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I’m a hardcore gamer as much as the next gamer over. And I admit that the Xbox brand has its flaws, but at the same time if you’re a fan of what Microsoft brought to the console market, you just have to ask yourself “Why was Microsoft so intent on killing the original Xbox?”
Now everyone (even Sony fanboys) know that if a game was multi-platform during the PS2/Xbox era, the Xbox version was always the better version, bar-none. You can argue all you like but the additional graphic upgrades, the Xbox Live support – not to mention four-player split-screen additions – and custom soundtracks made the first Xbox a must-have for any hardcore gamer. So again, why did Microsoft abandon it so quickly?
Supposedly, the production costs of the Xbox was preventing M$ from profiting from the hardware sales. For every Xbox unit sold, Microsoft lost. That’s not to mention that the original big black box was getting its butt kicked by the PS2. But in a years time, the same thing will happen with the Xbox 360 and the Wii, if sales continue the way they’re going for the Big ‘N’.
But let’s get back to the point; if the sales of the original Xbox were so awful (i.e., installed base of 24 million) and caused for abandonment, why not at least continue to support the system with software? Even with an installed base of well over 110 million PS2 units, it’s not like all those casual (and some hardcore) games that come out are selling 5 million copies each. Heck, most publishers are lucky to currently move 500,000 units of a low-ball casual game for the PS2. Even Konami’s Dance Dance Revolution Supernova has only shifted just less than 700,000 units in the US, and that’s not a low-ball game from a low-ball company. So whether it’s a 100 million or 20 million, the install base has little to do with actually selling software.
Scarface even managed to hit that million-mano mark within 3 months time...and it was only for the PS2 and Xbox! So even if Microsoft decided to have the original Xbox stop being manufactured, they could at least still have provided a leveraged platform of software support. And believe it or not, during October, 2006 the Xbox 360 shifted 1.3 million software units while the original Xbox, while only moving an estimated 3,000 consoles, managed to shift 1.2 million software units.
For a console that was abandoned by its maker, slapped in the face by leading publishers, and left for dead by retailers, the original Xbox’s software sales for November 2006 made up for 9% of total US software sales across all platforms, beating out the Wii, PSP, PS3 and GameCube. Basically, that means that the original Xbox and the Xbox 360 – during that sales period –had games that were nearly equally entertaining to a crowd about the exact same size, give or take 100,000 or so gamers. This pretty much proves once again, that it’s the software that keeps the hardware living.
Now I know a lot of you are thinking “Yeah, but all the publishers pulled out of supporting the big black box; it was destined to die after Halo 2”. True, but they were only following suit by the headmaster: Microsoft. The same thing happened with Nintendo and the Gamecube...the Big ‘N’ didn’t even promote Twilight Princess on the GC; they acted like they hated the G-Cube after the release of the Wii. When a company abandons their hardware, why should software publishers continue to support it? It’s just a common factor in the industry. And yet, it’s an opposite concept for Sony.
The PS2 is a hallmark leader in software and hardware sales, and it’s simply because Sony is sticking by their brand like Michael Jackson and someone’s ten year old little boy. In actuality, this is what will ultimately decide the outcome of the next-generation...consistency and support. Microsoft was so busy trying to trump Sony with something bigger and better that they completely forgot about the loyal gamers who jumped onboard to play the original Xbox.
Sad to say, but Microsoft only used the original big black box as a stepping stone to establish value in the console gaming market. After people realized that the Xbox was much better as a console than Windows is/was as an operating system, they quickly changed their outlook on M$'s goal for console gaming. But with the quick demise of the Xbox, it left people wondering if Microsoft was really in it for the long haul. I think, in turn, this may have hampered some of the hardcore gaming audience from transitioning from the Xbox to the Xbox 360, whole-heartedly. Even Microsoft’s own Chris Satchell admitted that half of Xbox 360 owners weren’t previous Xbox owners. Doesn’t that say something about what Xbox gamers thought about Microsoft’s move to the next-generation?
In actuality, bragging that you abandoned a console, and not even half the owners of said abandoned console moved into the next-generation, says a lot about the company. That, of course, is nothing new. Nonetheless, it certainly doesn't help M$ save face for the 12 million or so Xbox gamers who felt like they were maimed a generation of gaming. Then again, Xbox 360 (V.1) owners are starting to feel the same way now that the Elite has been announced. But hey, maybe after the 360 Elite hits the market we’ll actually get five good years of Xbox gaming, without any shenanigans or abandonment. Although I highly doubt it.