When I first learned that Microsoft was going to build a game console I laughed it off as one big joke, that game players won’t accept Blue Screens of Death, unless Blue Screens of Death was a killer video game title. Well today Microsoft delivered on what it promised at last year’s Game Developers Conference, and with the configuration that the company said it would build it around.
Although Microsoft has $36 billion in the bank, and has devoted $500 million to market the Xbox, it will be an uphill battle to unseat the likes of Sony (PlayStation2) and Nintendo (GameCube), in the hotly competitive game consoles market. The development and launch of the Xbox has done one thing, By virtue of the announcement, Xbox has generated revenue for folks who would otherwise have not generated revenue. The launch of the Xbox has directly employed many in the digital media space, and I am not just talking about the animators and game developers that have been and will be tasked to churn out their art for the next generations of Xbox games. The $500 million Xbox marketing machine has already employed the likes of REZn8 (whose clients range from ABC and AT&T; to Sony and Warner Bros.), which was tapped to create the Xbox Dashboard’s navigation interface, and Blur Studio, which was tapped last year to develop characters for a video that demonstrated what was then the Xbox concept. Right Hemisphere, Discreet, and Softimage, among others have signed on as middleware developers for Xbox, and the list goes on and on and on.
Although many of us in the computer and technology press enjoy bashing on Microsoft for stealing ideas and «extending and enhancing» them to make them their own, the company is indeed an economic force that helps to drive the American economy. While Chief Software Architect Bill Gates noted in the company’s settlement of its second antitrust case (the first was withdrawn by DOJ after a consent decree was reached) that settling was good for the economy in these uncertain times, analysts, Microsoft competitors, and news show hosts said that Gates & Co. received little more than a slap on the wrist. Eventhough I didn’t want to see the company split into two, as was the remedy handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson and later overturned, I did want to see Microsoft adequately punished for its behavior. We shall see if Bill’s behavior is reigned in.
So is it all just about the Xbox? Not at all. Although the naysayers (including yours truly) said that it would never get done, Microsoft today delivered a new gaming platform that will undoubtedly have an impact on not only the next generation of game players and game developers, but many many ancillary entities as well.
While Microsoft’s bottom line with regard to Xbox is riding on the quality and reliability of the box and the games developed for it, other contributors to the Xbox marketing machine, from the Rezn8s and Blur Studios of the world, to the game mag publishers, resellers, and technology innovators, will be riding the ups and downs that the Xbox is sure to experience.
Out of all that has happened to Microsoft just in the last two weeks; antitrust settlement, entry into the Japanese dominated video game business, one aspect of Microsoft is clear; Microsoft remains a major force in the technology and entertainment sectors, and its movements within the markets that it serves reverberates throughout the global economy.