Xbox 360: Repeating History? Feature - The Next Level

Xbox 360: Repeating History?

Guest writer, Henry Liao briefly puts aside his pencils to discuss the Xbox 360 price and HD situation.

Article by Henry Liao (Email)
August 18th 2005, 10:14PM

Fearing that retailers and consumers would be turned away by the word "videogame" due to the bad taste left by the 1984 Videogame Crash, Nintendo repackaged its Famicom with a light gun, R.O.B., the robot gaming companion, and called it the Nintendo Entertainment System. R.O.B was anything but entertaining to watch when you need it to help you get through levels in Gyromite. I think there was like, two games made for the use of it. This was the beginning of a trend of mediocre peripherals for gaming systems.

Sega CD and a few years later, the 32X. The CD add-on unit to the Genesis was plagued by high pricing point and grainy graphics. Of course, games like editing your own Marky Mark music video did not help its lackluster software line up. 32X, while an upgrade to the Genesis in every sense of the word (to 32 bit, of course. Duh), was also met with a lack of software support from developers. This was, of course, due to the developers focusing their resources on the Saturn console.

N64's 64DD, an add-on with a rewritable medium. It had like, what, one game? It was cancelled before it even met its US release.

PS2 Hard Drive. Need I say more?
GameCube gets "connectivity" using the Game Boy Advance. GBA isn't exactly a peripheral, and was successful on its own. But how many 3rd party games were actually made to take advantage of such option.

And here we are, on the brinks of Microsoft's release of its long awaited Xbox 360, I can't help myself from wondering why? Why would a console maker walk down the same path again and again, risking itself more financially with the possibility of no support of the 3rd party developers utilizing its peripheral.

I am, of course, talking about Microsoft's decision to make Xbox 360's hard drive an "option".

Putting aside the fact that I think Microsoft doesn't know much about innovation (Xbox is a PS2 with more power, and the 360 is a more powerful Xbox), it had it right the first time with the Xbox: Put everything you want the users to take advantage of - namely, the hard drive - into the damn system! I understand that this made the Xbox expensive to make. But by packaging everything together the first time around, you also encourage the developers to make games taking advantage of the hard drive, not to mention taking away their concern about about how many users out there has the extra storage to play their games.

Packaging the hard drive with the unit was a good idea, even if it did make the Xbox bulky and the inevitable comparison to PCs. The only reason it did not catch on with the developers was because many of them are making ports of their games from the PS2, which has the big market share and ultimately their focus of attention. Blame that to the Xbox showing up late in the console race without offering anything more the PS2 hasn't already.

It may make sense financially, leaving the Xbox 360 hard drive as an option dilutes the user base and therefore, putting the longevity of the add-on at risk. To break it down: you get more units out to the public with the different price points, but you don't get all of them to buy the unit with a hard drive. Therefore, you don't get all of them to support downloadable contents nor games that utilize the hard drive. Eventually, the publishers and developers will want to get the most out of the 360 owners population, and to do so, they would choose to make games that do not utilize the hard drive, make downloadable content an unnecessary option, or allocate those resources away altogether to cut cost. I suspect that Microsoft is running the 360's marketing plan like one from a PC. But unlike console game developers, there's no royalty fees to pay to make a PC game.

History tends to repeat itself. And marketing people still don't know much about games.

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