Kind of entertaining actually.
By Anonymous on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 09:36 am:
"Compared to the Xbox, Nintendo's new console offers as much computing power, but at a lower price, with an unimpeachable brand and the heft of a game design genius. And looming even larger, Sony has quietly spent the interval since its 2000 debut to take real chances, fostering a palette for artistry and innovation on the Playstation 2. Xbox now competes against a massive library ambitious enough to accommodate a game based on Dante's "Inferno" and wide enough to slip in a game that lets you solicit sex acts from streetwalkers."
By Mark Asher on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 12:14 pm:
I got an Xbox a couple of days ago. I think Microsoft will do fine with it, though fine might still be third place and I don't see the PS2 getting knocked off its perch anytime soon. I've been playing DOA3 and it looks amazing. The anti-aliasing really helps to set the Xbox apart from the PS2.
I don't know why Au is criticizing the Xbox for lack of creative titles and blaming this on Microsoft's corporate soul. The PS2 wasn't any different. The most creative library of games probably belongs to the DC, and look how that helped Sega.
Back to my experiences with the Xbox, surprisingly, the humongous controller feels pretty good too. It's the first controller where my fingers feel right sitting on the trigger buttons, so I find myself using them more often -- it does this nice roundhouse kick in DOA3.
One thing you won't see with the Xbox is kids tossing it in a backpack and taking it to a friend's house. Not only is it big, it's *heavy*. It's really not very portable.
By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 12:27 pm:
I think this article is pretty typical of the effete literati tone that pervades most of Salon's content--one reason why I rarely visit the site. It's heavy on rhetoric and light on substance. There are plenty of valid criticisms that could be levelled at Microsoft--and ditto for Sony. But most of them don't make an appearance here.
His main argument is highly hypocritical. In the same breath, he praises Sony and Nintendo for being daring while condemning Microsoft for having only fairly non-risky games in it's launch lineup. But the PS2 has been out for over a year--when it launched, its lineup was similarly undistiguished, and arguably weaker than Microsoft's.
It's another case of Microsoft being held to a higher standard. Whether you like the company or not (and I know lots of people don't), that's goofy. For instance:
"It wasn't supposed to be this way. The Xbox was going to boast the power of a PC, and leverage the skills of PC game developers, who'd bring a new degree of sophistication to the pizza-and-beer paradigm of the console -- but on a uniform, stable platform free from the tyranny of CTRL-ALT-DEL."
Microsoft never promised anything of the sort. If you want to argue that perhaps they should have, more power to you. But don't claim that they promised that and failed, because they didn't. I had meetings with them at E3, and they were really quite clear about it. The Xbox is a console, not a PC for your living room. The games will be console games. The idea that it would be anything else was created out of whole cloth by people in the press who apparently suffer from some sort of listening disorder, such as Wagner James Au.
He makes other, non-Xbox related arguments that don't stand up to scrutiny:
"Underdeveloped protagonists are a recurring flaw in Bungie's games -- its strategy classics Myth and Myth II, for example, are masterpieces of real-time combat in a vividly realized world, but they're coupled to a generic fantasy story, recounted by an anonymous narrator. This lack of an appealing character never really hurt the popularity of the Myth games; however, they were cult hits confined to the much smaller market of computer games."
The only flaw here is in his reasoning. Many games that ARE breakaway hits that reach further than the traditional gamer market have even less of a focus on a developed central character than Myth. How about Myst? Or Age of Empires? Or Civilization? Or DOOM? I hate it when people judge games by the standards of other media. Games are different. Games with strongly realized main characters often diminish the feeling of interactivity, the illusion that the game is really about you, the player. The evidence that the mass market doesn't want strong main characters in their games is admittedly circumstancial, but the evidence that they do is even shakier.
The reality is that most console games' "strong protagonists" are not particularly strong at all. With the exception of rare games such as the Metal Gear Solids or the Final Fantasies, most console titles sport memorable characters for branding purposes only, and not as a foundation for narrative or "sophisticated content." You could argue that Microsoft should be doing this as well, for the same reasons, but Au doesn't.
He goes on to laud the innovative genius of Pikmin on the Gamecube: "And that's it for the Xbox premiere list. Otherwise, it's the usual sports, racing and fight titles, rendered with slightly better graphics than the PS2, but really notable only for their slavish imitation to all the console games that have come before them."
Of course he fails to point out that the rest of Nintendos lineup is... the usual sports, racing and fight titles, rendered with not quite better graphics than the PS2. My take (and hey--feel free to flame away) is that a lot of the Gamecube's fire stems from the fact that most everyone expected it to suck. People were so surprised that it didn't, they overcompensated. Call it the Serious Sam Syndrome (be honest--if id Software released Serious Sam, it would have been crucified). The rest of Nintendo's lineup includes yet another Mario game (well, a Luigi game, at least), another Rogue Squadron game, a bunch of sports titles, and various ports such as Crazy Taxi. So where is the awe-inspiring innovation that supposedly puts the competition to shame?
The real edge that Gamecube has is the price. No question there--it's a bargain. And to be fair, Au does cover that. The rest is hot air.
Speaking of empty rhetoric:
""I don't think there's any doubt in my mind that the Playstation 2 will be the market leader at the end of this year," says Bergman of Shacknews."
Well, duh. He's right, but not because of any failing on the part of the Xbox. It has more to do with the fact that Microsoft has only a month and a half to match a year's worth of PS2 sales. If Sony fails to lead the market with that kind of head start, then something is seriously amiss.
"The company is taking a substantial loss on every Xbox sale, apparently hoping that the superior hardware inside will be its best future asset."
He says it as though this is some sort of unique risk. Of course Sony is doing the same, as did Sega. Nintendo doesn't, but they are the anomoly.
Does he make any good points? A few. In particular, I'd agree that Microsoft has bungled promoting the Xbox, at least so far. Far too few good points for a five-page feature, though.
By Dave Long on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 12:48 pm:
I dunno Ben, calling Luigi's Mansion "just another Mario game" is a stretch. It really doesn't play like that at all. You also left out Super Monkey Ball which while a take on an old concept is certainly something different and new. The Gamecube does have its share of new and different games. Pikmin being the obvious front runner.
I dunno, I think your "people thought it would suck" comment cuts both ways. Everyone expected (expects?) the Xbox to be a failure, so getting a couple decent games out the door with the launch is just as much of a surprise. Though Dead or Alive is the most shallow of the 3D fighting games...how long can that one game's beauty sustain the Xbox? Halo will always have the control stigma attached to it too and PC gamers are undoubtedly going to sit back and wait for the now inevitable (and likely easier to play) PC version.
Microsoft still has a lot of problems. Most of their games are ports from other consoles or the PC. Tony Hawk 2X is probably going to do more damage than help since THPS3 is already on PS2 and will also be on Gamecube. The price is still super high given the game content. A comparably priced PS2 gives one access to quite a few AAA titles now with a lot more to come. Gamecube gives access to similar amounts of quality games for much less money.
I haven't read Au's comments and I don't really care to. I think Xbox is destined for third and there's really nothing Microsoft can do about it today. If they can show us some true exclusives, Microsoft published-only stuff, within the next six months, they have a chance to stay even with the big N.
BTW, has anyone else noticed how Nintendo is letting Microsoft blow all their money while they spend very little on Gamecube marketing? It's a shrewd play. They're letting Microsoft drive people into the stores while they save their dollars for later. Same with Sony. Microsoft runs all these promotions, holds big events, etc. but when Joe Gamer walks into Toys R Us, that Gamecube will be setting right there next to the Xbox. With the titles Nintendo has for launch and the lower price, I wouldn't be surprised to see people leave with a Gamecube instead. Provided there are any systems available anywhere... and well, if there are, there are significant problems with the launch of the console that leaves them lying on shelves.
By Mark Asher on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 12:52 pm:
There's no real evidence that gamers want innovation. Given a choice between Tony Hawk or Seaman, Tony Hawk wins.
I'd feel more comfortable pegging Nintendo at number two in the horse race if the system had done better in Japan. It hasn't set the world on fire over there, though. Looks like going with Luigi instead of Mario for a lead title was a mistake.
My 10 year olds are really excited to have an Xbox in the house, but if pressed they will tell you they want a Gamecube. Nintendo has a nice grip on the kiddie market.
By moron on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 01:07 pm:
I went to get my X-box last night and by the time Midnight rolled around there were 30 people there, with only 32 units in the store. 1/4 the people said that they had returned their PS2 a couple of months ago b/c there were no games they liked for it. Also the people at the store were beginning to sell Gamecube at midnight, no one wanted one.(GC is also hurting in Japan as well).
The Xbox is great. I really dig the system interface. Halo is the bizomb.
1.The control works good enough.
2.I have a large HDTV, so it looks BETTER on my TV then it will look on my PC.
Also as far as the PS2 goes, let's see there is: Devil May Cry, GTA3, MGS2, & FFX. Afterwich there is...?(I will freely admit my ignorance on future PS2 games that rock but these are the only ones I am aware of).
I won DMC and returned it. I've got GTA3 & MGS2, both are fantastic. After I get FFX and beat it I will probably sell my PS2. I'll spend the money on Wreckless and Unreal CHampionship for the Xbox.
The only reason I thik anyonewas any validity in arguing over a console's merits is to inform people which one to buy if they can only buy one. I am fortunate enough to have a steady job and am single, so I can spend my money on what I want, which is also the vibe I get from everyone else here.
It's all about the games, man.
By Alan Au (Itsatrap) on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 01:38 pm:
What vibe? Apparently, you haven't been hanging out here long enough. *heh* Actually, I'm in the same boat as you (single, disposable income), but I find the bottleneck to be gaming time. I don't have *time* to play more than one console, let alone my PC. That and I'd rather drop $300 on games instead of a new console. Like you said, it's all about the games, man.
I am fortunate enough to have a steady job and am single, so I can spend my money on what I want, which is also the vibe I get from everyone
Married here. Anyway,
I have to say Microsoft's ad campaign is excellent so far. I remember watching those oddball Dreamcast ads and thinking... why aren't they showing the games? Same with Nintendo's bizarre wrestler choir and snowboarder flying through the church GBA ad campaign. Preposterous! Wrestlers singing?!? snowboarding?!? playing a GBA under church lighting??!??
Still better than the PS2 ad campaign last year though. No games at all in that one.
EA is doing the best advertising of all though. Not with commercials. Anyone watch Football Sunday on FOX? Madden 2002 is used as the telestrator. I wonder how many copies doing that has moved for them? And I wonder if we'll see Fever in that slot next year? MS has earmarked, what? $500,000,000 for advertising. Now we'll see if they can buy their way in.
If they keep making commercials like the one for Halo and Oddworld, even the hilariously sexist Dead or Alive spot, they have a damn good chance.
By Jason Levine on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 02:22 pm:
Apparently X-Box's flew off the shelf of the Chicago Loop Toys Backwards R Us this morning. They were sold out within 30 minutes of opening, and a lot of people were coming in at the lunch hour asking for them. It'll be interesting to see how the suburban stores did.
By Bub (Bub) on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 02:57 pm:
I'm taking my daughter to Toys R Us after she gets up. She's too young to care, though she loves the stuffed animal section, but she needs something new I think. She's been good.
Plus, I want to check out the video game section, just out of curiosity. I bet there's some nervous MS people waiting for the reports to come in....
By Dave Long on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 02:57 pm:
You'll hear and see all the usual tales of sellouts. I wouldn't get too excited. With only 400,000 units to go around, they had better sellout.
By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 03:43 pm:
"The Gamecube does have its share of new and different games. Pikmin being the obvious front runner."
Nothing like the sort of stuff Au was gushing about. Gamecube has some clever launch titles, and Pikmin (which isn't a launch title, but close enough) is probably the most innovative of them. But none of them are any more "edgy" than the Xbox stuff--they are all fairly familiar, mainstream games, with a few slight variations on theme.
There's a good reason for that, which Steve pointed out earlier today. Making unusual niche-y titles is a really bad idea for system launches. If you want to make a somewhat odd game--a Seaman, for instance--that takes some chances and very probably won't reach wide audiences like DOA3 or Tony Hawk 3 or just about any other game that you can tag with a number, you want to wait until there are a lot of systems out there before you do it. Because selling to 10% of 20 million systems is much better than selling to 10% of 4 million systems.
The other side of the coin is that games like that often take more time to make.
"Microsoft still has a lot of problems. Most of their games are ports from other consoles or the PC."
Ditto for Nintendo. Look at their launch lineup. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3, The EA Sports games, Crazy Taxi, Dave Mirra's ProBMX, SSX Tricky... the list goes on.
"A comparably priced PS2 gives one access to quite a few AAA titles now with a lot more to come."
That's a good argument, and one that I used against the PS2 (vs. the Dreamcast) last year. But we all knew who won that one, so I don't think the matter is that cut and dry when it comes to consumer buying decisions.
"If they can show us some true exclusives, Microsoft published-only stuff, within the next six months, they have a chance to stay even with the big N."
One word: Sega.
But really, Xbox has as many exclusives as Gamecube right now--a couple of key titles.
By Yoda on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 04:24 pm:
If Halo is coming to the PC, though ... not sure I need an xbox.
By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 04:48 pm:
Is it? Maybe, sometime next year, although the specifics (like, whether or not it's even going to happen) have yet to be announced. Metal Gear Solid 2 will likely make the jump to the PC eventually, too (Metal Gear Solid did), so why do I need a PS2?
By Jeff Atwood (Wumpus) on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 05:21 pm:
The console market seems to be motivated by perception more than reality. Or maybe it's just sales figures. Who the hell knows!
For what it's worth, did you guys read that article where Sega is scared of Microsoft's Xbox and subsequently pushing the PS3 up?
By Brad Grenz on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 05:25 pm:
>"I went to get my X-box last night and by the time Midnight rolled around there were 30 people there, with only 32 units in the store. 1/4 the people said that they had returned their PS2 a couple of months ago b/c there were no games they liked for it."
Christ. Some people are so stupid. These guys probably bought their PS2s at 12:01 AM launch day with Tekken, Ridge Racer and SSX, sold their PS2s right before all the AMAZING games ship so they can buy Xboxes at launch which has a couple good launch games, but won't have AMAZING games for a year, or so.
>"Also as far as the PS2 goes, let's see there is: Devil May Cry, GTA3, MGS2, & FFX. Afterwich there is...?(I will freely admit my ignorance on future PS2 games that rock but these are the only ones I am aware of)"
Well, there's FFXI, Xenosaga, Tekken 4, Virtua Fighter 4, Soul Calibur 2, Jak and Daxer, Maximo, Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, Star Ocean 3, Kingdom Hearts, Suikoden III, Onimusha 2, Grandia Xtreme, off the top of my head.
By Mark Asher on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 05:54 pm:
According to Bungie, Halo will come to PC and Mac.
If I had a PS2 I wouldn't sell it. It has the strongest lineup of games.
By Anonymous on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 06:02 pm:
>"Is it? Maybe, sometime next year, although the specifics (like, whether or not it's even going to happen) have yet to be announced. Metal Gear Solid 2 will likely make the jump to the PC eventually, too (Metal Gear Solid did), so why do I need a PS2?"
Most FPS fans expect Halo to play better on the PC due to the mouse/keyboard controls while most 3d action game fans expect MGS2 to play better on a console's control-pad. I'm in the Bungie couldn't have picked a worse time to reconfirm Halo coming to the PC market (albeit with no time frame mentioned) camp.
By kazz on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 09:09 pm:
A couple of the guys I work with bought an X-Box this afternoon, and put it on eBay. Apparently they are selling for $1k+ there right now.
I don't get it. I have hardly seen any advertising for XBox, and don't know why it would fly off the shelves, being a new and untested pony and all.
By Jason Levine on Thursday, November 15, 2001 - 09:35 pm:
"I don't get it. I have hardly seen any advertising for XBox, and don't know why it would fly off the shelves, being a new and untested pony and all."
Uh, because some gamers could just possibly be described as obsessive? :)
As for those paying a grand plus on eBay, they're just proving P.T. Barnum right once again.
By Jason_cross (Jason_cross) on Friday, November 16, 2001 - 12:51 am:
>I dunno Ben, calling Luigi's Mansion "just another Mario game" is a stretch. It really doesn't play like that at all.
I agree. "Just another Mario game" would be MUCH better. Luigi's Mansion is pretty repetitive, short, and uninspired - but with a really great aesthetic. Mario games are much deeper and more satisfying, and it's really kind of a disappointment that this is the first time Nintendo has ever launched a console without a "proper" Mario game.
Marketing - they're doing a good job now...saw like two ads during The Tick tonight, and the ads do a nice job, given 15 seconds, of showing lots of gameplay and stuff. Which is gamers' #1 criticism of console advertising. "They never show enough gameplay." But I think they just started way too late. I think they should have started "branding" style campaigns a couple months ago.
But hey, like I'm more of a marketing expert than Microsoft. Or anyone else here for that matter. I think by now, MS is one particular company has proven that they can market stuff, work with retailers, work with the channel, and otherwise get product off the shelves once it gets there.
I find it particularly interesting to look at what Sega is doing with the new consoles. For PS2 and Gamecube, out of what they'e announced, it's almost all ports. Skies of Arcadia, Sonic Adventure 2, Phantasy Star Online, Virtua Fighter 4 (okay, port of an arcade game), existing Crazy Taxi games... only Monkey Ball is original. On Xbox, the inverse is true. GunValkyrie, an original Jet Grind game, an original Crazy Taxi game, a new Panzer Dragoon, House of the Dead 3, Sega GT 2, and the only port is Phantasy Star Online. Naturally, the Sega Sports games are going to be on all platforms.
Either we just don't have the whole picture, or Sega is, for one reason or another, willing to invest more resources in Xbox development. At least insofar as it takes more time and money to develop original content than to port an existing DC game.
By Bub (Bub) on Friday, November 16, 2001 - 02:16 am:
"But I think they just started way too late. I think they should have started "branding" style campaigns a couple months ago."
Yeah Jason, I agree, I was expecting more than that Taco Bell thing earlier than this. I'm thinking they don't care as much about "launch day" as they do about Christmas Day. I think we're going to see that marketing blitz intensify like crazy starting next week.
By Brad Grenz on Friday, November 16, 2001 - 03:24 am:
I've seen lots of Xbox ads, and gamecube ads for that matter. But I'm smack dab in their target demo and not hard to find. I watch lots of Comedy Central, the Sci Fi channel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (both the new episodes and the reruns on F/X), late night talk shows...
>"Either we just don't have the whole picture, or Sega is, for one reason or another, willing to invest more resources in Xbox development."
I think we don't have the full picture.
And I have to say Im still not convinced we aren't still being jerked around with this Halo on PC/Mac.
By Ben Sones (Felderin) on Friday, November 16, 2001 - 10:49 am:
"And I have to say Im still not convinced we aren't still being jerked around with this Halo on PC/Mac."
I agree. They've changed course with Halo so much, at this point I'll believe it when I see it.
No doubt it would make a great PC game, but it would need an awful lot of retooling. In the meantime, they created a great, very useable control scheme for the Xbox (this from a person who hates shooters on consoles), and it plays great. But they'd need to change a lot to make it all work with a mouse and keyboard.
By kazz on Friday, November 16, 2001 - 02:21 pm:
"I'm thinking they don't care as much about "launch day" as they do about Christmas Day. I think we're going to see that marketing blitz intensify like crazy starting next week."
Maybe. It might play into the whole idea that retailers are expecting everyone to buy late this Christmas, to get better deals. Microsoft may just be reacting to this notion, and saving the blitz for later.