Microsofts' XBOX vs JAPAN

  02/03/2001 2:32:00 AM MST Albuquerque, Nm
  By Dustin D. Brand; Owner AMO

The good ole USA takes on JAPAN
  Microsoft is officially entering the game platform market, and it's doing so with gamers in mind. I know a lot about games, and technology, and the XBOX is an impressive mix of both.

  You can read my first report on the XBOX at the CES here with the full official specs from Microsoft.

  In this report, I'm going to review about a decade of computer gaming vs platform gaming, and show how the USA has positioned itself to be the dominate source of gaming for decades to come starting with Microsofts' XBOX gaming platform.

  When game platforms first surfaced, the Atari was bringing pong to the living room. As gaming platforms evolved, Nintendo was the choice with Mario Bros and Zelda. About a decade ago something happened, the Personal Computer had it's revolution. Just about 10 years ago, PC's were something that not every family could afford, and the best PC was an intel 486 DX2 66Mhz, with 8 Megs of Ram, and a 340 MB Hard Drive. This is just about when the term "Gamer" was invented.

  A Gamer was somebody that played computer games (not nintendo games) everyday, and at least 10 hours a week. Even about a decade ago, most people who played games, even on the Super Nintendo didn't play computer games.

  Computer games revolutionized gaming much the same way the arcade did, and the Nintendo did, but with a much greater influence. PC's a decade ago were still not yet mainstream consumer market and were still used mainly for business. Those that had PC's at home, generally used them for business.

  Something happened to games when the PC was introduced and MS-DOS was able to provide the medium for the game play. Because the amount of data you could fit onto a hard drive was greater than the amount of data you could fit on a cartridge for Nintendo, computers games were much more technically advanced, and thus greater. 3 People who worked on Wolfenstein 3D, a first person shooter game developed by 3DRealms/Apogee, left to start their own company, Id Software. Within a year, these 3 individuals had created what I still consider the absolute climax for computer gaming, DOOM. Doom quickly caught the eyes of people like myself, and a gamer was born. Doom players, or Doomers generally played into the night, and early into the day going head to head against their friends via a modem. This was early 1992.

  It has taken nearly a decade for platforms games to catchup, and you can still count their multiplayer online games with your hands. This platform game market is currently dominated by the Japanese, however the computer gaming market has been dominated by the Americans ever since the first computer games were published. With the introduction of Microsofts' XBOX, the computer gaming experience is about to change yet again.

  Nintendo of Japan, and Sony of Japan have shared their marketshare easily, with Sony winning by about 2 to 1 as far as units sold. Sony just recently released their latest platform, the Playstation 2, which even with all the hype, is a bad attempt at a game platform.

  Microsoft and Nintendo are next, with the XBOX and the GameCube respectively, and Sega just exited the market of platforms, read here. So now there are 3, 1 American, and 2 Japanese companies.

  While it's hard to convince a Nintendo fan, or a Sony Playstation fan that the Microsoft XBOX will win outright, it's not hard to convince an expert.

  Being an expert on technology, and computer engineering, I can tell you that in the past 5 years, Nintendo and Sony have moved their game platforms in an attempt to compete directly with the ever growing population of Computer Gaming, and in essence turned their game platforms into mini personal computers, more on par with the personal computers of the time. Their attempts have mostly failed. While their Nintendo, Sony, and the late Sega (who just exited the game platform market) user bases have grown, they have in no way been close to the growth in personal computers, or computer games.

  As I'm sure we can all agree, Microsoft is smart, and intends to bridge this gap between computer games, and game platforms, or home arcades. And if anyone could do it, I would have to say I'd rather trust someone closer to the industry of computer games and the software/hardware mix, than someone like Sony or Nintendo who have been building proprietary computers for years. It has been over a decade since I played my first modem to modem computer game Doom, and I have yet to see anything come close in the game platform market. Like I said before, you can count their online playable games on your hands.

  What's a game without a way to control it. On the computer, a wide array of choices present themselves, mouse, keyboard, and hundreds of controllers including joysticks modeled after actual fighter jet joysticks. Even a decade ago, I played Doom with a game controller, much like the Nintendo controller of the time. Below is picture of the controllers from top left to bottom right of the Sega Dreamcast (Sega will no longer build game platforms), the coming soon Microsoft XBOX, the coming soon Nintendo GameCube, and the released Sony Playstation 2.

  One thing new with game controllers thanks to the computer game revolution is the Digital pad. Digital is much more precise than Analog, and if you disagree, then just ask another computer engineer. Digital pads are now present in all of the above controllers, something that 3 years ago was not the case. One thing unique with the XBOX controller is the pressure sensitive buttons...the harder you press, the varying reaction, Something Micrsoft introduced.

  One apparent cause of the growth in complexity of the new game platforms is that computer games run on thousand dollar hardware, and sometimes multi-thousand dollar hardware vs a game platforms range of about $300. Game platforms are able to survive without upgrades for nearly 3-5 years whereas new computers and computer hardware comes out every month. The current lifespan of these next systems should be 2.5 years, nearly cut in half from what they used to be, thanks to Microsoft for entering this market.

  You still have yet to find a computer game, in it's entirety on a game platform, another thing Microsoft is going to change. Microsofts' XBOX is after all a computer just like your PC, only designed specifically to play games. The XBOX has a Pentium III processor, uses RAM, a graphics and sound chip, a hard drive, a dvd rom, and modified USB ports for the game controllers.

  Another reason Americans have an egde in the computer gaming market is thanks to game developers like Id Software, Blizzard and others, and nearly 90% of the CPU's come from American Intel.

  Read any magazine dedicated to games, be it computer games, or platform games, and you'll see them rated as follows: Gameplay, Graphics, Sound, Etc. These are things that superior technology and programming deliver, and by far the better programmers, and better technology exists on the PC side, not the game platform side. Oh wait, only now everything changes because Microsofts' XBOX is taking on the Japanese and their game systems, ultimately bridgeing the PC with the game platform while allowing PC computer games to evolve in conjunction with it. Go figure, I've been talking about this for a decade.