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Microsoft's Xbox: The Company, The Console, The Future

Way back in 1975 an ambitious youngster by the name of Bill Gates founded a small software company which is known today as the Microsoft Corporation. However, all those years ago I'll bet that even Mr. Gates himself didn't know what the future had in store for his company. Over the next two decades Microsoft continued to expand and gain popularity in the software business. As technology continued to press forward, the once business exclusive PC began finding its way into homes around the world. With people finding new uses for computers nearly everyday, it didn't take the PC craze long to catch on. The promise of the Internet was intriguing for both educational purposes and also as a means of entertainment.

With the general public now taking an interest in the PC market, it became increasingly important to make computers "user-friendly". Often operating systems were too confusing for your average Joe to understand. Only those with computer experience really knew what they were doing. However, all that began to change, and in 1995 Microsoft released its Windows 95 operating system. Windows 95 caught on like wildfire and with its easy-to-use interface people everywhere were now able to use computers with a minimal learning curve. Windows 95 was not perfect, in fact the product slogan "Click and Play" was dubbed "Click and Pray" due to all the bugs in the program. Nevertheless the program became the choice of users everywhere, and the bugs were largely taken care of in future versions.

Today, Microsoft is the industry leader in the PC market, and last year the company announced that they would be entering the console videogame market. Needless to say, the announcement has had a huge effect on the gaming world. To those in the know the name Xbox has become almost as common place as GameCube or Playstation 2. The system has garnered much attention from the media and will likely continue to do so. Microsoft is said to have a half a million dollar marketing campaign up its sleeve for the Xbox launch. Trust me, if you haven't heard about the Xbox yet, you will. In the next few months there should be an avalanche of Xbox promotions. The console is set for a current US release date of 11/08/01 and will sell for $299.

Almost immediately after the Xbox announcement people began to label the machine as a "PC in a box". While the Xbox may share some characteristics with the PC, it is definitely a console and will be marketed as such. In fact out of all the major consoles in the upcoming console war, the Xbox puts up the most impressive figures. This does not necessarily mean that the Xbox will be the best, but it DOES mean that the Xbox is for real and anyone who says otherwise is simply denying the truth.

Well, the Xbox may be a serious contender, but that doesn't mean it hasn't faced its share of problems. The whole Xbox experience is certainly a learning one for Microsoft. The biggest problem facing the company is making the Xbox a success in Japan. Without Japanese support, you're just not going to come out on top in this industry. As an American made console, the Xbox certainly has an uphill battle ahead of it. To make matters worse, some dazzling Xbox screens were discovered to be fakes. These "screens" were tampered with using programs such as Photoshop to make them look better. Also, this year's E3 show was not especially kind to Microsoft. After facing several technical problems during the pre-show conference, the Xbox went on to have a very mediocre E3, leaving most booth visitors fairly unimpressed. There are also rumors that Microsoft is paying virtually all costs of game development for a few game developers, and that these same developers have been able to bring "free" products to the consoles of other companies. And last but not least, there are more rumors about shaky third party relations. Some companies had great Xbox titles ready for E3, but Microsoft would not allow these titles to be shown in the Xbox booth because they wanted the space for first party products. This did not sit real well with some of the bigger third parties, including Namco who is rumored to have pulled Soul Caliber 2 from the console.

Microsoft knows that successfully launching the Xbox isn't going to be easy, and they have already begun to work towards solutions for a few of the problems mentioned above. For one, they have decided to delay the Xbox launch in Japan. I think this is definitely a smart move; if the Xbox can't even do well in the US, it will never be able to succeed in Japan. Also, to combat the rumors of minimal third party support, Microsoft has managed to gain exclusive titles from Tecmo and Capcom. That could make a big difference in deciding the fate of the Xbox. Capcom and Tecmo are two well known Japanese developers and if they throw their support behind the Xbox, it's definitely going to turn some heads. While I left E3 disappointed by the Xbox, I find it hard not to get excited when checking out some of the games that are on the way. For instance, Tecmo's Dead or Alive 3 will definitely be the game to beat come launch day, and it's going to be an Xbox exclusive. As a big fan of the DOA series, that game alone is almost reason enough to buy an Xbox...almost. You see, it may be Xbox exclusive but a few months after release I can guarantee that in some way, shape, or form DOA3 will appear on other consoles.

Besides the awe-inspiring DOA3, the Xbox does have a few other games worthy of mention. Capcom's Dino Crisis 3 will appear as an Xbox exclusive alongside an Onimusha update called Genma Onimusha, and also a secret project tentatively called BRAIN BOX. Also supporting the Xbox is Sega who has announced 11 titles for the system. Those titles include Crazy Taxi Next, House of the Dead 3, Jet Set Radio Future, Panzer Dragoon, and several of Sega's 2K2 and 2K3 sports titles. Several other companies are pitching in nicely for the console with high profile titles such as Amped: Freestyle Snowboarding, Fuzion Frenzy, and the highly anticipated Halo; not to mention the infamous Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee or recently announced Project: Ego. These games all promise to be quality titles and should ensure the Xbox a prosperous future.

Having all the games mentioned above will certainly help, but if there's anything we learned from E3 it's that Microsoft needs to turn it up a notch if they hope to be a contender for the console crown. The Xbox really is an impressive (albeit large) piece of hardware, and with the right marketing and support, it should do just fine in the years ahead.

For more information on the Xbox be sure to keep reading CV-Games.

By Ryan Schaefer - 01/09/02

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