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Friday, May 13, 2005

360 Thoughts

No, there wont be that many (har har) ... but the 360 is getting plenty of attention, so here are some basic thoughts:

Big guffaw here by Microsoft. Huge, huge error in judgement. Microsoft has done such a remarkable job of keeping their normally acidic corporate image friendly to gamers that it's actually stunning to see them unveil such an important product through means that much of their demographic finds annoying and occasionally insulting. I didn't see the special, but the general consensus is that it was too cool for the likes of us. Apparently the XBox 360 is 100% A-list.

I don't think that's what MS intended and I would expect to see some damage control from them. I think E3 will be focused squarely on gameplay to compensate for this. If they were smart, they'd pair E3 with some public net events and torrent feeds to appease the hardcore geek crowd that they just managed to sideline. Do a live IRC chat and get some cred back, MS.

It's going to be powerful, no questions. Microsoft is taking the hi-def thing very seriously, as indicated by a healthy amount of RAM for both the system and video card. Sony and Nintendo simply have to take notice of those numbers. I mean 10MB of DRAM on the card? Microsoft was taking notes from developers who have obviously grown tired of fighting the memory crunch of consoles for years.

The processors sound beefy as well. The Xbox 360 will be able to display eye candy above the PC market for months if not a year after it's launch I'd think, as the original XBox did.

The 20GB HD surprises me as does the lack of a higher capacity DVD drive. I think both will come back to hurt Microsoft unless I'm missing something. 20GB for a machine which will need to store game info, saves, and is also supposed to hold multimedia? That will fill fast. And the DVD capacity is an easy win for Sony and Nintendo ... and we all saw what happens when the game media is increased with the first PlayStation.

Wireless + corded controllers ... I didn't think wireless would become standard just yet because it makes more money sense to sell them as after market items. A good move though, wireless controllers are much more living room friendly, and making them USB chargeable is smart. Hopefully this will become standard for wireless controllers in the future.

It's not that I don't find the slightly curvy white motif unappealing, it just doesn't seem to jive as well with Microsoft's "take the games seriously" image. I expected them to stick with the black or maybe go with something like a brushed metal. I suppose this does make the "360" distinct and forces consumers to see it as a completely new product. The home button on the controller seems smart, even despite this "Ring of Light" nonsense.

What I'm not sure about is whether the world needs customizable faceplates for their consoles. Yeah, I know there are some people making plenty of cash from console skins, but I think it's really a minority that ponies up for that kind of item. Not that I guess MS has much to lose on it.

I think this is where Microsoft will make the inroads. They've been very developer friendly and very user aware. I think they'll be successful when it comes to building a community around their product and make their integrated software pay off when it comes to getting online and having fun online. Sony and Nintendo both have much catching up to do when it comes to that, and I think MS will up the ante with the first 360 sold.

I'm probably still not going to be lining up to get one, but I never get the next gen consoles when they first appear. I think Microsoft might be in for a bit of a shock when Nintendo and Sony do their product roll, but there won't be any big armageddon this generation. Sony will remain ahead, Microsoft will still take a loss in profits to establish a solid market share, and Nintendo will play a bit of a wild card between the two.

If anything, PC games will suffer the most from the 360. As developers look more to cross-platform development, the PC games will be left behind somewhat in terms of percieved quality. The design will be constricted to consoles as opposed to always trying to max out the PC hardware.

Hopefully this will mean a possible entry point for indie developers on both the PC and console market. With a shrinking line of titles, PC gamers might be more willing to embrace smaller studios and Microsoft will be quick to try out ideas like XBox Arcade on their new hardware. In fact, I'd predict this will be another area that Microsoft outsmarts Sony and Nintendo. While the other two catch up on online services, Microsoft will beef up their smaller, cheaper, more downloadable game offering. I mean, games on demand has been a grail for some time now ... I don't know why people haven't figured out that smaller, simpler games with heavy replayability weren't part of the equation sooner.

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