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September 23, 2002—In this issue:
1. NEWS AND VIEWS
- Microsoft Makes New Xbox Push
- Planning on Getting Certified? Make Sure to Pick up Our New eBook!
3. CONTACT US
- See this section for a list of ways to contact us.
1. NEWS AND VIEWS
(contributed by Paul Thurrott, [email protected])
In a bid to rescue its struggling Xbox video-game console from its overseas slump, Microsoft is using this week's Tokyo Game Show to push the system's upcoming Xbox Live online-gaming strategy in Japan, where the system has fared the worst because of competition from Nintendo and Sega. Although Microsoft hopes that its unique approach to online gaming will win over converts, it has other tricks up its sleeve, just in case.
To help prevent a total collapse of its non-US developer base, Microsoft bought Nintendo's 49 percent share in Rare, the British video-game maker that makes "Donkey Kong Country" for Nintendo. And Microsoft is considering purchasing a Japanese video-game maker, although Sony has countered its most obvious move by investing in Square, which makes the "Final Fantasy" games.
Microsoft also announced some new Xbox games this week, including "Blinx," which features a green-eyed cat character that's vaguely reminiscent of other systems' leading characters, such as Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog and Nintendo's Mario. But "Blinx" takes advantage of unique Xbox features such as its advanced graphics and hard disk, making the game impossible to port to other systems.
Microsoft's online service, lower system prices, developer deals, and Xbox-only games can prop up the system only so much, however. For the Xbox to be successful, it needs to sell well in all three major gaming markets—the United States, Japan, and Europe—and so far, it's a success in only one of the three: the United States. To date, the company has sold fewer than 275,000 Xbox consoles in Japan, compared to Sony's 10 million PlayStation 2 units (Microsoft has sold 500,000 Xboxes in Europe). The Japanese sales discrepancy exists despite continually lowered Xbox prices and has caused many Japanese developers to focus solely on the PlayStation 2. Japanese Xbox shipments are so low that even some Microsoft officials have commented that the system's best chance to survive won't come until 2005, when the second-generation Xbox arrives. But as Ives Guillemot, president of French game publisher Ubi Soft told "The Wall Street Journal" last week, if Microsoft can't improve its Xbox sales dramatically by the end of the year, most developers will simply reduce support for the Xbox and work on more lucrative PlayStation 2 titles. And a lack of third-party support would be an insurmountable obstacle, even for a company as powerful as Microsoft.
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