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In two separate stories, both Bill Gates and Chris Satchell buttered up the Xbox 360 like never before. With claims like “Half the people who bought a 360 didn’t own an Xbox 1" and “We wanted to be the guy with a smaller box that costs less”...now just imagine what the rest of the interview was like?
Mercury News is running an article in which Bill Gates was interviewed regarding several of Microsoft’s prospects. As of course, the Xbox 360 came into the conversation and the question of competition arose. Firstly, Bill commented on the success of the 360, and how it emerged onto the scene, saying "We wanted to be the guy with the small box that costs less. We wanted to have the most compelling or better than anyone else’s box. We wanted to have the most games. We wanted to play to our software strength, and tools and online. We wanted to get most respects, except for the online capability, we wanted to swap positions with Sony." Well, the 360 is not the least expensive out of the three new consoles, the Wii is. The Xbox 360 is also not the smallest, the Wii is. The Xbox 360 is not the most compelling, the Playstation 3 is (if not simply by looks at least via hardware performance). The Xbox 360 is not the most respected, especially with the burning up and overheating issues, hence the Wii is already aiming to take that title away from you as well, Bill. Heck, aside from the online portion and having more games, did you guys over there at Redmond get anything on that check list...well, checked?!
Moving on...the question of competition [with Nintendo] came up and here's what Mr. Gates had to say about them, “...Look at the classic Nintendo positioning. Look at the graphics. Look at Nintendo’s execution in terms of online capability. We have this thing that nobody has ever seen before. When you say to your friend, hey let’s play online, you say then you have to buy an Xbox. That’s what 10 million people say. If you want to play online, get an Xbox. We’re not standing still. Look at what you saw today connecting up the world to the Windows PC. Do you expect Nintendo to rev up a team to create cross-device gaming and tool kits to develop those things? Not very likely.
Um, “cross-device gaming and tool kits”? Excuse me Mr. Gates, Nintendo has been using cross-device gaming for years. From the Gameboy and Nintendo 64, to the Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS working cohesively with the Gamecube, Nintendo was at the forefront of first-party cross-device gaming. For the poor sap who doesn’t take that to note, they might actually be fooled into thinking that Microsoft is doing something new with the Xbox 360 and Windows Vista. When in fact, they are simply taking Nintendo’s cross-device gaming paradigm and upping it to a much larger scale. Because if you recall, there was no cross-device gaming for the original Xbox.
Speaking of which, Chris Satchell made comments to Gameindustry.biz about the original Xbox and sales of the Xbox 360, stating that “We've sold 10.4 million [Xbox 360s], but the stat you may not have heard is that over half of those sales are from people that didn't own an Xbox 1" Yes, and I suppose the other half of those Xbox 360 owners were 5.2 million PS2 gamers, eh? Yeah right. Microsoft has only shipped 10.4 million Xbox 360's to retailers, but they certainly don’t have an installed base that’s half the amount of the original Xbox. It’s sad because ever since the announcement of the Xbox 360, Microsoft has treated the original big black box like a big bad blight.
Seriously, if Sony ever pulls through in the next-gen race Microsoft is going to have some awfully stiff competition. And right now, Sony is still in the next-gen race thanks to the PS2 and it’s remarkable base, excellent holiday console sales and continuously strong software sales. While Nintendo had every right to abandon the Gamecube – simply because of the quickly building casual market for the Wii and the almost non-existent software support for the Cube – Microsoft was heading into the next-gen using the same Xbox 1 formula. The only difference is that MS had a one-year head start; the Xbox 360 was just bigger and better than the original, but nothing spectacularly new. So what gives MS the impression that they’ve really broadened the horizon of the Xbox 360? Why would casual gamers who didn't play the Xbox want a more expensive version of the same thing? And more importantly, why would anyone who didn’t already have an Xbox want an Xbox 360? Seriously, unless Satchell can back those claims with some NPD numbers, which he factually cannot because the 360 only has an installed base of 4 million, according to the NPD. This means that Satchell is probably just blowing smoke up Microsoft’s butt.
But let’s say that half the owners of a 360 (which would be approximately an installed base of 2.25 million) weren’t actual owners of the original Xbox. Is Microsoft really that proud of 2.25 million new consumers to a product that’s now over a year old? Nintendo has an estimated base of 1.1 million consumers who are both hardcore and casual gamers. And that’s less than three months of console sales.
So if Nintendo is expanding their base at 1 million SKUs into a household every three months, and Microsoft is proud to tack on 2.25 million new consumers each year, how can they claim that the 360 is making good headway? Realistically, though, the comparison isn’t entirely fair only because there aren’t exact numbers for the casual gamers who purchased a Wii. Still, the record is looking awfully favorable toward Nintendo. If these early numbers are any indication of what’s to come, then Microsoft won’t be the king of the hill for long.