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Xbox2 PC hybrid?


CouldBeWorse
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http://money.cnn.com/2004/05/26/commentary.../column_gaming/

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Two months ago, Microsoft spoke glowingly of bridging the gap between the PC and Xbox. Now the company is considering erasing that gap completely.

While Microsoft has publicly avoided discussing its next generation machine, it has been quietly conducting studies on the consumer appeal of a hybrid device that would play both PC and Xbox games.

"We would be remiss if we didn't look at consumer scenarios that take advantage of our strengths," said Peter Moore, corporate vice president of worldwide marketing and publishing for Microsoft's home and entertainment division. "[but] this is one amongst many, many other consumer scenarios that we're looking at."

The B/R/S Group, a California-based market research company that lists Microsoft and the Xbox division specifically as clients, has been gathering consumer feedback on a device it refers to as Xbox Next PC – "a videogame console system with a hard drive and a built-in fully functional PC." Mention of the device came on one of several slides shown to focus groups.

One slide describes the unit, which would require a PC monitor or high definition television, as being backward compatible with current and next-generation Xbox titles. It would also play PC games and include a fully functional version of Windows, CD burner, DVD player (with remote control), built-in access to Xbox Live and a hard drive. Control-wise, the system would come with both a keyboard and mouse and a standard Xbox controller. The price point this particular study tested was $599.

B/R/S officials declined to comment for this column, citing a strict confidentiality agreement with Microsoft.

The point of the study that included the Xbox Next PC was to determine what consumers want to see in next generation machines – and what they're willing to pay for those features. Gathering pricing sensitivity data for products is one of the most challenging market research projects for hardware developers.

It's important to note that any product looked at in these sorts of studies is conceptual and may undergo dramatic feature changes before hitting the market – if, in fact, it manages to emerge from the doors of the R&D labs.

"If you put two and two together, there's no doubt there's a great opportunity to put the two platforms together," said Moore. "Obviously with a company like Microsoft this is something we have to look into and ask about. Is it actionable today? Probably not, but it's something we need to look at."

There is, of course, a greater question of whether consumers would have any interest in a console/PC hybrid. Game machines, historically, have evolved rather slowly. Large leaps haven't been rewarded. Sony learned this lesson with the introduction of the PSX, a combination PlayStation 2/Digital Video Recorder, which sold poorly in Japan and has yet to receive a U.S. launch date.

Microsoft first showed interest in bringing the PC and Xbox closer together in March at the Game Developer's Conference, when it unveiled XNA, a software development platform meant to allow developers to skip writing boilerplate code that often bogs down the time it takes to create a game.

The same platform would open up cross-platform integration opportunities, letting PC and Xbox owners play in the same world, though each would have different experience. (PC gamers, for example, could act as virtual generals in a strategy game, coordinating troop movements, while Xbox players playing an action version of the same title would fight the battles.)

"There will come a day – in the not too distant future – that [PC] games will be interchangeable between Windows and the Xbox," Moore told me at the recently completed E3 trade show.

Should Microsoft (MSFT: Research, Estimates) move forward with a hybrid machine, it will likely come after a standalone Xbox 2 unit is released. As for when we'll see next generation Xboxes on store shelves - officially, Microsoft isn't commenting, but it has been giving publishers guidance to plan for a 2005 launch.

That's a short time frame, which might raise some questions about why the subject of Xbox 2 is being so studiously avoided. The answer's simple. Xbox has momentum right now – and its holiday line-up of games (led by titles such as "Halo 2") is strong. Talking about Xbox 2 would distract consumers, which could significantly cut into sales across the board.

"Xbox has got so much going for it as we go into the holidays that anything that disturbs the ecosystem for us is bad for business," said Moore. 

:huh: Good god.

If this is true it very surprising decision but could be a very popular machine. Best of both worlds?

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This is one of the main things I think Microsoft got right when the made the Xbox.

DO NOT PLAY PC GAMES

If the Xbox did play PC games, why would any developer want to make their games for the xbox when they could just make a PC game which could play on the xbox.

The Xbox wouldnt have its own format, it would just be a PC.

Don't go back on it Bill :huh:

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I always thought ms missed a trick with the xbox, a gaming standard for console and pc, to get out of this whole upgrade for upgrades sake cycle that exists in pc circles, especially with regard to graphics cards. Maybe it was necessary to differentiate xbox from pc in its first incarnation to avoid the 'it's just a pc in a different case' syndrome. The brand now exists and is popular, perhaps it's time to aim for this stable, single platform, especially with xna happening.

I think the box is currently more popular in the western world than the PS2, just a feeling. I work on a shift of 13 people, none of whom, excepting myself, I would consider to be gamers, about 9 have bought a box. staggering. This was primarily to play halo too. There seem to be many, many xbox owners amoongst my friends and on the forums I frequent. I reckon it's in rude health, it may not catch the PS2 but I can't help feeling that the gap is narrowing and not widening.

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I did notice at christmas time that alot more Xbox's were being sold than either other console at about 5:1.

I work virtually next to a GAME and EB (so 2 game's) a Dixons and Argos, hundereds of the things were being sold. I was really suprised.

Hasn't the Xbox just outsold the PS2 and GC this quarter as well?

No way it'll catch the PS2 this generation, but it's looking close for the future. Good for us gamers :huh:

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This is one of the main things I think Microsoft got right when the made the Xbox.

DO NOT PLAY PC GAMES

If the Xbox did play PC games, why would any developer want to make their games for the xbox when they could just make a PC game which could play on the xbox.

The Xbox wouldnt have its own format, it would just be a PC.

Don't go back on it Bill :huh:

In the case described in the article, what would be the benefit of making the Xbox a distinct, proprietary format? So I've got this Xbox Next PC, and I can buy PC games for it or 'Xbox' games for it that are identical except for a lockout code and cost an extra £10? Buh?

Which pretty much sums up why I don't think it'll happen in this form. It would be as daft as the Mega PC. (Mind you, they managed to make people swallow the ridiculous conceit that a headset and a password was worth £40 a year, so who knows.)

I do think that PC architecture and consoles are going to converge though. Most of the major PC component manufacturers seem to have signed up to this idea so it's almost inevitable.

Which would put MS in a weird position of fighting to keep (console) games off Windows and on their (presumably much lower-volume) box.

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In the case described in the article, what would be the benefit of making the Xbox a distinct, proprietary format? So I've got this Xbox Next PC, and I can buy PC games for it or 'Xbox' games for it that are identical except for a lockout code and cost an extra £10? Buh?

Which pretty much sums up why I don't think it'll happen in this form. It would be as daft as the Mega PC. (Mind you, they managed to make people swallow the ridiculous conceit that a headset and a password was worth £40 a year, so who knows.)

I do think that PC architecture and consoles are going to converge though. Most of the major PC component manufacturers seem to have signed up to this idea so it's almost inevitable.

Which would put MS in a weird position of fighting to keep (console) games off Windows and on their (presumably much lower-volume) box.

So is that agreeing or disagreeing with me?

Damn my stupidity. :huh:

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