It seems like pretty much all of the buzz in the gaming world (that would be the world that mostly consists of dark basements and B.O.-infested LAN parties, or a combination thereof) around the time of this year’s E3 is focused on one thing: Xbox 360. This is, of course, the follow-up to that flop of a console that might as well have been called “hey, at least we have Halo.” Don’t get me wrong, the Xbox was graphically superior to PS2 and Gamecube, and Halo wasn’t its only worthwhile title, although it was the only one that truly gave the Xbox a little unique grounding in the console scene, but when you have a console that is basically a bunch of computer parts thrown into a big, heavy box made by a company that doesn’t know the first thing about customer satisfaction, it’s not exactly a recipe for success. PS2 was still the king after Xbox’s release, selling on the strength of game series’ like Grand Theft Auto and Final Fantasy, and Nintendo’s Gamecube was of course able to hold its own because they acquired the rights to some of the famous Sega game franchises, which padded Nintendo’s already astounding roster of classic games they have milked and milked and will continue to milk for as long as they can. Xbox may have sold a nice number of units, but when you’re losing money on each unit you sell, that statistic becomes rather worthless, especially when people are only buying your system to play Halo and Halo 2.
So, it would have made sense for the Xbox to go the way of all of the other unsuccessful attempts to enter the console world by tech companies: Panasonic’s 3DO and Nokia’s N-Gage come to mind (give it time, it will be remembered as a flop). But it didn’t. Unlike the other one-and-done ventures that bombed and then drifted off into console history, the Xbox has one very important thing going for it: Microsoft. Quite frankly, this is why I loathed the idea of a Microsoft gaming console; not because I was worried they would use a fresh perspective on console gaming to stir up good economic competition involving the creation of great games, but because I knew that Microsoft would not stop until they gained control of the market through the use of their bottomless pit of money.
It was clear from the start that Microsoft was not interested in actually giving consumers what they wanted, but were focused instead on eliminating the other console options by muscling them out financially. Watching all of the buzz surrounding Xbox 360 just makes this painfully clear. The ridiculous paid-programming spots Microsoft bought on stations like MTV and their buckets-of-money deal to get SquareEnix developing for 360 have me feeling very thankful that my interest in gaming has dwindled significantly over the past year. I just hope that Sony and Nintendo show Microsoft that they will survive, because when it comes down to the bottom line in gaming, it’s all about the game itself.
Oh, and both of those companies also have lots and lots of money, so that should help as well.