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Confused about X-Box? Well, you are supposed to be!

by Andrill

In this editorial, I'd like to express my opinion that X-box is nothing but Microsoft's attempt to confuse and harm game console market throughout the world, and that if you are expecting X-Box to actually appear in stores, you'll have to think twice.

The whole X-Box story, when carefully examined, shows, that Microsoft's announcement of "console machine" is extremely irresponsible and rather dirty move against the whole console industry, but not at all the sign of things to come in this market.

Microsoft's promise if too far from reality (as it usually happens with Microsoft). Most of the X-Box hype comes from GDC demo movies which were played on some mysterious custom-made high-performance machine. Was it Windows-based PC with $1000 worth of memory and another $5000 worth accelerator array? Maybe it was a Silicon Graphics machine? Maybe it was one of those Hollywood computers which made special effects for Matrix movie, rented for a day? Maybe even it was powered-up Macintosh? We don't know. Whatever it was, it is probably as far from anything you can possibly cram into $300 console, as heaven is from earth.

Another part of the hype is alleged support of developers. But did any developing companies ever mention their intention to sign contracts with Microsoft?

Many reports citing developers' response to X-Box news are rotating around the phrase "We are excited about possibility to develop for new console", but what does this "excitement" means in terms of real games being worked out for X-thing?

Does that mean, that all of those developers companies who are so "excited", are immediately starting to throw valuable manpower and resources into Microsoft-thingie games? Does that mean that new X-box departments are sprawling everywhere in Dev houses?

No, of course it doesn't.

Developers are not that stupid, and for them, to go any further than to express their "excitement" shall require the same ultimate stimuli number of installed machines and user base.

Unless of course Microsoft gives every developer a wad of cash upfront and insurance policy against games being not bought.

This again is a chicken vs egg situation.

To win developers, who have to be hard pressed to devote their resources to not-yet-existing machine-in-question, Microsoft will need to demonstrate, or at least promise to demonstrate large number of users. Those users who now massively hate Microsoft, who can only possibly squeeze out their cash if they get slammed on their head repeatedly with dozens of excellent titles exclusively available only for X-Box. And this, in turn, requires developers' support. Return one paragraph back. Repeat.

And what about this "exclusive availability"?

Right now, software houses are feeling perfectly well developing games for relatively free PC environment, with no Big Bad Microsoft to harass them, why shall they go for development of same PC architecture games, but with Microsoft Licensing Fee Stamp?

I mean, let's assume I developed game for PC Windows high-end Intel-based machine with 3D accelerator and graphic chip, which I can market and sell the way I want it. And now you are asking me to release this game for X-box only to give part of my profit to Microsoft as a License Fee??? For me I'd better sell it as PC title. Releasing it on X-Box will not give me any advantage, because PC hardware level on the market in 2002 would be same or higher than X-Box (if it ever comes out), and number of installed PC machines is (and will be) more than enough for any sane developer.

Now some people can say "This is hypocrisy, same could be applied to Sony Playstation. Nonetheless, Playstation was success, developers supported it, users supported it."

But this will not be correct. When Playstation arrived in 1994, it delivered what no PC machine could deliver at that time for $300. It was advantageous for both developers and users. And it was not PROMISING to give quality in two years, it actually sat on the store shelf and displayed full-screen 3D which made people go "Wow!".

I remember very well, back then I was going to build myself Pentium PC with 3D accelerator. When PlayStation came out, I realized, that to get same quality games on PC I would need to fork out around $800 for upgrades. (remember, I am talking about 1994) Result I bought Playstation, and kept my wordprocessor work on 486DX I had at the moment (Pentium 2 which I own now was given to me as a grant).

Now, look at what Microsoft so irresponsibly promises: The hardware they announced now costs over $1000; Naturally, if Microsoft put their X-Box on sale today, it would have same effect as Playstation had in 1994; But in two years, how impressive these specs will be? Maybe it will indeed cost $300 by that time, considering how fast prices drop on PC hardware market. But in 2002, freshly released X-Box would be just a low-end PC machine, which wouldn't get any "Wows".

This again, shows, how little Microsoft cares about gaming development, how non-serious they are about their X-Box thingie's actual performance. This is another proof, that the whole X-Box campaign is just a PR exercise to hamper development of console market.

But why would Microsoft want to harass console gaming?

Obviously to arm-twist the competition, just as they normally do.

Today Microsoft is under fire from US government in a form of antitrust case. Even if they reach settlement with government, their ability to abuse PC industry at will would be restricted.

Let me cite Yahoo Technology News article by David Lawsky (March 23) on that topic:

"The newspapers said any settlement would require restrictions on Microsoft's business practices, rather than breaking up the company... both remedies involving restructuring the company and restricting its conduct have been discussed in the earlier stage of the settlement talks"(end of quote)

Microsoft's hunger for web domination was not satiated either. We all used to think that Microsoft is superpower in computer industry, but come to think of it how much Microsoft actually accomplished in terms of web presence (except for their notorious Explorer case)?

All of us, Internet users, know what puny attempt Microsoft Network was. Remember couple of years ago Microsoft boasted it would launch dozens of satellites, which would create great web network any news, anyone? Look at how Microsoft's promised Web-TV project turned out to be nothing but hype.

At the same time, look at recent success of Sony in creation of web network. Look at EverQuest with its huge number of users, look at forthcoming StarWars Online RPG on Sony network. Add to this plans of Sony and Sega for their consoles to go web. This two consoles are out there already. Both are aggressively promoted as home web appliances. Sega teaming with Fuji to bring home complete wed-oriented DC system, and releases EverQuest Online for DC, enters deals with Japanese cable companies to bring DC network to homes. Playstation 2 is promising great web future, and Sony actually already has large web network, as well as millions of potential PSX/PS2 web users.

And undoubtedly, these console companies seem to be succeeding in creating web community much better than Microsoft ever did.

This probably bothers Microsoft quite a bit.

This is probably why Microsoft today wants to wreak havoc at console market. Sadly, this strategy reminds of classical Evil Guy's line: "If I can't have you, I'll try to destroy you!" Same way as Microsoft, as some people stipulate, tried hard to eliminate reliable, popular and user-friendly Netscape Navigator, only to replace it with their own buggy and imperfect product but, sorry, that's another rant, and may be subject to various opinions...

Why so many people throughout the web think that Microsoft's X-box isn't likely to be good product?

Because making of successful, reliable, robust and user-friendly game console requires more than just a lot of money spent on PR and marketing. It requires love to what you are doing, it requires true ingenuity, it requires willingness to walk extra mile for customer's satisfaction.

Do you think Ken Kutaragi, the creator of PlayStation was driven by petty greed, when he created his machine?

And what do you think Bill Gates is driven by?

With best regards,
Andrill
ankatral@hotmail.com
(remember, Hotmail not always belonged to Microsoft)

Note:
All the ideas expressed above are my personal speculations, except for when referred to other sources. This article may contain mistakes or errors, for which I apologize English isn't my native language.

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