In the lead-up to the launch of Google’s new Stadia console, members of the Stadia team promoted the “gender neutral” quality of the system’s controller as a selling point for the flagship hardware.
In an interview with CNN Business, Google VP and Head of Stadia Phil Harrison boasted that the Stadia controllers design was different from “some of our historical competitors in the console space [who] have been a bit more masculine and a bit more mechanical in their approach.”
The controller is offered in three different colors, white, black, and a light green ‘wasabi’ color, chosen for its “universal appeal” according to Google director of design Isabelle Olsson who found that “both men and women gravitated towards this color.” She praised the fact that “it ended up being super gender neutral but still really expressive” as “it’s really hard to find colors like that.”
Feelin’ spicy? Our Wasabi controller is now available everywhere you can buy Stadia, including Canada and the Nordic regions.
— Stadia (@GoogleStadia) September 10, 2019
In a short promotional video, Google industrial designer Jason Pi states that the controllers were intentionally made to be easier for smaller hands to grip, specifically noting that the controller was “made for small and large hands so it’s super usable for a large segment of gamers that aren’t always appreciated.”
This marketing strategy by Google is odd, to say the least, as controllers have never been explicitly made for or marketed towards male consumers. While some controllers have been troublesome for people with small hands to use, such as the original Xbox controller, and others offer problems for players with larger hands, such as the Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons, they are designed for universal appeal rather than niche audiences.
The promotion of the controllers coloring as “gender neutral” also seems slightly patronizing, as controllers have been offered in a wide range of colors and patterns since the fifth generation of consoles (PS1/N64/Sega Saturn era), allowing for players to customize their controllers to their specific preferences and tastes, regardless of gender or identity.
Our launch lineup has just expanded! We now have 22 titles available to play starting November 19, with even more games arriving by the end of 2019. pic.twitter.com/mN8WbLjuBW
— Stadia (@GoogleStadia) November 18, 2019