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Sony vs. Microsoft, Tortoise vs. Hare 96

Carl Bialik from WSJ writes "Was Microsoft smart to rush out the Xbox 360 or is Sony smarter to wait and load PlayStation 3 with the latest technology? The Wall Street Journal analyzes the opposing camps' strategies; the stakes are high, as 'the Xbox group has lost billions of dollars since its start five years ago and will continue to lose money if Sony trounces Microsoft.' Several expected Microsoft announcements today, besides 'Halo 3', are meant to deliver the message that the Xbox's head-start was an advantage: 'Microsoft will also demonstrate ways for mobile phones to link with its Xbox Live service, which allows Xbox 360 users to play games with each other over the Internet. Executives will also announce new games for the Xbox Live service and are negotiating a partnership to build a "massively multiplayer" game for Live that allows thousands of people to play each other over the Internet, say people familiar with the company's plans.'"
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Sony vs. Microsoft, Tortoise vs. Hare

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  • "build a "massively multiplayer" game for Live that allows thousands of people to play each other over the Internet,"

    In other news, the Xbox 360 version of Final Fantasy XI has been on store shelves for several weeks now...
    • I think what they ment was a Microsoft made one. But then they have canned their plans for one more than once now, so I have high doubts.

      That being said, FFXI is doing real well with the Xbox 360 though there are a few headaches, most noticably botched keyboard support, where most major keyboards are not working right despite claims from Microsoft they should work fine.

  • by Churla ( 936633 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:04PM (#15302053)
    Sony vs. Microsoft , Tortoise vs. Snail... In a gunfight.

    There, I fixed it for you :)
  • Never count them out. They've such a huge time lead and enormous resources, they'll eventually get it. And I think XBox 360 is when they do finally get.
    • If it isn't, I expect to see them exit the market. One 3 billion dollar loss was bad. A second would be catastrophic, even for MS. Investors will only take so much loss before demanding they drop a losing product.
      • Microsoft doesn't answer to their investors. If they did, they'd be moving as slow as Sony or not at all when you consider the amount of money they've lost. In the end they'll win, Sony's console is $600. And we thought the 360 was too expensive...
    • the xbox 360 is selling here in the states, but its being met with tepid reactions abroad. that does not make for a success. the time lead is negligible as well; theyve only dropped two AAA titles. theres alot of x360 promise, but honestly they only have another two AAA titles on the horizon. unfortunately, those titles havent pushed that many additional x360 sales, since the hardware just isnt available. in almost a year, theyve only sold 3.3 million consoles worldwide. thats highly underwhelming. http://w [gamesindustry.biz]
      • since the hardware just isnt available. in almost a year, theyve only sold 3.3 million consoles worldwide. thats highly underwhelming.

        7 months is "almost a year"?
        • sorry, the article says theyve "shipped" 3.3 million. imagine a 50/50 split, and you have 1.15 million core systems and 1.15 premium systems worldwide. keep in mind that core systems are sitting on shelves unsold, because people are waiting on more premium systems... so therefore sales are much lower than that.

          to put the 3.3 million figure in perspective. the ps2 /sold/ half that many in the first week or so. the psp shipped 5.1 million in its first seven months. the ds /sold/ 7 million in the first 8 month
  • by American AC in Paris ( 230456 ) * on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:11PM (#15302134) Homepage
    From TFA:

    While the race could go to either the tortoise or the hare, there is another animal in the contest: a dark horse. Nintendo Co. is rolling out its console, dubbed Wii, about the same time as PlayStation 3. The Japanese game maker has deliberately tried to stay out of the Microsoft-Sony battle by focusing on a younger audience than the others, forgoing the flash of cutting-edge graphics for easier-to-play games.

    Frankly, the author fundamentally fails to understand what Nintendo is trying to accomplish with the Wii. While the young market is still decidedly one of Nintendo's target audiences, they're far more interested in tapping into the (possibly huge) mature non-gamer market. Virtually every piece of marketing we've seen for the Wii has showcased a primarily adult audience, including couples, the elderly, and other demographics that aren't generally associated with gaming.

    If the author doesn't get this very, very fundamental aspect of what Nintendo is trying to do, you have to wonder just how deep his knowledge of the current next-gen fight is...

    • The article says the Wii controller "functions like a remote control." That alone should tell us exactly how seriously the WSJ took this one.
    • Not only that, but the Wii seems to be appealing to the "hard core" that I've known (including myself, though as an older gamer I guess I'm moving out of that sphere) by giving a unique experience that none of the other consoles have. So far, it's only those between 12-18 that go "I have to take a Wii", and even those seem to be settling down.

      I'm actually predicting very good sales for Nintendo, not so much for their achievements (which are good), but because parents looking to buy a gaming system will pro
      • So far, it's only those between 12-18 that go "I have to take a Wii",

        That happens to older folks too (well guys anyway). It's called "benign prostatic hypertrophy".
      • I'm not a console-gamer (well, I do have a Philips Videopak that I got as a kid, and it still works). I prefer gaming on the PC. And I have all but decided to buy Wii. Xbox and PS3? Yawn. Where is the innovation? Its pretty obvious that they are the exact same thing as the previous generation was. They just bumbed the specs and called it a day. Sure, they like to call their system "revolutionary". But they are evolutionary at best. They have more RAM, beefier CPU's, more pixels, more polygons... And none of
    • If journalists fail to understand what the Wii is about, what makes you think the general public will understand? The general public is going to see the Wii as gimicky, while gamers who pay attention are going to realize what nintendo is doing and be interested. Sure, they may gain marketshare with the general public by introduction through gamers, but average non-gamer joe is not going to see a Wii at walmart and think of it as a must-have.
      • but average non-gamer joe is not going to see a Wii at walmart and think of it as a must-have.

        The average non-gamer Joe is going to see the Wii on the golf channel and think that $250-$350 for a golf simulator is actually pretty good.
    • The mature market is an notebook market, not any shape or form of console. Notebooks because it is easier to surpervise the grandkids (they can sit in the lounge), pefered becuase they can be next to their spouse in the lounge and it is easy to take to the kids for servicing.

      For those reasons I always recommend notebooks to older users and it alwasy works out for the better. The grand children will be the ones to introduce them to MMORPGs when there is more than one notebook in the house and for the elder

  • by ianscot ( 591483 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:11PM (#15302138)
    Wow, whaddaya know -- a massively multiplayer role playing game. Another bleeding-edge innovation from those folks at Microsoft. What will they ever think of next?

    Classically, the mentions of good games in this article have to do with the manufacturers trying to reach thresholds at which game manufacturers will develop "their best games" and with Halo driving Xbox sales. The WSJ also manages this amazingly lame description of the Wii controller:

    In a recent interview, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata said the company is eager to expand the game market by appealing to consumers who don't normally play videogames with features such as a game controller for the Wii that functions like a television remote control.

    Yeah, it works just like a remote control. That's why it's a big deal. Gotta buy me one o' them fancy ree-motes.

    (The WSJ is always an interestingly mannered read even in stylistic terms, isn't it? Phrases:

    The company is expected to show for the first time Halo 3...
    Behind the new features will be one message:...
    ...the company has shipped to stores around 3.3 million Xbox 360 consoles...

    Arsy-versy sentences like that read like the "News... On the March!" half-parody newsreel at the beginning of Citizen Kane.)

  • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:12PM (#15302142)
    The Sega Dreamcast was about as powerful in practice as the PS2, but got killed by hype. Microsoft realized that Sony can kill a good system simply through hype and is trying to build up mindshare and marketshare before the PS3 can come out. The fact that they are shooting for solid backward compatibility is a good thing, and Sega could no doubt have done better if they'd worked on providing a download service for old Sega games or at least had backward compatibility with Saturn and SegaCD.

    As a fan of the DC, I hope Microsoft succeeds and whips the shit out of Sony this round.
    • "The Sega Dreamcast was about as powerful in practice as the PS2, but got killed by hype."

      That's odd - I thought it was killed by SEGA.
    • My philosophy about Sony?

      Bart Simpson to Martin Prince, referring to Nelson Muntz, "I don't care who wins as long as it's not that guy."

    • "Playstation" was by far the most well-established brand. Where your options are just about even, you'll choose the established option that seems like a safer bet.

      For my money -- literally, for my money -- there is a price threshold beyond which brand loyalty will not win the consumer over. Between MS and Sony, I'm not sure who's proving this point with more determination right now. The sales figures for the 360 are maybe not as anemic as sometimes gets suggested, but this is a next-generation machine wit

    • They could have included Sega CD support, but then, who's got a Sega CD? Everyone I've ever known to have one got it at a flea market, long after it was significant to anyone. Even the kids with money that I knew didn't have them, they had a TG16 with the CD instead.

      They could not have reasonably included Saturn support. The Sega Saturn has two 32 bit RISC processors and a pile of other custom chips. Doing Saturn 3D in software in addition to emulating both processors and everything else was out of reac

    • As a fan of the DC, I hope Microsoft succeeds and whips the shit out of Sony this round.

      I guess that's the videogame equivalent of "As a fan of Trotsky, I hope Hitler succeeds and whips the shit out of Stalin."

      Oh Godwin, where art thou? =)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:17PM (#15302199)
    I prefer talking about this generation as the Tortiose vs. the Hare vs. the Alien (as was used in another article). Personally I'm rooting for Alien (Nintendo) and so are most of my gamer friends even though we're skeptical about all of the companies chances.

    Microsoft: It has little to no chance to make an impact in Japan and has yet to make that big of an impact in North America or Europe (and don't say this is because of shortages, if there were serious shortages you'd see sustained $1000 systems on eBay and you wouldn't find them in stores anywhere).

    Sony: Sony is producing a multimedia powerhouse with some (stolen) unconventional input; as I've argued before (when people complained about the Wii's one handed controller) you can't do much with 6 axis control when your hands are together (try it, hold a book and rotate it in as many ways as you can, now try with a remote control) so I doubt the added features will be of much use. The big problem with the PS3 (in my opinion) is the Price; at $500 and $600 you're looking at 3 price cuts, and three years (if you average a price cut of $100 per year, which is pretty typical) before your average "casual" gamer is willing to buy your system.

    Nintendo: Nintendo's biggest hurdle is whether the public will 'get-it'. Gamers in general understand what Nintendo is trying to do, and are either excited or at least happy that someone is trying something; I'm not so sure the Madden playing public will understand though. If you play 2-4 hours a week, and buy a game every couple of months are you going to be tired of the same crap that is being produced year after year? You can ask the same question of movies, are you better of making movies with greater acting/plot/direction or should you pack in as much special effects?
    • Microsoft: It has little to no chance to make an impact in Japan and has yet to make that big of an impact in North America or Europe (and don't say this is because of shortages, if there were serious shortages you'd see sustained $1000 systems on eBay and you wouldn't find them in stores anywhere).

      Who are you kidding? Microsoft has sold about five million consoles in eight months. That's more than the PS1, PS2, original Xbox, or any other console at this stage in the cycle. The sales curve for the 360

    • Sony is producing a multimedia powerhouse with some (stolen) unconventional input; as I've argued before (when people complained about the Wii's one handed controller) you can't do much with 6 axis control when your hands are together (try it, hold a book and rotate it in as many ways as you can, now try with a remote control)

      Anyone remember the pressure-sensitive buttons that Sony added to the PS2 controller? It's not entirely un-Sony like to add useless features to a controller that no one really use

    • Sony is producing a multimedia powerhouse with some (stolen) unconventional input; as I've argued before (when people complained about the Wii's one handed controller) you can't do much with 6 axis control when your hands are together (try it, hold a book and rotate it in as many ways as you can, now try with a remote control.

      Are you aware of what "six degrees of freedom" means? If you can't perform the feat you offered, even with just one page of your book between your thumb and index fingers, then I
  • The Genesis came out years before the SNES but only amounted to a fraction of Nintendo's sales.
    • ...?

      Only if that fraction is approaching 1.

      In the Americas and Europe, the Genesis was ahead of the SNES for most of thier life -- the SNES only really pulled ahead when Sega started fucking around with the 32X and Saturn stuff.

      In Japan, the SNES came out much sooner than it did over here, and as such Nintendo was the dominant console. But due to several factors -- EA Sports games, earlier access to the Street Fighter games, and an earlier release overall -- the Genesis had a foothold in Canada and the St
    • "The Genesis came out years before the SNES but only amounted to a fraction of Nintendo's sales."
      35 million to 49 million [wikipedia.org] = 5/7

      That's a pretty good fraction. If Microsoft gets that fraction, the Xbox 360 would definitely be a success.
      • 35 million to 49 million = 5/7

        Uh....that fraction would imply that the Genesis had over 70% of the market. I think you mean 5/12 (35 mil/(35 mil + 49 mil)). Still a good percentage and one that Microsoft would kill for.
  • by Bagels ( 676159 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:26PM (#15302287)
    They rather completely mis-characterized Nintendo's new system and strategy. The controller doesn't "function like a remote control" - it *looks* like a remote control, and functions like a... well, like a motion-sensitive, position-detecting device. And Nintendo's not expressly looking for a younger audience at all; if anything, they're looking for new audiences that haven't traditionally been big demographics for gaming.

    Poor journalism there, really.

    Now, for the wider "console wars" struggle: Sony failed to show much of anything particularly impressive from their extra year of development. Graphically, things seem to have regressed since last year - perhaps since last year they were showing mocked-up CG rather than real footage. Gameplay-wise, they showed absolutely nothing new - an (admittedly pretty) God of War clone, a WWII shooter (with aliens!), and several racers do not make for exciting next-generation play. With their obscene price tag and the fact that they've no longer got a timed-exclusive hold on some big series, like GTA, they seem to be setting themselves up for a fall. They seem to be flailing for new ideas - the motion-sensing function of the controller was apparently tacked on only two or three weeks before E3.

    I suspect that the 360 may begin to gain the upper hand, at least in the US, and possibly in Europe (where they're getting shafted even worse on the PS3 price - 599 Euros translates to some $760). I'm not sure how Japan will fare; from the sales to date, it seems that the 360 has little hope of taking a lead there, but the Wii may see significant success, bolstered by the DS' mindshare and popularity. There's also the classic "big console" issue - the PS3 is some 2 inches bigger than the original XBox, making it less attractive to Japanese consumers. Japan is generally very brand-loyal, but shifts have occured in the past - that is, after all, how Sony came to power. On a personal note, I find Sony's arrogance about the system's price (their executives have been quoted as saying that it's probably too cheap) to be faintly disgusting, too.

    Apologies for the rambling.

    • You're telling me. Business folks must see things differently from us. Here's a good example...

      BusinessWeek Online [businessweek.com]:

      Trying to strike a middle ground between Microsoft and Nintendo to entice a mainstream audience, Sony Group President Ken Kutaragi at the company's May 8 media briefing unveiled a surprise of his own. In a nod to Nintendo's strategy, Sony announced it will add motion-sensor chip technology to its game controllers that will let players use gestures instead of their thumbs to move around on th

    • Sony failed to show much of anything particularly impressive from their extra year of development. Graphically, things seem to have regressed since last year - perhaps since last year they were showing mocked-up CG rather than real footage.

      I find it quite amusing that people are slagging Sony off for not showing anything impressive. Off screen footage of games shown at E3 that is available on various sites looks quite impressive to me, definitely "next gen" - as it should be.

      Actual gameplay is of course

  • Sony vs MS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by caffeinatedOnline ( 926067 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @12:57PM (#15302541) Homepage
    I have to hand it to MS this time around. While the initial Xbox was 'meh', the 360, launched almost a full year ahead of Sony, seems to me to be on equal footing with them this time around. Sure, the PS3 will have built in Blu-Ray (which IMO Sony has made a HUGE gamble on it being the proprietary format for next gen DVD), and a few other bells and whistles, it really has nothing a full year later then what you can't get with the 360. (Well, besides some half ass motion sensor controller thing...which, I can honestly say, I really am not that excited about).

    Why I really think that the 360 will take this round in the console wars is going to be the Live service. Playing a game on the computer, see a bud come online on his 360, invite him to play with you? That is cool.

    I was planning on buying the other 2 systems when they come out(my guilty pleasure, gaming. I own/ed pretty much all the consoles at one point or another), as my son and wife will love to play the Nintendo, and I am intrigued by the controller. But, with the outrageous price point of the PS3, and not alot of exclusive games that are must plays on the PS3 (actually... I can't think of one that I would want to play), there will be one more system on the shelves this holiday for someone else.
    • I have to hand it to MS this time around. While the initial Xbox was 'meh', the 360, launched almost a full year ahead of Sony, seems to me to be on equal footing with them this time around.

      Even more interesting is that one of the common comments about the Xbox from PS2 fanatics was "Of course it's more advanced, it came out a year later." If the PS3 isn't significantly better, I wonder if those same people are going to come around to the X360. For me, at least in the near-term - the next two years - P
  • consoles do not sell games... games sell consoles Whoever comes up with the next exclusive-to-particular-console-only GTA:SA or any other blockbuster seller will dominate the market.
  • I have a ps2. I had a ps one, so the ps2 was the obvious choice as it played the ps one games. It was also my first dvd player.

    Now, next generation. I will probably choose the ps3, because it will play the older games.

    MS basically is starting from scratch with most older games not working well.
    Combine that and fact the old xbox costs more than it used to (forced bundle) as well as monthly fees to get the most out the xbox (xbox live). I don't think being first out will matter so much.
  • "...or is Sony smarter to wait and load..."

    With Sony, someone's always waiting and loading.
  • by Khopesh ( 112447 ) on Wednesday May 10, 2006 @03:41PM (#15303902) Homepage Journal
    take a look at past precedent (second listed price is value adjusted for inflation [nasa.gov] circa 2004):

    • 8-bit [wikipedia.org]: Nintendo NES (1985, $200/351) > Sega Master System (1986, $200/345) > Atari 7800 (1986, $140/241)
    • 16-bit [wikipedia.org]: NEC TurboGrafx 16 (1987, $190/316, only big in Japan) > Sega Genesis (1988, $190/303) > Nintendo SNES (1990, $200/289)
    • mid-90s [wikipedia.org]: Sony Playstation (1994, $300/382) > Sega Saturn (1995, $400/496) >= Nintendo 64 (1996, $200/241)
      mid-90s Flops: Laseractive (1993, $970/1268), 3DO (1993, $700/915), Atari Jaguar (1993, $250/327, company went under)
    • y2k [wikipedia.org]: Sony Playstation 2 (2000, $300/329) = MS Xbox (2001, $300/320) > Nintendo GameCube (2001, $200/213) > Sega Dreamcast (1998, $200/232)
    • mid-00s [wikipedia.org]: MS Xbox (2005, $300+), Sony Playstation 3 (2006, $500+), Nintendo Wii (2006, $200?)

    It's not an absolute rule, but releasing early was WILDLY successful for Sega's Genesis and Sony's Playstation, giving them access to an industry that they were previously all but unknown in. Dreamcast's failure was due to Sega falling apart, kind of like what happened to Atari's delayed and corporately ruined 7800.

  • What's The Strategy? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jhage ( 9442 )
    Right now I can say why I'm looking forward to a 360 (right in time for the Christmas price drop) and eventually a Wii. Both MS and Nintendo seem to have a point, or a reason for doing what they're doing, whereas the PS3 seems very much like a case of 'I'll have what they're having'.

    The Wii is clearly trying to try something completely new in terms of controllers. I mean, the thing is weird. New gameplay, new options, new styles. All good.

    The 360 seems predicated on networking. Live is the best thing MS has
    • The 360 seems predicated on networking. Live is the best thing MS has going for that thing.

      How many prospective 360 customers have broadband? I've recently noticed a bunch of ads on television for dial-up service from AOL, Earthlink, Netscape and Net Zero. Dial-up isn't dead yet.

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