Thanks to Microsoft’s Elite Xbox One Controller, premium controllers are all the rage in the gaming peripheral space.
They’re a high margin item that’s easy to target at the game consumers who spend the most money.
Astro is hoping their C40 will be the Xbox Elite controller but for Playstation users, and instead of giving up in the face of stiff market competition from rival Scuf, they’ve doubled-down and rolled out a marketing kiosk nationwide in Best Buy stores.
If this is the best move Astro has, they’d better try again.
Right away I’ll admit that the empty placard holder in the kiosk at my local store is probably Best Buy’s fault. Maybe that blank holder is supposed to hold a price tag, or some additional features card, or something.
Or maybe the manager knew that plopping in a big tag with the C40’s $199 price tag on this underwhelming display wasn’t a good idea.
The giant empty card holder pushes the controller to the bottom of the kiosk, making it the last thing your eye sees.
It should be right in the center, and ready for you to engage with it.
The left side has a picture of the swappable button modules, something you can’t actually do on the demo unit since they don’t want people to walk away with the buttons. Okay, sure.
The right side is crammed with too much text, leading to a weird-looking imbalance. Not all of the features listed there are important enough to list, in my opinion.
The 12+ hour battery life should be right at the top of the list.
The biggest flaw with Sony’s Dualshock 4 controller is its sub par battery life. That thing barely manages to last for 5 hours with the light bar and rumble turned on, so the battery life improvement here is a big deal.
“Tournament Ready” doesn’t really mean anything, and is only on the kiosk to reinforce Astro’s vague “TR” branding they use across many of their peripherals.
Several gaming tournaments do require that players use a wired controller connection, but that’s already covered by listing that it supports wired and wireless modes.
“Removable, Swappable Modules” is completely redundant with the image on the left side and could be deleted.
“Remappable Rear Buttons” works fine without including the word integrated. No one expects the rear buttons to not be integrated into the controller.
“Configuration Software” could be listed on its own without restating the model of the controller. We don’t need to be reminded of the name of the thing we’re looking at again, it’s all over the kiosk.
Trimming the text down in these ways would allow for a smaller plastic panel on the right hand side and a better overall placement of the controller.
The text isn’t the biggest mistake made here.
Unfortunately, the demo controller in these kiosks isn’t actually a real C40, but rather a lame hollow shell attached to the kiosk with a retractable metal cord.
That metal security cord pulls on the back of the controller enough that the shell on this particular unit was already ripping apart after just a couple weeks of sitting there.
I have to imagine this same problem is happening all over the country.
Both the rumble motors and the rest of the internals are all stripped from the controller, leaving the demo unit extremely cheap-feeling in the hands.
It feels light and bad, which is not representative of the real controller’s build quality, and not very encouraging to the consumer they’re trying to part from their two hundred dollars.
A kiosk like this should excite the user. It should make me want to spend a high premium on a powerful-feeling peripheral.
I understand why the button modules are permanently attached and why Astro would remove the expensive internals, but I personally would have filled the controller with an equivalent amount of dead weight and reinforced the back of the chassis so that it wouldn’t be pulled apart by its own display cable.
The awkwardness of Astro’s marketing effort here reminds me of a similar experience I had in my local Gamestop recently.
An Astro sales rep came in to the store and tried to badger the employees into holding his personal C40.
He had it with him and wanted them to see how cool it was.
They politely declined.
I get that Astro is passionate about this product and wants it to be synonymous with Microsoft’s premium controller.
But that controller is cheaper, even with its recent price increase for its new model. And better-marketed.
Astro’s $199 C40 is one of the most expensive controllers on the mass market, and one of the most expensive controllers ever released.
A poorly designed kiosk with a cheap hollow shell version of the device is not the way to sell this.
I had a higher opinion of it before I saw this marketing.