2, Issue 15
March 13, 2000
the Mouth of Madness:
over the weekend, Microsoft made their long-overdue announcement
about their plans to break into the already crowded console market
with their X-Box system. Now, speaking as a console fan, Iím excited.
I collect these things, so naturally any new system is sure to
make me happy. But at the same time, thereís something a little
fishy about what Microsoft has been telling people about their
problem is that the system doesnít exist yet. I donít care what
theyíre telling the press and developers; there is no X-Box
yet. Just projected hardware specs and software tests. It
doesnít exist, and there certainly arenít any developerís kits
yet. How do I know this? Simple Ė as soon as last Monday, the
official specs for the system hadnít been nailed down. Up until
the day before Bill Gates went on CNBC and told the world it existed,
nobody was sure if AMD or Intel was going to end up as the core
processor, and even the initial announcement only said, ďan x86
mean Microsoft canít go around telling people to commit to the
system, mind you. Because itís going to run on an OS thatís based
on the Windows 2000 kernel (a great decision on their part) they
can give developers a list of things they need to build into their
PC titles to easily port them over. But Microsoft is going to
milk their initial publicity for all itís worth, and make it seem
to the general public like the system is on the verge of release
Ė when in fact itís more than a year and a half away.
brings me to another problem. Microsoft is claiming that the X-Box
will be more than twice as powerful as the Playstation 2. Thatís
great news, and I canít wait to see what it can doÖbut because
they didnít have any physical hardware to show off at their announcement,
they showed pre-rendered demos. Boo, hiss, Microsoft. For
shame! The demonstrations they showed were pre-rendered movies,
that were intended to simulate what the X-Box will be capable
of. Unfortunately, it was neither particularly technically impressive
(several developers have said that there was nothing shown that
a decent team couldnít easily reproduce on the Playstation 2)
nor was it visually impressive to the general public. Now granted,
this wasnít supposed to be a major announcement to the general
public (it was at the Game Developerís Conference), but
nonetheless, the news made its way to many major news outlets,
and so the demo was widely shown.
really want to get people excited, show some games, man.
At the initial Playstation 2 announcement, the world snoozed their
way through a particle lightshow, before getting their heads blown
apart by a cut-scene from Final Fantasy VIII rendered in real-time
(not to mention that awesome clip from Tekken Tag Tournament).
Now thatís how you impress people.
being a little harsh here, and I realize that. In truth, the X-Box
is a good thing. A very, very good thing. As bizarre as it sounds,
Microsoft is going to prevent a major monopoly from occurring.
Sony plans on dominating your living room with their Playstation
2, and thatís all fine and good, but do you really want all your
eggs in one basket? Competition, particularly from someone with
as much cash behind them as Microsoft, can only benefit the end-user.†
Microsoft is planning on spending more to promote the X-Box than
they did to promote Windows 95. According to Gates himself, the
company will spend, ďbillions over the next five yearsĒ getting
this thing out there.
it will ultimately be the games that sell the system, thereís
one thing that is guaranteed Ė this thing will look awesome.
Microsoft has some of the best hardware designers in the business
working for them, and that means weíll get a styliní looking system.
little troubled by certain things, however. The system has a hard
drive out of the box (an 8 gig drive, to be exact). This has all
kinds of implicationsÖsome of which are very positive, like the
fact that memory cards will never be needed for the system, but
there are also some bad things. For example Ė what about viruses?
If itís intended to be used for online gaming, itís going to be
wide-open for virus attacks. And if itís got a hard-drive, that
means someone could figure out how to get into your X-Box and
completely wipe your system. And what about fragmentation? An
8 gig hard drive needs to run CHKDSK and Defrag on a regular basis
or itís going to go sour. A console system with a buggy hard drive
is a bad thing.
says the drive will be used primarily for caching of games in
progress (cool) and also for downloading additional content for
games. I donít expect people to issue bug-fixes for X-Box games,
so I wouldnít worry about people releasing half-completed games
with the intention of fixing them laterÖbut wouldnít it be nice
to know that if a game slips through the cracks it can be fixed?
I bet Sony wishes they could have done that with Gran Turismo
2Öand Acclaim with Turok: Rage Wars (although there really isnít
much of anything that could save that one).
this announcement from Microsoft raised as many questions as it
answered. This yearís E3 will be really exciting, as itíll have
Sony formally announcing the details of the Playstation 2 US launch
(rumors are flying that itíll be released as soon as August),
more Dolphin details from Nintendo (including the next GameBoy
system, which will apparently not be the GB Advance yet),
Segaís Dreamcast Network 2000 details, and hey! Even SNK is going
to be announcing a new system in addition to the next big X-Box
announcement (expect games this time, people).†
to say, I canít wait.
Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor in chief here