What’s with all the weird tech collaborations in 2021?

It’s nearly Christmas Party season, which makes it that magical time of year when, under the influence of alcohol and an excess of holiday spirit, people will end up shacking up with someone they truly regret. 

Not to be outdone, the tech industry seems to be ahead of the trend this year, with a handful of very odd tie-ins emerging over the last few months.

This week, Microsoft decided that the best way of countering the global shortage of its NZ$799 Xbox Series X was to create a NZ$14,000 version in collaboration with gaudy fashion brand Gucci. Hey, if scalpers on Ebay can charge little Timmy’s parents well over the odds at Christmas, then why can’t Microsoft cut out the middle man?

For your money, you not only get the hard-to-buy console, but an, uh, “distinctive” Gucci luggage to carry it in, two custom controllers and a Game Pass membership — which will go some way towards recouping the NZ$13,201 you could have spent on games in the first place.

Who puts their Xbox away in a luggage when not in use?

Rather than smooth black plastic, the Gucci Xbox has the classic ‘GG’ Gucci logo patterned over the top. Desperately looking for a link between the two companies, the PR genius in charge of the operation decided it should stand for “good game”, which just goes to show that the first idea you come up with isn’t always the best.

What do the two companies have in common, other than a demonstrable love of money? A shared anniversary. The collaboration marks 100 years of Gucci and 20 of Xbox. The console will be strictly limited to 100 units, which should comfortably cover those found in the middle of the Venn diagram for “Xbox fans” and “Gucci enthusiasts” with about 90 left over for that powerful ‘more money than sense’ demographic.

Then there was OnePlus which, fresh off the back of disappointing its fans with a lack of ‘T’ handset for the first time since 2015, decided that an official tie-in with the biggest name in gaming from 1980 was the answer. 

The OnePlus Nord 2 Pac-Man edition is the same mid-range handset you know and are likely ambivalent towards, only now with added Pac-Man. That means there’s a small Pac-Man logo on the back of the phone — a back which changes colour in the dark to reveal a 3D Pac-Man maze for Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde to get lost in. If you buy direct from OnePlus, you also get this DIY phone stand:

Don’t eat them yet, Pac-Man! They’re not flashing blue!

No, it’s not a charger. It’s just a stand so that you can keep your precious phone vertical when not in use. For all this, OnePlus is charging an extra 6% on the cost of the same-specced non Pac-Man version — so don’t feel too bad that New Zealand doesn’t make the list of countries where it can be bought.

Perhaps, at 41, Pac-Man is just too old for such a tie-in. Tech collaborations are a young person’s game, like 40-year-old Mario. 

Nintendo’s mascot appears in a special edition of Tag Heuer’s Connected 3 smartwatch, on hand with his “upbeat and active personality” to “encourage wearers of this smartwatch to enjoy moving too.” 

As a plumber, Mario probably earns more than enough to afford this… if he lacked taste, of course.

If that sounds like a description aimed at PE averse children, you should know that the watch costs no less than NZ$3,000. “Mamma mia”, as the weirdly iconic plumber himself would no doubt respond to such gauging. You could, after all, buy six Switch OLED models for that, and still have some money left over to set fire to.

All of this, of course, follows hot on the heels of Ray-Ban collaborating with Meta — née Facebook, because who doesn’t want to ask themselves whether they’ve fully charged up their sunglasses before a trip to the beach? 

Ray-Ban, Meta spotted, had missed a golden opportunity to turn a fashion statement into some surveillance hardware, something quickly remedied with the NZ$465 Ray-Ban Stories glasses

Speaking of fashionable surveillance hardware, earlier in the year Amazon signalled its intent to crowdfund a number of fashionable Echo Dots with designer Diane von Furstenberg. Perhaps overestimating demand, only one of these reached its funding target — the Midnight Kiss design, covered in red and pink lips to helpfully remind people that Amazon is always listening to what comes out of yours. 

With the possible exception of Meta’s Ray-Ban collaboration, which kind of relies on the perennially uncool Facebook being fashionable, none of these tie-ins are strictly necessary, which does raise the question of “why” — especially for the novelty ones which cost thousands of dollars. 

Perhaps the inevitable website columns ridiculing them are helpful in the ‘any publicity is good publicity’ tradition… in which case, you’re welcome Gucci and Microsoft.

2 COMMENTS

  1. If you’re going to be cynical about all these collaborations, you could at least take the time to understand what it’s about.

    These things aren’t built for SALE, in spite of having a retail price. Come on, NOBODY is going to waste $14,000 on a Gucci branded XBox. It’s MARKETING. Getting in the press whilst avoiding putting out yet another boring and generic press release that most outlets will print verbatim, without even reading it, let alone editing it.

    And the best bit about ALL of this? YOU just did their advertising for them. For free.

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