Wednesday, September 17, 2008

News for 9/17/08: The Xbox 360 Arcade Price Cut

Today, we introduce a segment about current events in the gaming world. Although we like talking about news and previews, there are plenty of dedicated journalism sources on the Internet. We won't be getting any secret leaked information that you can't get elsewhere. What we can do is share our thoughts on said events and leaked secrets with you. Both of us feel like there is a lot of important and interesting stuff going on in thevideogame industry that gets reported, yet not discussed.

A note on the format: What you're reading here are excerpts from a conversation we had over Skype. Since we don't have the technology or the funds to do a podcast (yet!), we thought we'd try out a little stream-of-consciousness-meets-interview-transcript format. What you read here are the written highlights (via Google chat) of our conversation. We're presenting it with minimal edits in order to retain the feel and spirit of our conversation, so hopefully you find our spelling errors, grammatical abominations, and occasional rambling incoherence charming. Expect these news posts to change periodically as we experiment with this format.

Today's topic: The Xbox Arcade price cut

Jorge: News: Xbox Arcade $199, 60gb elite $299
60g 299, elite 399

Scott: Do I now need an xbox? That's cheaper than the wii I just bought.

Jorge: Unless you're itching for a PS3 you won't need one now. If you want a PS3 it might be worth waiting to see if Sony drops their price in reaction to thexbox price drop. Sony can't wait too long though, unless they drop the price before the holiday buying season people will likely just buy a 360.

Scott: I'm a bit worried about storage on the xbox 360 sans hard drive. Can you buy an external hard drive?

Jorge: You got me. Part of the appeal for the sans hard drive arcade is that it's something cheap that has enough memory to play xbox live arcade games that tend to be pretty small. I'm curious who is really buying this system anyway? There has got to be an audience they are targeting.

Scott: I really don't know who is buying xboxes these days.

Jorge: I think part of what they are aiming for is bringing in the Wii audience. Particularly picking up those people who want a Wii this holiday season but can't find one considering there are still shortages two years down the line. Which is just crazy to me.

Scott: I can't see my grandparents or their friends (who are well aware of the Wii, some even own it) even considering an xbox, regardless of price. It seems that Wii is selling a lifestyle almost. And regardless of how intricate or simple the arcade games are, the interface is still the controller, which scares away a lot of new gamers.

Jorge: This actually connects well to the feature you wrote. If Wiis are really selling the lifestyle and the aesthetic nature of their system, then I really do think Microsoft can pick up new gamers off their market. It's not like they always show off all the intricacies of their remote on the box art that packages the 360.

Scott: So then are they angling to make the xbox an impulse buy? Put a few Mii-like avatars on the box art, put a space-invaders like arcade game, and then you have a good holiday alternative for the Wii?

Jorge: I think that is exactly right. I think it will be an impulse buy for a lot of people. If you spruce up the box art and and plaster a simple white console on the cover, maybe a new xbox avatar and their simple UI, five xbox live arcade games, it can look pretty attractive for someone browsing their neighborhood gamestop. And I'm figuring these buys are going to people who don't already own a next gen console. The casual gamers as we like to call them.

Scott: I'm just not confident that the xbla games actually can sell themselves to new people.

Jorge: A price cut could bring in a lot of people into the xbox and in turn into a type of gaming that Wii has yet to provide. At least that is what Microsoft is banking on.

Scott: The big challenge as I see it is getting past the world in which the only people who are playing xbla are also the "hardcore" crowd.

Scott: Getting back to the more avid gamer crowd...
I'm still not sure that any xbox price cut would make me get one.
Many huge games (Rock Band, Orange Box, soon to be Bioshock) are cross platform.
It's the PS3 exclusives that really are the deciding factor: Little Big Planet, PixelJunk Eden, God of War 3.

Jorge: If you're a PS3 owner, or a soon to be PS3 owner, this isn't going to be compelling enough, sure. There is no pressure Sony is feeling to drop their own rates that they haven't been feeling already. The only thing this could potential do is draw in the Wii crowd for the lasting benefit of microsoft. Which, again, is a great decision on their part considering the potential wii shortages this season.

Scott: I think Microsoft is playing a dangerous game.

Scott: They're trying to lure people in with an xbox that seems simple and friendly, but once these "simple" gamers spend some time in the xbox world, they'll quickly see the limitations of the system they bought and be pissed.

Jorge: So what you're saying is that those people who buy an xbox arcade for cheap because of new box art and a "sale" sign people are gonna be irritated that A:they didn't buy a hard drive or B: that they didn't buy a wii. Even if this happens, at least Microsoft made a few bucks off someone who would not be in their core market anyhow. Sounds like a pretty safe game to me.

Scott: I think it will be tough for Microsoft to make any inroads into the new gamer market this generation because of how strong the wii is in the public mindset.

Scott: So what do we think will come of this?

Jorge: Basically a whole lot of nothing.

Scott: Possibilities:
1. An impulse buy for people
2. A way for microsoft to make inroads into the non-gamer community (not likely in the face of the wii)
3. A way to tempt potential PS3 owners towards xbox (maybe, but folks like me really want the Sony exclusives)
Sent at 9:26 PM on Tuesday

Scott: To me, it just seems like xbox is trying its hardest to be all things to all people and that this price cut is really about trying to get people away from the Wii and into the xbox. I'm not sure if it will succeed, but it seems like anyone who buys it is a victory for microsoft.

Jorge: Let's hope Sony and Nintendo call Microsoft's bluff and it doesn't pay out for Microsoft. Teach them a lesson.

Scott: But why do you hope that? lol

Jorge: I don't know. I just like to see big companies flounder.

Scott: Damn commie.

Jorge: Oddly enough "Damn commie" is my 360 gamertag.

Update: As we were readying post, Kotaku broke a story about huge Xbox sales numbers in Japan this week! Will America follow suit? Is the Wii's global reign of terror facing a serious challenge? Is Microsoft a fox? Will we end each news post with a series of dramatic questions? Stay tuned to find out!


  1. Short but sweet comment here.

    At the moment, I am really confused about what Microsoft are trying to do. It is obvious they want a slice of the action and attention that the Wii is receiving at the moment, but it is also clear that they want to keep the 'hardcore' gamers that they already have in abundance. At the moment (unfortunately), it really seems to be one or the other and while I can see one (or more) of these consoles (if not the next ones) managing to appeal to both audiences with ease (similar to the PS2 then) eventually, right now it seems like it is one or the other. Wii isn't really appealing to the hardcore crowd at the moment and while some games do, the majority (so far) don't. Maybe that will change, I don't know.

    I also don't really know what my point was anymore either as I kind of distracted myself with thoughts as I typed this. What I do know is that brackets were my friend in this comment, it wasn't short and sweet and that I rambled a lot. Sorry for that. ;)

  2. Wow, re-reading that makes me wonder whether it even makes sense...

  3. @ Nismo: It does make sense. My thoughts often come out rambling so I'm used to it. I agree with you that Microsoft is positioning the xbox as if they want pick up the casual and maintain their hardcore user base. IMO, this was supposed to be the Wii's place but, judging by the software and their treatment of third party developers they aren't living up to this. I have my doubts that Microsoft can pull it off without the software collection and aesthetic traits Wii has.

  4. Hey there guys,

    I think that Microsoft is more concerned with its market share than making a buck, which to me is totally cool. More people that buy one means that I can play with them, and that more/better games get made for the 360.
    Having said that, this is pretty much an awesome blog and I love reading it, even if I'm much cooler than you guys. And thanks for the kind words Scott old buddy.

  5. I thought about it some more and while I still think that it seems to be one (hardcore) or the other (casual) at the moment for any of the three consoles, I do believe at least one of them will find a way to attract and maintain both audiences eventually. Which console that is, I can't tell you.

    Just how did the PS2 fare anyway? I was younger back then and didn't pay attention to gaming in the same way that I do now, so yeah how did that gradually build up its userbase of both hardcore and casual gamers? I do remember that it took quite some time until a lot of people made the switch from the PS1 to the PS2 (Gran Turismo 3 was the incentive by memory), so I wonder, did the PS2 have a similar to beginning to what the three consoles are having now in that it may only be capturing one particular audience while desiring the other?

  6. Nice back and forth discussion you guys had. You're right on about Microsoft taking one out of Nintendo's book when it comes to their next 360 ad campaign. They'll be targeting the "casual gamer" crowd, but it will be interesting to see how successful they are with it.

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