The Game Console Market: A Ruthless World
The video game console market is both extremely lucrative and extraordinarily difficult to penetrate, because the console targets a family audience, which by definition covers a wide range of ages and social categories. The obstacles are considerable: the manufacturer has to provide a device that is affordable, appeals to a vast audience and is positioned at the forefront of computer technology. Nevertheless, even if all of these conditions are met, the battle has not yet been won, not by a long shot. In the final analysis, technology is of little interest to the user. Actually, it is the games available for a particular kind of console that will determine consumers' decisions and, ultimately, the device's success!
Manufacturers must see to it that their game publishers think up titles which exploit the potential of the console and which are attractive enough to win over players. This situation is exaggerated to such an extent that a single exceptional game can be enough to make a console's reputation. But another element complicates the matter even further. The console overshadows the PC, and the games overlap, becoming increasingly similar to one another, even if there are still distinct categories. As far as the published gaming titles go, console games definitely sell better. In this context, the worldwide console arena is currently going through a profound change. Sony practically has a monopoly with Playstation 1 and 2, especially since Sega has abandoned Dreamcast and withdrawn from the market, and Nintendo has settled for Game Boy. Based on the fact that sales in video game consoles are constantly increasing, it was clear that the level of competition was going to increase, too. Nintendo, with the incredible armory it has accumulated, thanks to Game Boy and Pokemon, attacked the market with the GameCube. This console, based on an ATI graphics chip, surprised the whole world with its capacity. However, it targets a younger audience that remains faithful to the Nintendo tradition with its Mario Kart-inspired key titles. Success will depend primarily on Nintendo's attitude toward third-party publishers. On that score, one remembers the relative failure of the N64. It's worth noting. But it's mostly Microsoft, which enters the scene with the Xbox, that's taking on the role as spoil sport in Sony's sheltered universe. The Xbox positions itself clearly in the same arena as the PS2 - a console for everyone, with a particular emphasis placed on teenagers and adults.
Microsoft has made a study of the situation. Its activities as system provider and manufacturer of office automation products alone will not be enough to keep its dominant position. Bill Gates understood early on that tomorrow's stakes will be based on communication, whether it is on the Web or interactive TV. However, Microsoft's difficulties in establishing a monopoly on the Web are well-known. Government regulators even feel endangered by media manipulation, and this has created a rather hostile relationship between the regulators and the corporation. The alternative? To tackle this challenge from the other end. And launching an Internet-ready console seems quite sensible within the scope of the company's global strategy. Microsoft has all the necessary resources at its disposal: it produces games and designs systems. But above all, it is has the best programming kit in the world with DirectX. All that's left is to assemble the console, connect it to the Internet and, once again, everything is in place to be the leader in the online gaming and communication market of tomorrow. Without a doubt, the final goal is, on one hand, to dominate massive multiplayer gaming and, on the other, to integrate this console into an Internet-connected living room. On the practical side, in order to build the console, Microsoft chose the obvious: it turned to PC components, which it masters through Windows and Direct X.
Xbox was released on November 15 in the United States and will be released on March 14 in Europe.