird? If I want to buy a bigger, more expensive phone than the standard iPhone, I can. If I want to buy a top-end model of a car, I can (well, I could if I could afford one). TVs, clothes, even PC gaming hardware, you name it, nearly everything on this planet that you can buy, you can buy it in a premium form factor, whether you want a superior build quality or just to flex on people (or both!).
Yet consoles launch in a fairly standard form, and over their lifetime only get cheaper. That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with that, and over the last decade all three platform holders have done a good job of making their machines look like well-made, respectable pieces of consumer electronics. I’m not saying anything we have available at the moment is cheap.
I’m just saying sometimes I wish the option was there to go a little fancier.
I’m far from rich, but occasionally I like to treat myself. I think, if the budget ever allows it, it’s a fun and worthwhile thing to do. Usually with a nice pair of sneakers, or maybe dinner for the family at a swish restaurant. In December 2015, in a very rare example of being able to do this in the video game space, I treated myself to an Xbox Elite wireless controller.
I’m of the opinion that the Xbox controller design, which is now entering its third console generation, is as close to ergonomic perfection as a controller can get. The stick layout is great for everything from driving games to shooters, the buttons are in just the right spots, and the whole thing feels so good in the hand.
The Elite was expensive, around half the price I’d paid for my Xbox One itself, but given the line of work I’m in, and the fact I could also use it on my PC, I figured what the hell, it was probably worth it.
I’ve never looked back. Five years later it’s still sitting here, albeit plugged into my PC for the most part, getting used almost every single day, and still looking as good as the day I bought it. If you’ve never used one, the Elite has the same overall design as a standard Xbox One controller, only everything about it is just better. The plastic casing is thicker and heavier, providing more heft in the hand, while the sticks are a wonderfully-smooth metal and the triggers are a work of art. It even comes in a big, tough carrying case.
It is, in other words, premium. A very rare example of console gaming trying to hit that spot in the market, and an even rarer example of it succeeding.
And I love it. I love how it has evolved from a curious flex into an indispensable tool, something I use 6-7 times a week (justifying the initial cost), and which I’ve been able to count on every time, and never had it fail me. (Note: I’m aware others may have had reliability issues, as with any manufactured good, but this is my story, not theirs/yours.) If I were a trucker the Elite would be my truck, if I were a photographer it would be my camera.
So thank you, Microsoft, for waking up one day and figuring, you know what, let’s make something premium. I appreciate the opportunity to invest in it, and wish Sony and Nintendo would take note.