CES is slowly drawing to a close now over in Las Vegas, and while it hasn’t been a big show for videogames, it has certainly been a big show for announcements. Be it about IPTV, the prototype that won’t be around anytime soon, or the trash talking towards Sony, the Microsoft camp has certainly been busy. Now it is time for Mr. Gates to step up and speak his mind.
It’s no secret that Sony has been the console leader for two generations now. Nintendo tried to out-do them with both the N64 and GameCube. Both systems failed. Microsoft jumped in with the Xbox, but it was already too far gone, and PS2 won the battle. Yet the war was not over. In this new generation, Microsoft hopped in first, with the PS3 lagging behind. Even still, many thought that once the PS3 was released in March worldwide (and then November, and now in November/March), the PS3 would still challenge the 360 and ultimately win the day. Clearly Gates has a lot more confidence in his system; so much so that he has gone on record to say that Nintendo are a far bigger threat than Sony. That is a massive insult to a company that has been leading the way in the videogame market until now.
He doesn’t mix his words, and it’s clear where Microsoft stand on the situation. The Wii is a great piece of hardware, but is it really a bigger threat to the throne than Sony? In a different interview, he says Sony and Microsoft have “switched positions”:
He (Gates) said that this time Microsoft and Sony have switched positions. Microsoft has the high ground, he said, repeating an answer from last year. He said it has a small box, costs less, is visually compelling, has great games, does online superbly and offers all of the tools for game developers to make games easily. He said the Xbox 360 is out earlier and can ride a silicon cost-reduction curve faster than Sony can, which saddled every unit with Blu-ray and hard drive costs. At any given point, the Xbox 360’s costs will be lower and more easily reduced.
The third thing he says, in a completely different interview, is closer to Sony than perhaps planned. Bill Gates has openly confessed that he thinks of the 360 as more of a “general purpose computer”. Sony had made a similar statement before, saying the PS3 is not a console, but a computer. In an extract taken from an interview with Engadget:
Living room being the goal for the Xbox project, you’re there now. You have all these Xboxes out there, they’re connected to the Internet, you’re rolling out IPTV. Is gaming an ends to a means, or is gaming still the primary goal?
The reason we got into Xbox at the beginning was not just gaming. It was very, very important –
It’s a gaming machine, no less.
Yeah, but it’s a general purpose computer. In terms of that first generation in particular where we were still known as a PC company, the need to make clear how we were prioritizing the needs of demanding gamers, that was super important. That was super important in terms of the culture of the team that was doing the work and how they thought about their marketing. But, we wouldn’t have done it if it was just a gaming device. We wouldn’t have gotten into the category at all. It was about strategically being in the living room. And this is not some big secret. Sony says the same things. During that first generation, they had more latitude to talk about it since Sony has already gotten their gaming credentials but they were not there even more than gaming. For us, people sort of take it for granted — hey, you do phones, and set-tops, and IPTV and all these things so it’s easier for us now that that’s part of the message for people to say, of course Microsoft’s is going to make Messenger work on the Xbox. They’re going to let you look on your phone and see that someone beat your record on this game and schedule an Xbox gaming thing. There’s a huge milestone this year — I’m basically agreeing with what you’re saying — Xbox was a gaming device. Now you can download videos on it. I sit and watch high-def videos never touching a plastic disc. You can take all the PCs in the home and use this extender capability so you get your PC richness up on that screen, in Media Center or whatever, and we’re announcing that it’s a set-top box so if you’re somewhere that’s got IPTV now you’ve got live TV, the most state of the art experience; downloading movies, state of the art; gaming, state of the art; and projection of the full PC experience. It’s not a PC but it brings that PC into the living room. So when you talk about convergence it’s the first device that says, oh yeah, this is convergence. It’s real.
He justifies what he says well, and at least doesn’t suggest for one minute games will be overshadowed in the future, which is always a good thing. The services they offer (and are planning to offer) are also very good ideas, and ones we will all benefit from in the future.
As CES shuts down for another year, we get ever closer to Gates not being the head guy at Microsoft. It will almost be time to say goodbye, so hopefully next year there will be an even bigger announcement, to go out with a bang.
Slightly aside from Mr. Gates, Peter Moore had a few statistics that linked in nicely with what Gates had said in his keynote speech. He puts forward some stats that help show just how well the 360 has done, in just over a year:
- The 360 has an attach rate of 5.3 games per every console sold. This means that, on average, a 360 owning person will have five games to go with the system, not including XBLA titles.
- Moore affirmed that Gears of War plowed through the holidays selling over 2.7 million copies since its November release.
- The Xbox Live community â€śhas eclipsed 5 million members, with over half of all consoles connected.â€ť He said that Microsoft is still on track to meet its goal of 6 million Live users by June 2007, the end of its 2007 fiscal year.
- Over 100 million pieces of content have been downloaded from the Marketplace, with 20 million games being downloaded on the Arcade. That equates to more than 70 percent of Xbox Live members who have downloaded content.
- Xbox Live Gold subscribers have an average of 21 friends in their friend list. 2 million voice, text and picture messages are sent over Xbox Live each day.
- Microsoft have apparently struck a deal with Lionsgate to bring a lineup consisting only of high definition movie content to the Marketplace.
There you have it. The 360 is doing exceptionally well, and the figures released are pleasing to any fan of the 360. It’s a good time to be a gamer, but an even better time to be a 360 owner.
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