If rumor is true, Microsoft expected the original Xbox to sell as well as the PS2, but I have my doubts. The way Sony manhandled Sega and Nintendo, based solely off marketing (“Ooooh, witness the mystical power of the Emotion Engine!”), Microsoft must simply have been keeping themselves motivated. The 360, however, clearly is aimed at knocking Sony off the top spot.
It can’t be called a hacked PC any more. The three distinct IBM cores and the hard-drive less configuration put it firmly into the console category. Though it no doubt shares graphics technology with the PC, the way Xboxes did, so will the PS3 and Revolution. But this isn’t a hardware analysis, and that’d be pointless until PS3 arrives.
So, is the 360 worth getting? Yes, but maybe not just yet. The current crop of games is excellent considering they’re launch titles, but there’s nothing here we’d call a killer app.
What the console offers right now foreshadows considerable potential, though few games take advantage of it all right now. The 360’s killer feature is, again, Xbox Live. The level of integration some games show, notably Project Gotham Racing 3, is quite remarkable. You can watch players race live – heck, thousands of people can watch the same race on “Gotham TV”. The various stats, optional downloads and the ease of use of the entire system are definitely worth the subscription fee. Hopefully, Sony reconsiders its multiplayer system because Live quite frankly beats the snot out of it.
The lack of a default hard drive hurts the 360. This just lessens the chances that a developer will be inclined to create downloadable content and, if necessary, patches. Given how popular the premium bundle is compared to the core system, this isn’t likely to be a major problem yet, but will be once the 360 hits markets that are not as affluent.
A great step forward is the multimedia console. At any point, in any game, you can press the Xbox logo on the middle of your controller to bring that menu up. Not happy with the music a game ships with? Play some off the hard drive. Of course, the selection is limited and the only way to expand it is with obnoxious legal methods – iTunes and so on. Got some MP3s you’d like to put on the 360? Good luck, sonny. The system is basically forced to assume that any MP3 you have is illegal, due to the wonderful copyright laws being perpetrated on the public by the entertainment industry. On the bright side, you can hook up an iPod without any problems.
Otherwise, the idea is absolutely fantastic. It’s not often someone can commend Microsoft for innovation rather than stealing a rival’s idea and then clubbing them to bankruptcy, but the combination of Xbox Live and the root menu is excellent.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled games programming!