Warning: This story contains minor spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the Zune MP3 player finally gets its moment in the pop-culture spotlight… six years after Microsoft stopped making it. The obsolete digital music device makes an appearance towards the end of the Marvel blockbuster, after hero Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) has lost his beloved Sony Walkman. Without giving too much away, the Zune is a gift to Quill from a loved one, and Quill is astonished to learn that it holds “300 songs” — a whole lot more than he’d been packing with those Awesome Mix cassette tapes. The joke is that you’d have to literally be living on another planet to get excited about a Zune. But it is possible, just maybe, that its Guardians 2 cameo (and likely reappearance in Guardians 3) could make the Zune cool for the first time ever?
The Zune was introduced in 2006 as Microsoft’s answer to the iPod, released five years earlier. By most accounts, it was a decent MP3 player, but it had no major selling points to compete with Apple’s product, which had already cornered the market. Despite heavy promotion (including some trippy TV commercials), the Zune never caught on. Microsoft retired the device in March 2011. After it disappeared from shelves, the Zune re-emerged as the butt of jokes on TV shows like The Simpsons, The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men (see the clip below), and Silicon Valley (which featured a character describing a terrible product as “Zune bad”).
The Zune is mentioned on the ninth season premiere of Two and a Half Men in 2011:
In the end, the Zune’s cultural footprint was so small that its existence has largely been forgotten. That’s why the Guardians of the Galaxy joke sailed over the heads of many a viewer who wondered why director James Gunn didn’t just give Star-Lord an iPod. But it’s a sensible choice to replace the character’s signature Walkman, itself a piece of outdated music-playing technology. And according to The Hollywood Reporter, Peter Quill’s circa-1980 Walkman is now an in-demand collector’s item selling for hundreds of dollars. The Zune, meanwhile, can be had for about $40 on eBay, but you better bid fast — the MP3 player could also get a Guardians boost now that it finally has a feature that the iPod does not: the next volume of Peter Quill’s Awesome Mix.
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