Six years ago a very cool Star Wars-themed Xbox 360 was released. It featured a C3PO controller and R2D2 console that made beeping sounds just like the astromech droid. The release of this special edition console was due to the pack-in game: Kinect Star Wars.
That Star Wars game was terrible. Regardless of the game’s quality, I don’t think you need the excuse of a pack-in game to release a themed console and controller nowadays. A themed console can be based on just about anything in pop culture (movies, TV, comics) if done right.
I went with The Last Starfighter for the above example. Like the aforementioned Star Wars console, it would play a sound when powered-on, like GREETINGS STARFIGHTER. It could even play a video of the attract mode or gameplay from the film’s arcade cabinet.
Other properties like TRON, Battlestar Galactica, and Wreck-it Ralph, to name a few, could be given a specialty console release without needing a tie-in game.
It can’t just be a paint job, some sounds or visuals from that property would need to be included in the user experience to make this purchase more enticing and worthwhile for customers. Otherwise they could just buy a bunch of custom decals for their vanilla consoles.
Microsoft and Sony could leverage these themed consoles to be tie-ins with major events. A new Avengers film opens in a few weeks, imagine if an Avengers console was released to mark the occasion? This console would play the Avengers theme when powered-on, and a MARVEL intro video.
Branching out into pop culture would open up many possibilities, you’re no longer limited to video game properties and their respective release dates. A themed console could be released anytime.