Thursday, September 15, 2005

Okay, How about a Grape XBox 360?

I remember my mother telling me stories about when she was a kid and different brand record players played at different speeds.  When she bought an album she had to make sure it was the correct speed for her record player.  I can assume you all know what records albums are right?

Anyway so on the subject of Microsoft’s multiple flavors of Window Vista I thought I would continue ranting about Microsoft’s multiple Xbox 360 flavors.  So assuming dear reader, you are my mother who doesn’t know anything about any of this; I’ll explain. The next version of the Xbox will come in two different versions.  The $400 dollar version is the whole kit and caboodle (Even I have no idea what a caboodle is though I remember looking it up once but have forgotten what I found).  The $300 dollar version is just the basic console; the two big things it is missing are the wireless controller and the 20GB hard drive.  The minor things you don’t get are the headset, Ethernet cable, and media remote.  You can buy all the missing pieces separately to eventually get everything the $400 dollar version has.  I do wonder if you need what ever is included with the remote to access the multi-media functions (play CD’s, DVDs, etc.) like you did with the original Xbox.

Now the wireless controller isn’t a real big deal. It’s just a controller. The hard drive on the other hand might be a big deal.

Lets me explain by first telling the story of the Sega Genesis 32X.  The 32X was an add-on for the Sega Genesis that was released in November of 1994 that would turn the Genesis from a 16bit system into a more powerful 32bit system.  One of its biggest problems was that by being an add-on and its owners were a sub-set of the sub-set of video game owning people.  At the time you had the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, 3DO and the Atari Jaguar (in that order and not counting the Sega CD.)  As a game developer in 1994 you decide you are going to make a game for the Sega Genesis, but are you going to make a regular Genesis game or a 32X game? Y ou have to ask yourself how many Genesis users have the 32X add on?  Let’s assume you are certain that 60% of the Genesis users are going to buy your game.  But if only 40% of the people who own the Sega Genesis also have the 32X that means that your 60% gets squashed down to only 24% (40 percent of 60 percent… I think. Man, how embarrassing would it be to get that wrong? Well not so embarrassing that I am going to check. I just spent 30 minutes trying to find what percentage of the market the Genesis had in 1994 in The Ultimate History of Video Games. I know it’s in there but I can’t find it.)  Anyway unless you have some shot at getting a whole lot of free advertising from Sega for being a 32X game to make up for that huge loss of potential sales you are going to do a regular Genesis game.

Now back to the present and the Xbox 360 with its optional 20GB hard drive.  It isn’t quite as bad as the 32X situation because it’s a storage device not something that runs the game.  But it does mean that if there is some feature of the game that requires the hard drive it is going to be cut or changed to not require the hard drive because the developers know that not everybody is going to have one.  Nobody who isn’t doing a product directly backed by Microsoft is going to want to put a “Hard Drive Required” sticker on the front of their box and cut into their potential sales.

Again, I know Microsoft is in this to make money. I also know that all game hardware manufactures take a loss on the hardware in the hope to make up for it later with software sales. And on top of all that knowledge I also know that $400 is quite a bit above the magic price point for new game hardware.  So being that I am so full of it… I mean full of knowledge… what would I have done? Well if I worked at Microsoft and the decision was up to me, I would steam about the halls angry that they took the decision away from me when I told them to eat the cost of the hard drive on top of all the other costs they are eating. It is probably just too much of a loss on top of the rest.  

To be honest $100 bucks is a decent price for a hard drive and a wireless controller. The controllers alone cost around $30-50 bucks for ones with a rumble pack.

In the end I’ll just recommend this public service announcement from CTRL-ALT-DEL.

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