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Question of the Week Responses: Xbox 360 Launch?
Now that the first of the next generation consoles, Microsoft's Xbox 360, has launched, Gamasutra took the opportunity to gauge its initial impression on our audience of game professionals, by asking, “How successful do you think Microsoft's launch of the Xbox 360 was, in terms of game line-up, online connectivity and overall image?”
December 9, 2005
15 Min Read
Now that the first of the next generation consoles, Microsoft's Xbox 360, has launched, Gamasutra has had a chance to gauge its initial impression on our audience of game professionals, by asking, “How successful do you think Microsoft's launch of the Xbox 360 was, in terms of game line-up, online connectivity and overall image?”
The answers reflected a fairly even mix, spanning the spectrum from the launch being a significant success to it being a dismal failure, and a majority finding launch-related issues. Notable points included, most obviously, the relative scarcity of the console in stores, but there was also confusion regarding 360 television advertising and positive comments on the impressiveness of Xbox Live.
A numbers of our respondents were fairly neutral in their judgment of the 360 launch, simply noting that it was reasonably acceptable.
For a global launch, I would say Microsoft is doing an OK job. Whether or not it is creating shortages is irrelevant, it should have made more consoles for the public. The game line up was only so-so if you are a non-sports/FPS fan, but if you love those games then you were in heaven, I think. It's an OK line up, but it could have had more variety in terms of games. Graphics aren't going to sell me on a game whether I'm talking from a gamer or an industry perspective. Remaking games that are or just came out on the Xbox isn't cutting it either. Microsoft's image has definitely gone up in the gaming community and over all around the world. It has been the talk of the town for weeks on end. The heat sink issue couldn't have been worse and it is handling that pretty well, so overall I think it gained some notches in the image department.
-Duane Brown, DreamCatcher Interactive Inc.
In my opinion, Microsoft did a superb job of establishing Xbox 360 as the premier next-gen gaming platform. However, it suffered a huge setback when it failed to get enough machines to the market for the Christmas holiday. While coordinating a console launch across multiple continents is truly a massive undertaking, a company as massive as Microsoft has no excuse for being so grossly unprepared.
-Coray Seifert, Large Animal Games
It's been mixed. A massive hardware shortage on the one hand (and the usual launch hardware niggles), but four excellent games on the other (Perfect Dark Zero, PGR3, Kameo, and especially Call of Duty 2). It's rare that a console launch goes so well software-wise. Now if it can just sort out its distribution issues, then maybe we'll have something.
The game line up is above average - decent but with no next-generation console-defining game such as Halo, etc. The online connectivity is excellent but the overall image is only average. What could have been an incredible launch has been reduced to average, due to shortages and poor press management regarding defective consoles.
For those that had a negative impression of the launch, most cited the 360's general lack of availability, but other points brought up included a perception of technical problems and a lack of “must-buy” titles.
I think Microsoft's launch was poor at best, mainly due to its current availability. If Microsoft follows through and meets market demand for this holiday season, my perception of the launch will be much better than it currently is.
-Kevin Bray, Motorsims
Respect to Microsoft for making it first to market. It is going to need it. At E3, I loved its stuff. But so much has happened since then - the Revolution controller for example. And, I think people are starting to comprehend how truly powerful the PS3 is going to be. So the Xbox 360 looks more and more like an Xbox 1.5 than a 2.0; an iteration more than a leap, and certainly not a revolution. I am afraid it is going to need all the first-mover advantage it can get.
-Marque Pierre Sondergaard, Heroes Team
A disappointing launch - my impression is that Microsoft has two major launch problems... poor supply and poor pricing. In my opinion, some of the next-gen games look great, but most people won't buy a new console until the price falls a bit (I think $400 for the real system is simply too much to reach critical mass), and of course until the stores actually have them. When people do buy a next-gen console (Xbox 360 or otherwise), I expect them to buy only the best next-gen games, and to adopt more of a "save money mentality" by buying less expensive older-gen titles, by buying more used games, and by more renting. I personally feel like the industry is a bit out of touch with mainstream gamers and that this launch is poor enough that it gets the industry's attention.
-Mike Pauza, CPO
The 360 launch seems haphazard and anticlimactic. A couple of impressive games, but nothing that is more entertaining than the cream of the crop of current PS2 and Xbox games. And the console does not seem to have gotten into the hands of many people. The news of shortages and system failures drowns out reviews and impressions from the street. There is little buzz about the games because there are not many people playing them - there are many more forum posts talking about "when the next shipment" comes in.
I think it started out great until the shortages occurred. It had a very negative impact on the image and to tell you the truth, the longer Microsoft makes people wait, the easier it will be to make them wait longer. For example, people have pre-ordered and they won't get anything till next year. I'm sure some of those folks are fed up and will wait for the PS3 launch since that will be around the time they get their Xbox 360 shipment. Personally speaking, if I cannot get an Xbox 360 by this Christmas, then Microsoft has lost another customer. I doubt I will be alone. I wish the best for Microsoft, but the stories about making consoles every day and sending them out every week sounds fishy and doesn't represent the whole truth. Bill Gates should step up, be honest, and tell the public what is happening and not have information be disseminated via the rumor mill. That just causes people to get worked up over nothing.
-John de la Rosa, CSC
The advertising was a bit of stupid - a lot of the commercials had nothing to do with the system, like the jump rope commercial. It was cool, but then the Xbox 360 at the end of it was like, "Huh?" The game line up was weak, except Perfect Dark Zero and Call of Duty 2. DOA being pushed back a few times probably pissed off more than a few people.
Out of all the possible adjectives, I'd say the 360's launch was tepid at best. As appetizing as a nearly-simultaneous worldwide launch is, Microsoft botched it horribly by spreading too thin to feed all regions. Intentional or not, releasing a demanded product with such pitiful numbers per territory is not how to conduct business with the retail consumer. Besides the logistical issues, the launch titles failed to solidify Microsoft's claim to be the first bearer of a next-gen machine, with hardly any titles exhibiting a leap over the previous generation outside the realm of graphics. Connectivity might be the sole saving grace—incorporating Live into every title is a great way to sell subscriptions while connecting the userbase, and is a true glimpse at the future of gaming. On the whole, the 360's appeal lies in its exclusivity—if you want cutting-edge, it's the only game in town. Whether the 360 will be able to hold up after the launch of the PS3 is another matter.
-Ben Serviss, Creo Ludus Entertainment
It was, considering the aggressive and ambitious nature of the launch planning, uneventful, meaning that nothing went horribly wrong. And that is probably as much as anyone could have hoped for. I think Microsoft has stumbled in numerous areas of the launch, including not living up to its anticipated worldwide launch, losing some of the hype it was trying to generate (did anyone show up to the Palm Desert fiasco?), and not having an HD-DVD drive available at launch. Though the latter is not actually its fault, is does significantly hurt its whole "we're all about HD" hype. The box itself is much improved on the image side, and the game lineup was not any worse the most other past console launches. I would imagine, however, that Microsoft is smarting from having a number of third-party games both rated and selling better than its more heavily-hyped internal titles. In the end, most security analysts are probably correct - MS will gain on Sony, but not enough to considerably erode the PlayStation marketshare.
A gallant effort, but Microsoft can't win market share while also pulling the scarcity-sellout thing. It must steal PS2 owner loyalty and it hasn't. Sony will crush in 2006 unless there's a major misstep. Launching for Christmas was a great move, but a better one would've been to court early adopters with plentiful supply and time-sensitive bundle offers.
As launches go, the Xbox 360 release wasn't a complete failure, but the console shortages, hardware and software glitches, and the lack of innovative games have damned "hi-def" and "next-gen" gaming from the get-go. With a mere 400,000 units going on sale and millions trying to buy them, Microsoft must have been trying to engineer conflict so as to increase publicity. Perhaps the water-balloon fight advertisement on TV reflects the kind of violence MS was aiming for on launch day. Microsoft then betrayed the few hardcore fans who actually obtained a 360 with hardware and software defects that, while probably close to the average defect rate for new consumer electronics, as it contends, is a bad, bad move when you're the first console to market. Microsoft needed to impress skeptics by demonstrating the potential for innovation that hi-def will provide developers, but, judging from the games released thus far, the greatest innovation is the egregious use of specular maps.
The flaws inherent in the "HD era" were made additionally clear when half the original launch titles slipped due to scope mismanagement. It's not surprising that Microsoft also let Perfect Dark Zero sneak through CQC, opening itself to ridicule should any fatal errors appear on the disc.
The 360 launch succeeded, however, in creating a very attractive console and controller, and offering a very cool Xbox Live interface and game downloads system. But how telling is it that the best game on the Xbox 360 comes with the system and is a 2D puzzle game? Hexic HD may be a great game, but I'm hoping Microsoft realizes that getting a console to market first will blow up in its face, if it can't deliver superior and innovative AAA games.
The third-party publishers will continue pumping out ports and sub-standard action and sports games, but it's up to Microsoft to demonstrate what its console is capable of. The launch titles have utterly failed in this respect. When you consider that the Xbox 360 will absolutely define "next-gen" for the next 6 months, it's frightening that most people can barely tell the difference between Xbox and Xbox 360 games. Let's hope Sony abandons its focus on hi-def and Nintendo's controller succeeds, because, in my opinion, the 360 is already out of the game.
Those that viewed the launches as mostly successful generally cited the marketing build-up and solid launch line-up, among other factors.
In terms of building hype and the “must have” image for the 360, it was a resounding success. In terms of actual gaming, it was a solid if unspectacular launch. No "must buy" titles, but it doesn't matter in the long run. The titles were good enough and there was something for almost everyone. I submit the spectacular Dreamcast launch lineup and miserable PS2 launch lineup as proof that launch titles aren't all that important in the long run. The new Live features have been extremely well-received (I know several 360 owners who play its new Live Arcade games more than its $60 launch titles), and Microsoft has really raised the bar for online console gaming and community. The only danger is that, somewhat like the PSP, the 360 is suffering form port mania - lots of Xbox 1 games enhanced (or limited) to various degrees. While there are several great looking games on the horizon, I wonder if the mass market will wait for the must-buys to come out. And when that happens, will the PS3 and Revolution be upon us with must-buys of their own? But overall, outside of the general lack of consoles, the launch was a success on almost every front.
For Microsoft, the launch was very successful. Hype was built, rarity was implemented and all is ready for the holiday rush. The box itself is too expensive for most families however and aside from avid video gamers, the two consoles scheme is confusing at best. I'm guessing aunties and grannies will buy the "small" box for the kiddies, because of the price, absolutely oblivious to the consequences. The launch titles seem alright but why not wait for the PC ports instead of decapitating our wallets? King Kong is already available for the PC and six hours of play is not enough to sell a console and a game in a million years. Kameo seems ok but, again, not enough to sell a console, especially with a possible new franchise in the fray. Everybody is waiting for Gotham Racing 3. None of the launch titles is interesting enough to sell the console at this point. For me, Oblivion could do it but it will also be available for the PC so I will not bother with the Box. I'll wait for the next one...
The launch itself was very successful in my opinion. A worldwide release is something other companies could learn from, even though shortages are a problem. The negative side of the launch was not the hardware but the software. It seems that too many launch titles were poor conversions from another platform. You could even find a lot of titles with less content than their PC and other console counterparts. Hopefully this won't be the case with the next wave of games. In all, the exclusive Xbox 360 titles did the best, I think.
Good but not great. The online community is exactly as Microsoft described which I think is its biggest success as most of its strategy for this system relies on this online network. It released the right games. It has a good variety of good quality titles which appeal to a lot of people. And it had very good marketing. The ads gave a very good idea of what Microsoft was shooting for with its online community. However I think its overall image suffered because it rushed the system to market. The shortages and defects led to some major bad publicity and will hurt Microsoft's image for the time being but I think the problems will soon be forgotten. Overall, a fairly good launch for a company that's only on its second try.
Microsoft's launch titles are quite strong overall, especially in comparison to the PS2. Although there is no Halo, the overall quality of the launch titles is significantly stronger than the original Xbox, with Call of Duty 2, Perfect Dark, and Kameo standing out. I also love the design of the new controller, and am quite curious about the remote control, which includes both a Windows start button and a record button.
- Bill Mooney, Shaba Games
Moderately successful - there is no real blockbuster game released yet and until that I suspect many won't buy into the system. I'm expecting the really good titles to turn up when PS3 launches.
-Torbjörn Söderman, Digital Illusions CE AB
As a marketing effort, it seems to have been reasonably successful. The Xbox 360 has been in the news for weeks and demand seems high. How valuable is that media exposure and how lucrative is that demand if it's not possible for people to actually, you know, purchase the system until 2006, though? Why am I seeing so many ads and articles trying to sell me a 360 when there are none left to sell?
-Will Hindmarch, White Wolf Game Studio
[Please note that the opinions of individual employees responding to the Question Of The Week may not represent those of their company.]
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