Xbox 360 Battle Report
Microsoft's next-gen console continues to lose money for the company and the amount of consoles it currently sells doesn't compare to the Wii but the Xbox 360 is still holding its own in the next-gen console war thanks to a number of best selling exclusive titles like Lost Planet and Crackdown. Even non exclusives like Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 and Guitar Hero II have sold well. The console has been on sale for 18 months now and despite the surge of interest in the Wii it looks like it will continue to generate sales for games like Forza Motorsport 2 and Bioshock. Oh and Halo 3, their biggest first party game, is due out on September 25, much earlier than anticipated.
More than just the sales of games and consoles at retail stores, Microsoft's Xbox Live service has matured to become the premiere online console services. While some people might still complain about paying money to access the Gold service (where people can play online multiplayer games), the truth is that you get what you pay for and the service continues to expand with game add-ons, movie and TV downloads and more services. Microsoft hasn't revealed how much income it gets specifically from its Xbox Live service but we expect that the revenue will continue to grow.
We do have concerns about their hardware bundles. Unlike Nintendo and Sony who currently only have one choice to purchase (Sony dumped their 20GB model only a few months after the November launch of the PS3), Microsoft currently has a whopping three different hardware configurations; the $299 Core model (with no hard drive), the $399 main model (with 20GB hard drive) and the recently launched $479 Elite model (with 120 GB hard drive and HDMI port and cable). Good luck finding that Elite model, by the way; it's now almost as hard to find in stores as the Wii console and online web sites don't currently have any in stock. Microsoft reportedly will add the 120 GB hard drive model and the HDMI port to their regular $399r Xbox 360 console this fall, but what about all of us who bought the original model? Will there be some kind of rebate-exchange offered to us so we can upgrade?
Microsoft is stil in a good position and if Halo 3 is as big of a hit as they expect it will definitely help move sales of consoles. But there are definitely some other things they can do to help consumers and perhaps overtake Nintendo:
Lower Price Of Xbox 360 Core System
We are getting close to the two year anniversary of the launch of the Xbox 360 with no price cut. Microsoft could push people to purchase more consoles if they lowered their Core system down by at least $50 to put it on a par with the current price of the Wii console. Let's face it; Microsoft's console pretty much blows away the Wii in terms of technology and there is certainly a lot of games to play.
Rebate-Exchange Program for Xbox 360 Owners
If Microsoft keeps to their plan to put in 120 GB hard drives and the HDMI port for the main Xbox 360 model this fall, it certainly will upset all those owners who thought they were purchasing the highest end model. We suggest Microsoft offer a rebate for all those people who want to exchange their current model for the new one in order to make the transition a little better.
Make Sure Halo 3 Is The Best Game In The Series
We are quite frankly a little worried that the September 25 release date of Halo 3, while great for a marketing coup, might make things a little tight for Bungie in the development side. Microsoft is putting a lot of eggs in their basket with the release of Halo 3, much like they did last year with Gears of War. As it turned out, the gamble paid off in 2006; Gears of War was a critcal and commerical hit and took some of the thunder away from the PS3 and Wii launches. Microsoft needs to ensure that Halo 3 will have the same reception. If it means delaying the game slightly from September to a more traditional November release, that will be OK by us.
All Future Xbox 360 Must Come With A Hard Drive
Microsoft actually followed our earlier advice and released a 120 GB hard drive. Now it needs to make sure all Xbox 360 consoles have at least some kind of hard drive, even if its the now much smaller 20 GB version. Having a Core system with such a drive and the main model with a 120 GB version will let everyone experience Xbox Live and all of the services it offers. Xbox Live is by far the best feature the console has and it's a shame that some owners don't have access to it.
Keep Quality Control And Customer Service High
The "red light of death" seems to continue to be a problem for the console. While Microsoft will not officially comment on numbers, it seems clear from various message board posts that the Xbox 360 continues to have a higher amount of hardware failures than it should. Microsoft needs to get this problem fixed and also needs to make sure that if a console does break within the hardware warranty period that customers get a quick and free replacement.