Special: The critics are silenced.
As you are reading this, the Xbox has now been out over a full month. And so far so good. Well, to be more accurate -- so far so fantastic, the Xbox has produced some very, very impressive sales figures, both on the hardware and software fronts. Last reported sales figures have around 738,000 systems sold to consumers, with over one million units having now been shipped to retailers. This figure is easily beating out its main competition, the Gamecube, by a considerable margin (around 200,000 or so units). Surprising? In a way, yes it is. However, this is just a testament to Microsoft's commitment to the market.
In this business, hype plays a huge role in whether or not a system is a big seller or not. For this one reason, many people were putting down the box and pretty much making fun of it because they thought it had no chance of succeeding, and I'm not going to lie, I was one of those people, although I do regret that now. But around a month or so before the system launched, the hype began, and boy was it furious. The genius of Microsoft's campaign is astounding. It first began as a Taco Bell sweepstakes. Each Taco Bell restaurant in the country gave out a free Xbox to anyone lucky enough to have one of the winning game pieces. While that in itself wasn't too unusual, the rate at which the commercials were played was. I swear, the commercial for the contest was played during every commercial break on every major network and cable station during the primetime hours. And it had the people in the dark wondering ? What's an Xbox? They'd soon know the answer to that question, but a little more teasing would come first.
The ad campaign for the Xbox was in two categories ? the ?teasers? and the ?gameplay? commercials. As the name implies, the teaser commercials showed no game shots or even pics of the system. All six of the 30-second commercials involved a little green blob with a black background, a few words were spoken and then the blob would mold into the Xbox symbol. While what was said during these was somewhat odd and didn't really pertain to the Xbox too drastically, they certainly had an impact, as Xbox.com received a record number of hits from people who wanted all the dirt on the system. Then only days before the console launched, the amazing gameplay commercials began, with shots of various games in action, including Dead or Alive 3, Oddworld, Halo, NFL Fever, Project Gotham Racing, and Amped. In all, Microsoft couldn't have done a better job with the advertising department. They got many people's attention and got the name out there very successfully, it was a well spent $500 million.
Of course, the system wouldn't have sold so greatly without the games to back it up. And no one can argue that the Xbox didn't have one of the greatest line-ups ever. In my humble opinion, Halo is one of the best games to come out in a very long time, and it alone is worth the purchase of an Xbox. Many others seemed to agree with me, as the game received some stellar reviews. Then when you throw in the fact that an exceptional title was available in just about every genre of games, you can see why people were plunking down the 300 big ones. Now that I think about it, this shouldn't have been much of a surprise. The advertising was there and the games were definitely there. Not to mention that the system itself is just plain amazing. It's solidly built and packed with tons of features that have never been seen on a gaming console. Probably the best $300 I've ever spent.
Even with these great sales, don't get too exciting quite yet Xbox fans. Microsoft still has a long ways to go. While I have the strictest confidence that the Xbox can continue to have success here in the U.S. (that's of course if the game keep coming), Japan is what I'm worried about. The Japanese market itself is a tricky business, the PS2 sold in record numbers, but Nintendo's own Gamecube seems to be having problems. Then again, the PS2 sold so well because of the built in DVD player, and the Xbox has a great one. The problem is that the Japanese are a very proud people. For the past 20 years, Japanese made systems have been dominating the gaming market, and with the Xbox being an American made console, it's going to be very interesting to see how the Japanese public reacts.
Thankfully for Microsoft, they realize that the Japanese market is just as important as the American. As they have gone to great lengths to make this thing a success. The ?bulky? Xbox controller has been reformatted to fit the smaller Asian hands and Japanese specific games are in development (those crazy Japanese and their dating sims). With the launch just 2 months (February 22nd, 2002) away, we'll know how the Japanese react to this American monster soon enough. Then we have the European launch a month later (March 15th, 2002). I'm not really sweating this one much, the European's seem to have shown great interest in the system and I'm predicting much success in that territory. Plus, the impressive sales in the U.S. can only fuel everyone's desire to get one.
What else does these impressive sales numbers mean? Well, all the developers who have been holding off on producing games for the system because of its "uncertain future" now have no reason not to support it fully. I'd say a million units sold is enough inspiration to start the development process, wouldn't you? So come on EA, bring us Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, it's going to sell. Same goes for any other company who has had second thoughts about bringing their games to the console.
In more recent news, rumors are running rampant on Microsoft potentially buying out other gaming companies. Take Two is at the top of that list. They are most noted for owning DMA Designs, a talented group responsible for the amazing Grand Theft Auto III on the Playstation 2. Acquiring this company would be an absolutely huge feather in Microsoft's hat. And hell, if you have the money to do it, then why not? If Microsoft wants to become the top dog in the gaming industry, things like this are going to have to happen. I hear the PS2 owners crying now ? "that's no fair". Fair? This is business and it's certainly nothing new, Sony themselves has taken advantage of their huge amounts of money in the past. After this, Microsoft needs to work hard on getting Squaresoft to realize that the Playstation 2 is not the only system in existence. Although I'm not personally a big fan of them, no one can deny the huge fan base they have, and the Xbox needs them in order to surpass the PS2 in the long run.
As a strong supporter of the Xbox, I am absolutely thrilled with its early success, as are the almost 800,000 people who have already purchased the console. I wish to congratulate Microsoft on this strong start in the business, and I hope they have continued success. However, so far this has just been a baby step to the overall picture. They need to work hard on the upcoming Japanese and European launches, and most importantly, they need to keep the games coming. Titles like Grant Theft Auto III and Metal Gear Solid X need to make their way to the system in some way or form. Plus, exclusive titles are a must. The Xbox needs games that can't be played anywhere else, games that show of the system's superior design, and games that are just plain good. Hopefully a year from now the Xbox State of a Address will be full of even more triumph.