Rants and raves about all the latest in video games and other forms of mindless entertainment.

November 22, 2005

We shall call it X-Day!

By now, if you had an Xbox 360 on pre-order, you probably already have the machine in your hands. If not, better luck next time. The day has finally come, and it seems that Microsoft knows how to throw one hell of a party. Kudos to Microsoft of masterminding the largest console launch ever. But was it worth it? Has Microsoft been stretched and contorted to it's theoretical limits? It would seem this launch is anything but "successful". Console shortages are ripping through the hearts of gamers everywhere...and yes even some people who already laid down the full 400 USD for the thing. If you're following, Microsoft is spreading themselves far too thin. The fabric of their being has been pulled taught to the point of tearing. North America, being Microsoft's only source of "million seller marketplace" has received the most generous allotment of machines - obviously - but is even that enough? We got somewhere in the ballpark of 1 million Xbox 360's here, and still there are people who have pre-ordered (months in advance mind you) that aren't going to be fragging or flaming online like they had expected. At this point historically, I'd assume thats the kind of thing that is entirely unavoidable.

The United Kingdom consequentially gets the shaftiest shaft of all shafts, receiving a paltry and insulting 50 000 Xbox 360s to place under the Christmas tree. That's Goddamned offensive (although Europe's running total is around 400k). While I'm uncertain on the actual alotted consoles for our Japanese neighbours, the number is within range of 200k. If Microsoft's brass knew full well about this world wide launch from step one, why didn't they forsee this shortage? It doesn't take clairvoyancy or wizardry to predict this kind of road bloc, but Microsoft has gotten so damned cocky. Both the DS and PSP were in unprecendented demand for a handheld during their respective launches. Both sold at a faster rate than previous GameBoy iterations. Videogames are a hot commodity, that's not news Microsoft.

However, an international launch has one huge advantage: saturation. The console is unleashed everywhere, all at once, and not only becomes the buzz of the town, the state,the province, or the country...but the world. This is definitely Microsoft's 1UP with this launch. But is it worth disappointing eager consumers who actually pre-ordered a console but were in the end ripped of that pleasure? I'd say no. There's no doubt in my mind that Microsoft just wasn't prepared for this launch. Yes, Xbox 360 will sell out all across the country...but is it because of demand, or because Microsoft just couldn't keep up with the ambition they set forth with?

The launch line-up here is getting mixed reviews. It seems that PGR3 and Call of Duty 2 are the "must have" titles of Xbox 360, but those aren't what I'd call "killer apps". Nintendo DS had Super Mario 64, Gamecube had Pikmin and the soon thereafter Super Smash Bros Melee - which probably holds the honour of best launch title ever. Playstation 2 had Fantavision and PSP had Lumines. Each a unique experience you probably wouldn't get anywhere else. The unfortunate thing is you can play CoD2 and PGR3 type experiences on other consoles, and in a multitude of forms. The only non-sports, non-FPS game in the Xbox 360 18 title launch line-up is Kameo, and the game has been getting average to "good" reviews. It certainly isn't the AAA system seller everyone thought it would be (and to debunk a classic Miyamoto quote: a delayed game IS NOT inevitably good!). Do I personally see a reason to be playing an Xbox 360 this year? No, not at all. As a rule, I do not play sports games...they are fun, but ultimately the same experience year after year. First person shooters are a mixed breed, but not something I'd like to saturate a library with. Is it worth the price of admission? The hardware certainly makes it seem so, but with the Playstation 3 on the horizon, and at a likely similar price point, I will opt for the more advanced, more powerful console and deductively the better launch-line up (since any combination of exisiting titles would be better than the sports/FPS ratio that the Xbox 360 sports).

To add insult to injury, a week ago, order forms for Xbox 360 still numbered in the thousands per chain in Japan. The launch line-up is even worse, with no RPG in sight and only 6 titles to chose from, the Xbox 360 JP launch is at it's best, rushed and pathetic. Launching in Japan without an RPG is the equivalent of lauching here in North American with no Madden or racing sim. It's not asking for, it's demanding failure. Not to say Xbxo 360 will fail in Japan, but it's launch probably will. I assume the majority of machines will be snatched up by impulse shoppers and mildly interested folk who already paid tribute to the original Xbox, since there doesn't appear to be demand anywhere near the magnitude of "Playstation" or "Nintendo DS".

On top of this evolving list of problems, backwards compatibility is at an all time low. Combined with only 18 games being backwards compatible in Japan, and 200 here in North America and Europe (out of the potential 700 titles, even excluding the most recent titles, like Half-Life 2 and Prnce of Persia), Xbox 360 is going down in history as "the little big console that couldn't". This entire fiasco is just proof that this next-gen jump start is happening far too early. Microsoft just wasn't ready or prepared for this. Microsoft is master of their domain, they know that they could sell you an empty box as long as their hype-campaign was forcibly backing it, so these short comings are something that could have been easily avoided...if Microsoft weren't the industry newbies they're proving themselves to be. Broadening the window for multinational launch would have been a start, and actual backwards compatibility would have been a close second on the list of things Microsoft knew would go wrong, but ignored anyway.


Blogger NintenJoe said...

Yeah, you really hit the nail on the head, Adam. The XBox 360's launch was sloppy and rushed. Mass reports of hardware malfunctioning right out of the box aren't helping either. I'd hate to say it, but they should've delayed the launch until next year. Competing with Sony and Nintendo is not as bad as shafting millions of gamers who have to wait until next year to get one anyway when they already paid for it, plus the terrible shortages. Also, I don't see how they plan to win Japan this generation if they can't even perform a decent launch.

What's funny is, just weeks earlier, Microsoft announced that they expect to sell 10 million consoles in the first year. Kind of makes you wonder who's running this campaign. Did you read GS's article on them taking a $125 hit per system?

November 24, 2005 1:46 AM

Blogger Adam said...

Of course I've read the article, but it doesn't phase me. People are making it out to be this huge negative thing on Microsofts end, when a hit like that is just par for the course if you care about your consumers and want them to get the best possible price.

Playstation 3 will incur similar losses. That's just a given, and it's all part of the game. The only people who don't do this, are Nintendo...who are the anomoly, not the rule. So while the shortages and Xbox 360's that crash on boot up are terrible, the loss being taken is normal and will have no effect on Microsoft. Sony did the same thing with Ps2, and managed to lose 1.2 billion dollars in the first year of the Ps2's life cycle, but has made up ten times as much on software and peripherals alone.

November 24, 2005 1:33 PM


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