Next month, gamers across America will finally get their hands on the Xbox 360. Now, I know you don't want to hear it, and hell, I don't want to say it; but Microsoft is dooming the 360 to mediocrity.
Not surprisingly, the most obvious mistake comes in the form of the Premium and Core packages. There's just no way this is a good idea. Look at it from a developer's viewpoint. You're about to invest millions of dollars in creating, what you hope will be a wildly popular and amazing game. Why on earth would you automatically cripple your title by limiting your consumer base? So don't expect too many titles to utilize that 20 gigabyte hard drive.
Sure, we all know that anyone, with one tangy bit of grey matter, would buy the Premium system; but what about this Christmas? Will some poor soul's mother be willing to fork over $100 extra dollars for what, they think, is the same system? No, they won't. They'll ruin their kid's Christmas and eventually just break down and have to buy all the essential add-ons.
Got your 360 reserved? Think there won't be any shortages of hard drives or the Premium packages? Then you've obviously never experienced a launch day. (That's why I preordered mine in full, haha. - Ed.) No matter which system, (anyone remember trying to track down a rumble pack for their Dreamcast?) most launch days are an orgy of hatred and anger among gamers searching for their needed peripherals.
Microsoft says that the Core system exists for the casual gamer. So, the causal gamer doesn't want to save their game progress? The casual gamer doesn't want to play online, when almost every current game offers some kind of online capability? Casual gamers want to go into Gamestop, pick up a game, then find out they can't play it because they didn't get the hard drive? If you know someone that fits this bill, you ought to buy them something else, maybe something shinny, to play with.
Now we move on to my personal favorite: games. I know...I know, everyone has the unbiased, removed view of consoles right? Well, I do. I love the quirky, weird titles that show up for the PlayStation, I can't live without my exclusive Nintendo games, and I relish the graphic superiority and online aspect of my Xbox. My contention isn't that I don't want a 360, I just can't fathom a good reason to get one.
So far, the leading games for launch are: Perfect Dark Zero, Project Gotham Racing 3, Call of Duty 2, Dead or Alive 4 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Of these five games, only two (Dead or Alive 4 and Call of duty 2) are looking to be ready by the 22nd.
Maybe it's just me, but if I were planning to release a game for launch, I'd probably be giving a rock-solid "yes" or "no" for actual release dates. Unless, of course, I want to cash in on the launch day hype and get as many sales as possible. What Microsoft and most of the developers are actually saying is that these games will be ready for the "Launch Window" -- a timeframe that runs from the system launch day all the way up to Christmas.
The concerns that I voiced so far are, by no means, the only reasons to be a wee bit wary of 360, they are simply the ones that concern me most. Sure, 360 will launch first, and traditionally, systems that venture into the next-gen arena first don't hold up as well. Just to give you a vague idea, the PlayStation 3 will feature a Ethernet port that will operate 10x faster than the 360, three times the conventional DVD capacity as well as a sharper max resolution. This doesn't mean the 360 will be obsolete; it's just that, those of us with both systems (360, PS3), will probably buy for the console that looks and plays the best. Such is the reason that, today, every multi-platform game I buy is for my Xbox; they just look and play better.
I'm not even going to test the waters of the whole HD-DVD and Blue-Ray fiasco. With companies switching allegiances on a weekly basis, there isn't enough groundwork in place to pick a victor. Regardless of which format succeeds, the other will fail and join the prestigious ranks of Beta Max and MiniDisc.
After all this, will I buy a 360? Probably; but not until 360 can prove that it has the support of developers, both foreign and domestic, along with the ability to think outside the (X)box and give us something new. Because, from the look of things (swappable face plate anyone?), the 360 isn't breaking any new ground, it's treading softly down the same old path.