Don’t overdo the quality

The concept of quality is somewhat twisted among modern consumers and manufacturers. Not because there are not high quality products or the like, but because there is a certain kind of veil that goes between product quality. Granted, this veil does exist for a reason, as the consumer shouldn’t have a need to see behind the curtains in which the his product are made of. Then again, it would be better if companies would be far more transparent in everything they do rather than protect less than favourable practices.

Companies must keep the quality of their product at a certain level. While advertisement and promotional speeches often tell you that they’re aiming for the best possible quality, that’s not exactly the case. I’ve discussed the subject of things being good enough in the past, and this is the core of if all; Quality, Time and Resources are tied to each other, and extending one of them extends the other. While there are numerous versions of this triangle, I’ll present here the simplest one out there.

Tri-Angle.png

You can pick only two, and depending on the product you may only have a chance to hit one spot.

If you go for a product that’s done quick and with as little resources as possible, you’ll end up with a product with low quality. If you go for a product with fast production time and of high quality, your resources will go out of hands. Most often this just means you need to put a whole lot more money into it. If you want something with as little resource expending as possible but still maintain high quality, the time the product will be made under will increase and in the end, it’s probably a very low priority product then.

Everyone would wish to balance these three in their daily lives, be it at home or at work. We all make decision if we want to, for example, put the time and effort into washing our dishes properly, when there are other things to consider as well.

This becomes a whole lot more complex when you must consider multiple projects and expenses. Any corporation that wishes to provide products for consumption have to juggle multiple triangles, or multiple elements of each triangle. To use translation in video game industry as an example, it often ends up in the Resources-Time section, where quality is not emphasised in favour of allocating that into other sections of the production.

NIS America is an example of a company that has managed to ignore Quality most of the time and have introduced questionable translations, additional bugs that did not exist in Japanese versions of the game and removal content. An example of this would be in Ar Tonelico II; Melody of Metafalica, where a mandatory boss battle locks the game up at a certain point.

As such, a company policy towards the public often states how their quality are the highest possible quality where in reality the product is balanced between the aforementioned elements in order to have a product on the shelves making money faster. This also means that the worker must adhere to the level of quality they’ve set. This sounds counter-intuitive, especially in the craftsmanship industries, but it is a necessary level. It is far too easy to get sucked into your own work and begin to burn your own self, and surrounding resources, for the sake of quality that goes wasted.

A product that has gained its quality by burning its creator, time and resources may serve the consumer to some time, but that level can’t be maintained without sacrificing something elsewhere. To use translation as an example again, a translator can’t sit on a translation until it has become what he considers perfect. A product that sits on the production line excess time due to some element, be it translation or whatever else, costs money each day. This is where having an acceptable level of quality steps in; it protects both the worker and the company.

What about the consumer then? For the consumer this is something he rarely thinks about. A literary work like a book or a visual novel that has thousands upon thousands of sentences in it is allowed to have certain amount if typos, misspells and textual errors. Content and information errors are of different things. The consumer does spot these errors more often than not, be an extra e in a word, lacking some alphabet or sentence starting with a lower case letter. Nevertheless, they are acceptable in overall terms. The worker hates the errors and would rather have them straightened out, and the corporation might recognise that this would raise the bar higher, but in the end the effort that is needed to achieve a certain kind of perfection of quality costs the damnest amount of money. Unless you can just issue a small, simple patch on your website without extra costs.

To use an analogy of this, achieving perfect emulation of a game console is rather hard. Most people who use emulators don’t care that the games they are playing on these emulators are not running the same way as they were intended on a real console, but care little because the quality of the emulation is good enough. As long as its playable, they’re satisfied.

In order to achieve perfect emulation of a more complex machine, the requirements stack up the closer you get 100% emulation accuracy. The last few percentages towards cycle-perfect emulation square from each other, and for modern systems it is currently simply impossible due to emulation requiring many times faster CPU than the original console’s.

Similarly, achieving perfect quality towards requires increasingly high amounts of resources and time. A steel product that needs to have a mirror shine to it takes its shape in a very short time, and the bulk of the work is spend in sanding and then buffing the surface in order to get that wanted finish. Of course you could just throw some reflective coating on top, or anodise the surface, but the end result wouldn’t be the same.

There are times when we just cut the cord and be done with things. This applies to every work. Still, the best thing is, in the future we’ll have more experience and better technology to increase that quality without putting any more resources or spending more time with it.

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No, this does not need to be in

Consumers purchase what they like. No sensible person would put their hard-earned (or Patreon) money into something they don’t deem worth the effort they’ve put into the work they’ve done. Corporations exist to make money and the way they make money is to produce goods and services that interest, are in demand and are wanted by the consumer, and thus the consumer in the end dictates what goods are produced by their use of money.

However, no organisation is ever required to make anything the consumer wants. They don’t need to include elements that would hit the consumer consensus. That is if they don’t want to make any profit on their product.

To use an example, the non-controversy with Ghost in the Shell‘s lead being Scarlett Johansson irked some, while most of the rest of the consumers didn’t give a rat’s ass because of two reasons; they had no prior experience with the franchise, and they’re not obsessed by who acts. Johansson has star power behind her that attracts the general consumer and has shown to be a capable action movie star from time to time. So for a company aiming for profit, this is a natural selection over less known actresses. After all, the licensed company has all the power to decide over the product, and the decisions made will be reflected in the box office. At no time they are required to pander to an audience, for better or worse.

To take this a bit further and dwelve in the subject, at no point there is any reason to create a cast of characters of diverse background in a given movie or a work. This can be twisted in multiple ways, but be sure just to take this as it’s said; the provider can do whatever they like with their product. The only way to really change what is provided is either by making it a more viable option for profit, or produce a product that fulfils that niche.

Just as companies like Twitter and Facebook can run their business in whatever way they like, just as much the consumer of these platforms can decide that their time and money is better spent elsewhere. The discussion what is moral or what are the responsibilities of huge platforms that have become part of everyday life to some extent is a discussion for another time. However, perhaps it should be noted that companies do tend to be on the nerve of whatever is on the boiling surface of social discourse and will take advantage of this for either direction. Pepsi’s recent commercial with a protester giving a can of Pepsi to a police officer as a supposed gesture of friendship, while on the surface wanting to comment on the event (which can be read oh so many ways) is ultimately advertising and showing signs towards certain crowd. It’s PR management after all.

It goes without saying, if someone thinks there is a market, for example,  for a certain kind of movie with certain kind lead actor, surely they’ll tackle this market and rake in the profits themselves. That’s capitalism, after all. Finding a niche to blossom in is the best way to climb to the general consensus. This is not Make it yourself argument. A niche that has demand is usually filled by those who know it exist and have a little know-how to tackle the market. The know-how can even be purchased nowadays thanks to all the companies and individuals offering market research and help in putting up a company.

All this really ends up with the good ol’ idea of wallet voting. You buy what you like, you don’t buy what you don’t like. I’m told time and time again that wallet voting doesn’t work, and every time I have to respond in laughter; it does work, more people just vote against your interests. This is consumer democracy that is decided through free use of money. However, there is a problem within this. There is always a demographic that wants to control a product or field of products without consuming the product itself. This twists the perception of the provider to an extent and can even prevent production and release of a product that would have otherwise faced no problems. The past example of Grand Theft Auto V being pulled from stores is an example of this, and maybe the whole issue with Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 should get a shoutout.

A product that sees most sales doesn’t mean anything else but that the consumers deem it valuable enough of their money. Whatever other reasons may be behind the decision to invest money into a product is up to an individual and a separate study for these reasons should be conducted as they are not something that come up through raw sales statistics. Often you can’t even deduce what sort of consumer group has put their money in a given product, outside what the product itself promises.

A traditional corporation would aim to invest into a development of a product and its sales to rake in money to fill the pockets if their investors and pay the workers, as well as to put money back into further development of future products. This of course requires the consumer to value the product first of all. However, in recent years there has been providers, especially game developers, who seem to consider their right to be paid and gain success by the virtue of them providing something, be it in demand, wanted, needed or not. Naturally, if your product does not meet with the demands of the consumer, you shouldn’t expect high profits.

Of course, you could claim to be a stereotypical art-type provider and do your piece for the sake of love of it, to express yourself to the fullest and never see a dime.

This is not to say a provider can’t make something described above and make money. Finding the right balance between the thing you want to do and providing the consumers is tricky business, but not impossible. It just takes two things; hard work and research. Guts is optional but recommended.

As you might have surmised, this topic was originally supposed to be part of Another take on customers series of posts, but we’re good 40 posts away from our next hundredth post. Thus, decided to timely put this down now rather than forget the content I had scribbled down into a memo.

Brand loyalty?

As much as brand loyalty is often misplaced, sometimes it has its place. While I try to avoid too many personal tales, in which I fail at far too often, I do have a feeling that in this case a small personal story is in place.

After spending a morning chopping wood and petting dogs, I noticed that a pair of shoes I wear everywhere, any time, any weather, had finally given in a basically just broke down. Thus, a need to buy new shoes.

However, just like everyone who have slightly out of ordinary shoes, finding the perfect pair can take some time, and some brands simply do not my feet. I enjoy slightly wider last than what the standard is with a nice, slightly thicker soles and longer life. The last one I had lasted about six years, God bless ’em.

The thing is, not many companies design and produce shoes that fit these tootsies. It took me three purchases to realize that I’ve been buying Merrel shoes just because they fulfil what I’m looking for, and that’s just me.

Brand loyalty with clothes is very much a different thing than brand loyalty with e.g. game console brands. Human body is dynamic and changes so much from person to person and year to year, and some people just have the hardest time to find the right clothes that fit their frame. Women have hard time finding decent bras if their bust size on the larger side, and more often than not you can forget finding them in nice colour or with laces.

Is it a necessary brand loyalty? No, it’s just easy. Only at the extremes you may not find but one or two options to go with, but consumer rarely wants to change from a provider that they’ve already either invested in emotionally or feel they have no reason to change the provider. For example, one may want to keep from buying H&M due to their shit practices in production, but despite that one can’t ignore that sometimes they just have pretty good stuff in stock.

Informed consumer can make the best purchase decisions based on their wants and morals. It’s all about what the consumer wants and what sort of attachment they have. Agendas, intentions and so on affect our purchasing habits to a large degree, and those who could be called world savers are more than aware of each and every single thing the clothes companies do wrong. You can bet that each and every piece of clothing and brand they’re under in the stores rip off somebody elsewhere in the world. The only way to assure that doesn’t happen is to employ your local tailor, and even then you’d need to question where the fabrics, threads, buttons and zippers come from. The common consumer doesn’t really a give a damn about that. It’s easier and more accessible to walk into a store and purchase what fits you in there rather than sit down, do research, measure yourself and find whatever may fit you from a seller that’s not killing employees in a factory fire because they didn’t install emergency exits.

Much like with the local pizza industry, most people are not willing to dish out large amounts of money for their clothes, despite the quality does go hand in hand with price in most cases. Companies are required to get the cheapest possible at the best possible quality, and often that requires one end to suffer somehow. Third world manufacturing plants and their employees tend to be the one who get shafted in these cases. There is no perfect solution how to make all three parties equal in this dilemma, and I’m not even going to amuse possible solutions. Consumers want quality for cheap, companies are required to find the most profitable way to do it, and most people around the world are just happy to get some kind of place to work, whatever it is. There is always someone else willing to take your spot in the workforce.

But, one person among million of consumers does not affect any. The power is in the numbers. If your decisions what you purchase and from who have basically no effect on anything, why do it? Because it your feeling on the matter. My refusal on using Valve’s services or purchasing anything from Gamestop weight absolutely nil in the larger scheme, but it has impact on the feeling and idea that I can stand next to whatever I believe in to be right. That applies to everyone, and everybody has their own subjective view on any issue. We weight these purchases often too lightly, and with brand loyalty in there, we tend to ignore what could affect our decisions in favour for our own comfort, and there’s really nothing wrong in that.

So, me purchasing a new pair of shoes from the same manufacturer for the third time without knowing one thing about the company itself shows my willingness to basically ignore to know one thing about them. It never occurred to me, it didn’t matter. The information is out there, in my fingertips through the keyboard. Better fix that, so I can make a more educated purchase next time when it comes to clothing. After all, even a guy who mostly posts about games and giant robots needs to wear clothes when going out there.

Nintendo not in Top 100, but do you care?

Not too long ago, Nintendo was dropped from the Top 100 brands list by Interbrand. According to CEO Yuki Wada the reason for this drop is that Nintendo has not been keeping with changes in people’s lives, pointing to its failure to jump on the smartphone bandwagon in a timely manner. That’s a direct quote too.

Yuki Wada’s statement shows how the industry doesn’t like when Nintendo does what is good for the market. The NES was booed, yet it essentially saved console gaming. The GameBoy was called a relic while its competitors died one by one soon after they were released. The Super Nintendo was deemed too childish compared to the Mega Drive. The N64 on the other hand was hailed to have peculiarity, and the GameCube was hailed as a great console. Both of these were not successful on the larger scale. The DS followed the NES’ route of expanding the market, and the industry hated Nintendo for it. The 3DS and the WiiU follow the N64 and GameCube philosophy and have garnered better reception from the industry.

But the industry is not the consumer. From Nintendo’s history it seems that what industry hates, the consumers love. The more money Nintendo banks, the more the industry hates Nintendo’s guts. The latest Pikmin being a good example of this. Fans and industry loved it, and it sold mediocre numbers, especially for a first party WiiU title.

Nintendo would do disservice to itself by expanding to smartphone market by itself like many other companies have. After all, why would you like to make your own products available on other platforms? With DeNA Nintendo is doing just that, but on their own terms. Smartphones and consoles compete in different region anyway, especially with modern handhelds that are less about gaming on the go than what they should be. The kind of games smartphones and consoles, handheld or home, offer is different as well.

I do see that Nintendo’s financial performance and brand contributions could be the main thing dropping Nintendo from the list, but not jumping on the smartphone bandwagon. If that were the case, Nintendo should’ve been dropped each generation they did something backwards in industry’s eye, be it no using compact disc media or adding a media player functionality.

Nintendo has never been on the forefront of new technology. Whenever they followed Gunpei Yokoi’s philosophy of using existing and cheaper technology to its fullest extent, Nintendo has gained more profits. One could also argue that games have been better, leaving unneeded gimmicks be while pushing the gameplay to its limits.

What does the consumer care if Nintendo is in Top 100 or not? All he cares about is that the companies keep catering products they want to throw money at. Like 300 page books filled with materials or high speed action games, pizza that tastes delicious or vacuum cleaners that don’t break under stressful cleaning.

Now the industry might care, but when it comes to Nintendo, the industry has not been very favourable towards them overall.