Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Have To Explain XBox 360 to My Terminally Ill Grandmother

Nan? Nan, are you awake?

Wake up, nana.

There you are. Hi Memaw.

Yes, I know it's late.

No, don't worry - you're safe. I have to talk to you about something, though.

Gram, back in the mid 1980's Nintendo had a real strangle hold on the home video game market. Their original 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System moved almost 62 million units worldwide, which was an unheard of number back then.

Water? Yeah there's some leftover from dinner. Hold on.

Here. Anyway, Sega made a nice splash during the next hardware generation with their Genesis system. They didn't sell as many units as Nintendo but they came a lot closer than anyone would have thought possible the previous decade. Their success basically paved the way for Sony Corporation to launch their PlayStation brand in the mid-nineties, a platform which would go on to dominate the next two hardware generations and sell close to a combined 200 million units worldwide.

Nan, wake up. Your spilling your water.

No - we shouldn't turn the lights on. Then we might wake up Grandad. He needs to get up in a few hours.

I'm sorry Grandad, I didn't realize. Go back to sleep - I'll be done with Nan in a minute.

I love you too.

I know, we all love Nan. She's the best. You're the best, aren't you Nan? You're a good listener.

No, I won't know what to do with myself either. But we'll cross that ol' bridge when we come to it, okay Pep? Try to get some rest.

Let me finish, Gram. Gram? Give me the glass, Gram. Let me put it on the nightstand.

Pep, can I move this picture frame for a minute and put Gram's water cup down where she can reach it?

That is a touching story, Pep. I would never have guessed you had such a sentimental attachment to it.

Yes, Nan looks just lovely in the photo. You were a beautiful woman once, weren't you Nan? That's how I'll remember you. Not like this. Not like how you are now.

So in 2000, Gram, Microsoft decided to toss their hat into the home console ring. They announced XBox, Gram. Sony kind of went out and proved it was no longer a two-horse race. Bill Gates put on a leather jacket and sunglasses and presented it at the Game Developers Conference. It all seemed like bullshit to me at the time, PS2 had been out for a few months and was the main focus of people who followed the industry. The scary thing about Microsoft though was that in 2000 they had a nearly endless revenue stream from their software and PC divisions. They could easily afford to let XBox flail around in the marketplace and hemorrhage money, all in the name of establishing themselves for the subsequent hardware generation. That way people would be ready to accept the XBox, and by extension Microsoft, as a legit player in the video game world. So basically, even though the original XBox was a borderline flop, the groundwork was in place for them to make a move the next go 'round.

That's what the 360 is, Memaw. It's the culmination of that strategy. Now you can actually make the case that the best home console of this generation was made by Microsoft. Isn't that mind-blowing? I know the Wii has sold like 20 million more units worldwide, and it's great to see Nintendo leading a new wave of innovation, but it would be hard to make a case for Wii being the better overall console. Wii might have better individual games, and appeal more to the casual gamer, but the width and breath of the 360's software library is staggering. You couple that enormous library with the XBox's far superior DLC capabilities and it's really not even close. Fuck, Grandma, I can watch like 200 movies from my Netflix queue instantly! They stream right through the console, if you subscribe to XBox Live!

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I love you and I wish you were feeling better. Video games aren't the same without you.

Remember when we played Wii Bowling for the first time on Thanksgiving?