Copyright 2001 www.tombraiderchronicles.com
[ November 14th 2001 ]
clash of the video game titans opens Thursday,
with Microsoft's retail launch of its new console,
the Xbox. But in the gospel according to Redmond,
this won't be a three-way living-room slugfest,
pitting it against consumer electronics giant
Sony and Pokemon-master, Nintendo.
views its true competition as NBC's smash TV show
"Friends," bestselling author Jonathan Franzen's
novel, "The Corrections," or the box-office hit,
"Monsters Inc." Its challenge: to develop a form
of entertainment that's simply more compelling
than anything else vying for a consumer's leisure
time. "We've been very successful in changing
the way people work from 9 to 5,"said J Allard,
general manager for the Microsoft's Xbox platform.
"Now we have the way to change the way people
play from 5 to 9."
Xbox is the manifestation of Microsoft chairman
Bill Gates' ambition to put the company at ground
zero of the coming digital revolution: the living
room. It will spend a half-billion dollars on
marketing to sear the Xbox name and green X-marks-the-spot
logo into consumers' consciousness.
software giant faces formidable competition from
dominant console-maker Sony, whose PlayStation
and PlayStation2 game systems are in 33 million
American households, and a video-game veteran
whose name is synonymous with gaming -- Nintendo
-- which unveils its new system, the $200 GameCube,
analysts predict PlayStation2 will win handily
this holiday season, with sales reaching 10 million
consoles in North America since its launch 13
months ago. Microsoft and Nintendo each promise
to ship about 1 million game systems before the
end of the year.
decision to enter the video game market is evidence
that the business has matured beyond its toy-industry
roots. Sales figures provide the details. Respected
industry analysts, such as Gerard Klauer & Mattison,
expect sales to reach a record $8.1 billion this
year - pulling even with theater box office receipts,
which are on track to break $8 billion for the
first time this year.
total receipts for hardware, software and accessories
are up 35 percent from last year, according to
NPDFunworld, the Port Washington, N.Y., group
that tracks retail sales. And most industry analysts
expect the sector to continue to defy economic
gravity and climb at a 25 to 30 percent annual
rate over the next five years.
of game play are broadening, expanding beyond
the traditional audience of adolescent boys to
include a growing number of girl gamers and adults.
One survey conducted for the Interactive Digital
Software Association, the industry's trade group,
found that 60 percent of Americans play computer
or console games - and more of them are over 18.
not just for the pimply kids. It's become mainstream
entertainment, just like watching movies or listening
to music," said Kazuo Hirai, President of Sony
Computer Entertainment. "Just walk into a Blockbuster.
Along with motion picture DVDs and VHS cassettes,
you've got mostly PlayStation games there for
rental. Those guys from Blockbuster wouldn't get
into that business unless they thought that business
larger sociological forces are at work, contributing
to the popularity of video games. Trend forecaster
Faith Popcorn has dubbed it "cocooning." Americans
are staying closer to home. That's especially
evident now, after the Sept. 11 attacks. And for
a generation of kids, for whom the Internet and
computers are an unconscious part of their daily
lives, video games have taken the place of other
low-tech pursuits, like playing Monopoly or Scrabble
on a rainy day.
factors lead industry forecasters, such as Deutsche
Banc Alex. Brown, to predict interactive entertainment
will grow faster than any from of entertainment
over the next four years - eclipsing box office,
home video rentals and music sales. Post estimates
60 to 70 percent of American households will own
one of the next-generation game systems - as many
as currently own PCs.
this new breed of more-robust game console - some
of which can also play DVD movies and audio CDs
or provide high-speed Internet connectivity -
could be positioned as the centerpiece of living
room entertainment. That's what attracted Microsoft's
interest. Allard said the confluence of digital
devices - from portable MP3 music players, to
personal video recorders like TiVo, to direct
broadcast satellite TV and digital photography
- suggested a business opportunity.
don't have to squint too hard to see technology
is going to change entertainment forever," Allard
said. "We are on the verge of a digital entertainment
revolution. That opportunity needs a leader. Who
better to do it?"
Xbox - with its DVD player, Ethernet port, 733-MHz
processor and powerful Nvidia graphics chip -
is poised to become the centerpiece of a home
entertainment system. It's arguably more powerful
than PlayStation2 or GameCube. And has bigger
Nintendo and Sony view online console gaming as
a far-off feature, Microsoft is building Xbox's
identity around what Allard describes as "broadcast
gaming." He's betting that mainstream players
won't be satisfied with the kind of game play
that's restricted to the living room.
want to form their own basketball team with friends
from all over the country and play in virtual
competition. They'll pay to download a new mission
for an episodic game like "Tomb Raider." Or game-show
fans will become contestants on "The Weakest Link."
"I want an Xbox next to every television. To put
an Xbox next to every TV means your experience
has to be better than the competition. More compelling
than ``Friends,' ``ER' or ``Third Rock from the
Sun,' " Allard said.
like Nintendo are gambling on a simpler formula.
It says the technical differences between the
game systems are invisible to most consumers.
Its new console, the GameCube will succeed on
the strength of its exclusive game franchises,
like Pokemon, Mario and Zelda.
believe they're making a mistake," said George
Harrison, Nintendo's senior vice president of
marketing. "If you're making the best game machine
you can, at the most attractive price, consumers
are willing to pay for the benefits they see right
now, vs. the future potential of modems."