“When rebels become the establishment,” it’s said, “it’s time for new rebels.”
Indeed, this certainly seems the case, with the new rebels coming in the form of Wonder, a new gaming/smartphone/tech startup based in Venice, California, still, as of now, in the stealth mode, but attracting great interest nonetheless. And no wonder! With investors such as Nolan Bushnell (Atari’s founder,) Allen DeBevoise (Machinima’s founder,) Arian Foster (a 4-time NFL Pro-Bowler,) Owen Van Natta (Facebook’s former COO,) David Stern (NBA Commissioner,) and Kevin Spacey, there’s clearly something going on! That’s not even mentioning the likes of Andy Kleinman (MobLabs, Urbita) and a group of former execs from companies like Activision, Dell, Disney, HTC, Microsoft, Scopely, and Zynga behind the wheel. This Californian startup seems to be more than sure to make it big, at least in terms of media coverage.
And it’s not even that important that there’s nothing – nothing! – known about their product so far. Not one shred of data. Nothing.
It looks like Wonder is THE THOMAS PYNCHON of the startup world.
The Curious People
There’s quite a lot of speculation – from the likes of Forbes through to TechCrunch and Yahoo – concerning Wonder and their product. The curious people are there, doing their best, it appears. Being one such curious person myself – and sticking to “The truth is out there” motto – I’ve been tracking this Thomas P. for quite some time now, believing that it is out there, indeed.
The truth? Have a look at what I’ve found!
Let’s start with Forbes.
Posted on Jun 14th, 2016, this Forbes’ article is the first press piece of info to ever come out about Wonder. The author, Dave Thier, is a Forbes’ contributor, “a writer whose work has appeared in Atlantic, The New York Times, The New Republic, IGN.com, Wired and more.” He covers “social games, video games, tech and that whole gray area that happens when tech and consumers collide.” So, with a background as extensive as this, what did he have to say?
In his article, titled “There’s A Mysterious Company Getting Ready To Announce New Hardware,” he narrates a phone call he’s received at E3 conference. The call, it is claimed, was from Andy Kleinman, Wonder’s founder. Allegedly, he “talked a lot about what he called a ‘sea of sameness’ in the modern mobile landscape,” Thier’s subsequent assumption being “that he [Kleinman] wants to focus more into the early adopting gamer crowd.” Which is, in fact, quite an assumption, given there’s nothing more to back it up as of now except for what’s quoted. Not a lot, not a lot.
While Thier does go on to list some of the over investors, he doesn’t disclose whether this list is something he received directly from Kleinman or not. This little detail still remains a loose thread and it is impossible to determine what it means – at least at this point.
Oh! There’s one more detail worth mentioning. In his article, Thier states that “We should know more in a month”.
Well. We do.
We do indeed. There’s this Josh Constine’s TechCrunch article. It was posted on Jul 25th, “a month” later.
First of all, Josh Constine is an established business and tech aficionado. He’s well known for interviewing some of the biggest names out there – Tim Armstrong, Drew Houston, and Mark Zuckerberg included – live and on-stage. We’d expect him, then, to be a solid and reliable source. Such an article should, similarly, be thorough and inquisitive, based on its author alone. But is it, again? How reliable is it?
The question remains open, I’m afraid. Constine’s not listing his sources, other than someone that is “close to the team”. Through this source, he claims that “Wonder plans to create a smartphone for gamers.” As well all known, an unnamed source is never a good thing to rely on. As significant as this detail may be, it is not reliable enough to earn one’s trust.
Furthermore, Constine also refers back to the Forbes’ article, which he considers to be “vague,” noting that it’s “Wonder’s only press to date” at the same time.
Well. If Thier’s article is “vague,” what more is Constine offering his readers? What new information is being learned? The fact is that, apart from listing some new investors, Constine’s article fails to expand upon Thier’s original piece. There’s a lot of usual speculation there, a lot on how “it’s one thing to build a gaming gadget,” replacing people’s iPhones with it being “an entirely different beast.” Well, tell us something we don’t know. In short, a more in-depth examination reveals that there’s nothing available in terms of “new” there. No info. There is nothing.
Except for this one line:
“It’s conceivable that a Wonder phone could power a mobile VR headset.”
Which is interesting. It is. Yet, once again, there’s nothing to support it, leaving readers to discuss whether it’s a real piece of info or more speculation based on the likes of, for example, Wonder’s highly stylish logo.
All in all, there’s not much there to work with.
There’s also Yahoo. Their article was published on Jul 26th, not 24 hours after the TechCrunch’s one. A fast reaction, it would seem. But is it proper? What substance is there to it?
The answer, unfortunately, would depend on a number of factors. There’s nothing new in this article, as far as actual information goes. Its goal is rather to sum up all the details that we know so far. To give us a new, clearer view on what we know and what we don’t.
There is, however, some additional value here. It raises some doubes about the, now almost universal, assumption that Wonder is building a phone. The author quotes Wonder’s own tweets, questioning “Are we building a phone?” and answering with “Too early to tell”. The point? Wonder’s final product can turn out to be something else as well, something like a gadget, an addition of sorts. It can also be something that, let’s use this word, “transcends” the modern definitions for a smartphone. An additional note that is worth taking from Yahoo’s article is that “it seems Wonder will be going after gamers, which means if it is going to launch a smartphone, it’ll have to be a powerful one.” This is something worth taking to heart, a good point.
Apart from that, we’re left to wonder. Let’s wonder some more!
Are the Curious People Curious?
There are numerous possibilities now.
So, what’s going on there, what are the facts?
There are numerous possibilities that we can consider now.
What comes to mind, first of all, is that this could all be a part of a larger marketing campaign. Let’s face it: all of these sources are “the big ones” and, while Forbes, TechCrunch and Yahoo are not related, not per se, their target audience is certainly shared. One article can potentially enforce the others. What do I mean? I mean that whoever is engineering Wonder’s campaign, that person deserves a kudos. And from Thomas P. himself.
On the other hand. What proof do we have that the second article – Josh Constine’s one – is really based on an insider source? As I’ve pinpointed, there’s almost nothing new there. Not in terms of the actual content. And the third one is an obvious recap.
So. Are these curious people curious?
The Stealth Hit
We’ve all learned it from the games: the stealth hit can pack some punch. The truth is that it’s not all these high-level spells, powerful abilities, and rare items that give you the sharpest edge. It’s the stealth hit. Given proper preparation, given proper execution, the stealth hit can turn the tables.
Then, there’s also this golden rule of marketing, a rule to maintaining people’s attention, interest, and eagerness. The rule is that it’s not the actual info, but, in fact, the lack thereof, that generates the buildup and pumps up the anticipation the most. People love the speculation! It’s what’s making them invested! Instead of feeding them all the details, keep the info sparse and vague, teasing something here and there, throwing little bits of content, and controlling all the leaks. The results? Surprising! But then, come to think of it, it’s not that surprising at all, it’s more like a natural response: after all, what’s the point in being curious when there’s nothing new to learn, find out, to – that’s right! – to wonder about?
Well: there’s none. A lesson Wonder’s team have taken serious.
Good for them, it would seem. The speculation is going viral. Given their impressive branding, one can be sure there’s quite a lot of money on the line there. Things like this one don’t come cheap. Also, their logo is an absolute masterpiece: looking kind of like a retro-futuristic astronaut’s helmet, the virtual reality dream-gear kind of. Their name is wonderful, too. Their image, all coherent, if something this vague can even be coherent, makes you want it, makes you wonder…
There’s a lot of money on the line there.
Then, there are all of the company’s rebellious claims, all of which appeal to the teenager part of your imagination. Like this one:
“Our CEO gave Shoe Dog as a gift to all WONDER employees. It’s the memoir of Phil Knight, Founder of Nike, who started the company with $50 against all odds. People thought he was crazy for going after a commoditized market ruled by huge companies like Reebok and Adidas. Pure inspiration for all of us.”
Let’s wait and see what happens next!
Image Credits: By NASA / Neil A. Armstrong, via Wikimedia Commons