XBOX TARGETS TR
Copyright 2001 www.tombraiderchronicles.com
[ November 15th 2001 ]
clash of the video-game titans opens today, with
Microsoft's retail launch of its new console,
the Xbox, pitting it against Sony and Nintendo.
However, Microsoft views its true competition
as NBC's popular TV show Friends or the box-office
movie hit Monsters Inc.
its challenge as developing entertainment more
compelling than anything else vying for a consumer's
leisure time. "We have been very successful in
changing the way people work from nine to five,"
said J. Allard, general manager for Microsoft's
Xbox platform. "Now we have the way to change
the way people play from five to nine."
US$300 Xbox is the manifestation of Microsoft
chairman Bill Gates' ambition to put the company
at the heart of the coming digital revolution
- the family living room. It will spend US$500
million on marketing Xbox. The software giant
faces formidable competition from dominant console-maker
Sony, whose PlayStation and PlayStation2 game
systems are in 33 million United States households,
and video-game veteran Nintendo, which unveils
its new system, the US$200 GameCube, on Sunday.
predict PlayStation2 will win comfortably 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 one million game systems this 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. Analyst
Gerard Klauer & Mattison expects sales to reach
a record US$8.1 billion this year, equalling theatre
box-office receipts, which are on track this year
to break US$8 billion for the first time.
receipts for games hardware, software and accessories
are up 35 per cent from last year, according to
NPDFunworld, a New York group that tracks retail
sales. Industry analysts expect the sector to
continue to climb at a 25 per cent to 30 per cent
annual rate over the next five years.
demographics of game play are expanding beyond
the traditional audience of adolescent boys to
include a more girl players and adults. A survey
for the Interactive Digital Software Association
found that 60 per cent of Americans played computer
or console games, and more of them were over 18.
not just for the pimply kids. It has become mainstream
entertainment, just like watching movies or listening
to music," said Kazuo Hirai, president of Sony
Computer Entertainment. "Just walk into a [video
shop]. Along with motion-picture DVDs and VHS
cassettes, you have got mostly PlayStation games
for rental. Those guys would not get into that
business unless they thought that business was
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, a trend that is especially
evident after the September 11 terror attacks.
factors lead industry forecasters, such as Deutsche
Banc Alex Brown, to predict that interactive entertainment
will grow faster than any other form of entertainment
over the next four years, eclipsing box-office,
home-video rentals and music sales. It is estimated
that 60 per cent to 70 per cent of US households
will own one of the next-generation game systems,
as many as own personal computers.
this new breed of more-robust game console, some
of which also can play DVD movies and audio CDs
or provide high-speed Internet connection, could
be positioned as the centrepiece of living-room
entertainment. That was what attracted Microsoft's
said the confluence of digital devices - from
portable MP3 music players to personal video recorders
such as TiVo, to direct broadcast satellite TV
and digital photography - suggested a business
opportunity. "You don't have to squint too hard
to see that technology is going to change entertainment
forever," Mr 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-megahertz
processor and powerful Nvidia graphics chip, is
poised to become the focus of a home entertainment
system. It is arguably more powerful than PlayStation2
or GameCube and has bigger ambitions. While Nintendo
and Sony view online console games as a far-off
feature, Microsoft is building Xbox's identity
around what Mr Allard describes as "broadcast
betting that mainstream players will not be satisfied
with the kind of game play that is restricted
to the living room. They will want to form their
own basketball team with friends from across the
country or beyond and play in virtual competition.
They will pay to download a new mission for an
episodic game such as Tomb Raider, or game-show
fans will become contestants on The Weakest Link.
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,"
Mr Allard said.
such as 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,
such as Pokemon, Mario and Zelda.
they [Microsoft] are making a mistake," said George
Harrison, Nintendo's senior vice-president of
marketing. "If you are making the best game machine
you can, at the most attractive price, consumers
are willing to pay for the benefits they see right
now, against the future potential of modems."