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War on NEOGAF

Microsoft releases this little announcement about Xbox 360 not having Blu-ray for the foreseeable future, and then it causes this utter flame war on Neogaf. The thread title gets changed from this:

"Microsoft Says No Blu-Ray for X360"

To this:

"Microsoft Says No Blu-Ray for X360 - choice doesn't live here any more :("

That and the allowance of the excessive trolling from Sony fanboys in the thread makes me question what kind of moderators control that forum. I'll just be blunt---it's obvious the NEOGAF moderators are strongly rooting for Sony and are deeply against having Microsoft in the console business. Having threads like these, with sensationalist title changes, and having them run rampant with excessive Sony trolling clearly reveals their bias against Microsoft and their desire to have the company fail from a public relations standpoint.

Here's my take on this news, as a gamer.

1. Blu ray doesn't matter to me. Perhaps it will matter for the technologically illiterate who are easily sold on longer feature lists with more bullet points, sure. But for me, I really don't see how this should affect me. I can still play games on the Xbox 360 and that's what matters to me. I think there's a lot of pressure outside of the gaming world to get Blu-ray support on the Xbox 360 but should Microsoft buckle down and give in? I don't think so. Installing a blu-ray drive on a 360 would just split the userbase and that would make Microsoft's existing customers very angry (because they have to invest in another system just to get the benefit that newer users will have by paying only once). Granted it might make their potential customers pleased, but that never guarantees that they're going to buy the damn thing.

Furthermore, why should I care about blu-ray? Do I really want to obsolete my large, existing collection of DVDs in one fell swoop? I don't have a home entertainment system with a display larger than 32". I won't really see any benefits by investing in blu-ray at all. From what I've heard, you need an HDTV that's more than 46" to really see the benefits of the new HD video formats. Until those displays lower in price to something that I can afford, higher quality video is of no value to me as a consumer. DVD is simply good enough.

Besides, I like how Microsoft is focused on GAMES a lot more than Sony. There's a lot more effort to get quality games out as quickly as possible; it's clear from most developer interviews how Microsoft's tools always get cited as very helpful and efficient for their development needs. I haven't seen that kind of response for Sony's game development tools. And the proof is in the multi-platform ports. If the PS3 is really better than the Xbox 360, it should be getting better ports; it should manage getting better games out without a sweat. Clearly that still isn't the case; pound for pound, Xbox 360 versions are sharper, more colorful, and have better framerates than their PS3 counterparts. All without the help of the blu-ray format.

2. The expected lower hardware sales for the Xbox 360 for February 2008 - March 2008. I have a theory why this is happening. I think Microsoft is trying to improve their hardware. They're probably (again, just my theory) trying to offload the existing batches of (hardware-failure prone) consoles that are already in stores so that they can get more of the 3RL-safe batches (the Falcons) on store shelves. To do this, they probably had no choice but to produce less consoles and just ship what they already have. Probably, their newer lines for Xbox 360s are being prepared for the massive launch of Grand Theft Auto IV. In the press release it is mentioned that by April, their supply lines will improve---hmm, I wonder why that is? Obviously it's to coincide with GTA4. More supplies also improves Microsoft's ability to go in for the kill with a price drop for the North American market.

While there are still 360s that get 3RL'ed, I've read on other sites that the Falcons don't fail as often as the older ones. Usually you'll notice that the ones reporting 3RL have had their console for a year or more than 6 months ago (which is about the point before the Falcon got released). I haven't seen that many posts from people who bought their system a week ago or two weeks ago and had their machine break on them (again, this is clearly anecdotal, I'm just saying what I've seen personally). That said, the improved Xbox 360 hardware is good news but it never gets reported because it simply isn't newsworthy (not sensational, controversial, or negative).

So it's likely in Microsoft's best interest to decrease their supply now because this helps them clear out the 'bad' inventory that's in the marketplace. It's a little harsh to call some machines as 'bad' inventory, but 3RL is a pretty serious issue. I'd prefer they lose the spotlight for a few months as a top selling hardware maker and get more reliable hardware out the door, rather than have them continue their reign as the top seller of hardware and worsen their reputation with consumers.

3. Software-wise, Microsoft will rule this February NPD. And that's because of one game. No! I'm not saying it's because of Lost Odyssey [It's a success on its own for different reasons, and that's for a different post].

I'm saying it's because of DEVIL MAY CRY 4.

Devil May Cry 4....the once-thought Sony-exclusive game. With Microsoft getting its own version, I take it as a sign from Capcom that Microsoft has earned their respect and they're now recognized as a real player in the new console era.

Devil May Cry 4....the third-person hack and slash action title with a very Japanese-styled art direction and game design. It's been said before, time and again, by crazed Sony fans that games like these "DO NOT BELONG ON THE XBOX 360." But here it is. And it will make money on the Xbox 360 platform to prove them wrong.

Devil May Cry 4....the game that shocked the world when it was announced as no longer exclusive to the Playstation 3. What happened? Capcom simply wanted more money. They can't be blamed, that's what they're in business for. PROFIT. And with the immense success of Dead Rising and Lost Planet, DMC4 was a shoe-in for the Xbox 360 because Capcom knew it was the right thing to do for their company. They don't make games for the fans. They make games to make money. I can't blame them for thinking this way. Games are a million-dollar business that need millions-of-dollars in investment...you just have to go for the option that's most profitable for you when you make a game. You don't shoot for just the fanbase when you make a game. You shoot for gamers.

And Capcom definitely shot in the right direction.

Devil May Cry 4's success for the Xbox 360 in the upcoming NPD proves two things: Xbox 360 gamers can play games outside of the usual first-person shooters with military grunts, and it proves that making a game on the Xbox 360, when marketed and sold in the right way (and released in a timely fashion) can be immensely profitable for any developer (be it Japanese, American, European---the style of game doesn't matter. A good game will sell if it's marketed right). Xbox 360 gamers "eat games for breakfast"---that's a metaphor for the incredible attach rate for Xbox 360 software for the hardware. Capcom simply capitalized on this already-well-known-fact.

For February NPD, the worst case for Microsoft is that DMC4 on their console will just have sales nearly equal to the Playstation 3 version. Even in that scenario, Sony should get worried because that only means their competition stole over half of their potential sales. That should be enough to sway developers in Microsoft's favor and continue to release games simultaneously on the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3. That isn't good news for Sony because there's less and less reason for gamers to invest in a PS3 if they can get the same game for a cheaper price on the 360. If DMC4 on the 360 outsells the PS3 version by a wide margin, I think by that point it would be safe to declare the Playstation 3 as the Sega Saturn of this console generation. And it would foreshadow the upcoming scenario where Grand Theft Auto IV on the Xbox 360 will outsell the Playstation 3 version by an incredible margin, simply because its more inexpensive to play the game on the 360 than it is to play it on the PS3.

That's why the upcoming February NPD is very important. And in any scenario, Microsoft still wins.

In conclusion, all this blu-ray bruhaha is nonsense for gamers but great fodder for messageboard flame wars. It's a short term spark in a long term tug-of-war battle known as the console war for North America. Blu-ray has always been an issue since the consoles were announced, and despite that, Microsoft succeeded against its well established, strongly branded rival Sony Computer Entertainment. Microsoft buried Sony in 2007, and it's hard to imagine that Sony will manage to dig themselves out of the rut that they're in now. The only time when Sony can bounce back at their rival is in the generation after this one. I think it's clear that they've lost the opportunity to catch up. I just hope they learn from their mistakes in this generation, and in the next one, I also hope that they focus less on movies and more on games.

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