The Heart of the Consumer: It Wants What It Wants

This week there have been photos released that people are claiming to be of the new iPhone, expected to be officially announced later this year. As testament to the internet’s counting abilities, most reckon it will be called the ‘iPhone 6’. Makes sense.

At this time, seemingly every year, there is something similar. Rumours about what the new Apple product will be, what it will look like and what features it will have.

While all this is happening, it’s difficult to work out whether there are simply tonnes of people who are excited about it, or a small few who are being far too loud about it.

This type of hype usually gets one of three reactions: “OMG! The new iPhone! I’m so excited, it’s going to be the best thing ever!” or “Another thorough milking of the iPhone cashcow. People paying over the odds for the same phone they’ve already got in their pocket” or “It’s a phone, who cares?”.

Online, you’re significantly more likely to see the first two of those reactions. Mainly because people who don’t care don’t feel compelled to spam comment feeds across the web. Except for those who are so proud of not caring, that they insist on telling everyone how little they care. Over and over again.

I used to be in the camp that had no understanding of buying the latest model every 1-2 years, for something that is extraordinarily similar to the previous version. That was until I realised how often I actually find myself in the opposite camp, in a different conversation.

If you have ever played Football Manager (or its previous incarnation Championship Manager), you will understand what I mean when I say that the joy I get from playing the game is in no way proportional to the desire I have to play it.

When I start playing a new version, that’s it. It’s all I can think about. I spend my entire day looking forward to playing it. When I’m not playing it, I wish I was.  Have we all not felt like that sometime or other when we get something new?

However, when I am in fact playing it, the primary emotions I feel are frustration and pain. There’s some joy in there too, but not enough to justify how much I play it.

Failing to sign the player you’re after, your best player getting injured, accidentally upsetting your captain during a press conference….The list goes on of the things that make you shake your fist like Basil Fawlty…sat at a computer…in his pants…in the dark.

It’s all the frustration you feel supporting a real football team, but worse. You can’t moan about the team choices or the formations. It’s all on you.

There have been times that I’ve got in from work, decided to go on Football Manager ‘for a bit’, then twelve hours later realise that I’m still playing and have work again in two hours. I was not surprised when I read that 35 divorce cases cited Football Manager as the cause in 2012.

Telling someone you play Football Manager can be risky too. If you tell someone and it turns out that they play too, you could talk with each other for hours about the teams you’ve managed, how well you’ve done (most lie about it), the players you’ve signed and the pros and cons of sending your assistant manager to press conferences in your place etc.

Or you’ll face the weird combination of confusion and disgust you see in others you tell. They don’t understand how you enjoy moving a few names around on screen then watching some characters you’re not controlling run around and maybe score.

In the old days it wasn’t even that, it was just text commentary flashing away in front of your eyes (and it was magnificent). These people genuinely feel that you are wasting your life playing this game.

They might be right that I’m not exactly achieving much but, as I read on a sign in someone’s loo once, time you enjoy wasting, isn’t wasted time.

Then on to the next November and the next version is out. And I want it. I had to resist saying that I need it but that’s how I feel. Every year I say to myself that I don’t want it, that the only difference is up to date player lists and a couple tweaks here and there but when it gets to November, I just can’t help myself.

I get the same lecture from people year on year; “Why would you pay again for something extraordinarily similar to the previous version I already have?”.

The truth is that their point is valid. But I don’t care. It’s new and I want it. I like new things. Most of us do. New things excite us, and that’s why I want the next Football Manager despite its inevitable lack of difference from the last one, the same reason why a lot of people will want the next iPhone.

Essentially it’s something we already know and love, with added excitement. That’s the real reason when people ask, “Why?”.

Until that excitement inevitably wears out of course. Then we’re just back to the frustration and pain. 

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.