Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
Xbox 360: meh?

Apparently the new Xbox 360 scheduled to launch this week is getting some pretty mediocre reviews. I got to see a 360 while I was in Austin last month, and the new King Kong game looked like a lot of fun – but aside from that, I'm inclined to agree. The Xbox 360 should be knocking our collective socks off, but so far it's only so-so. The truth of the matter is that there just aren't the games yet to justify the $400 price tag. There aren't enough of them, and the ones that are there don't have enough oomph to justify the big drop.

I'm not sure if Microsoft is extremely smart or extremely stupid in launching the Xbox 360 before Halo 3 was ready to roll. The first two Halo games were the 'killer apps' that nearly had me buying an Xbox before, and Halo 3 will definitely have me considering a 360 – but if they'd launched the 360 and Halo 3 simultaneously – or Halo 3 packaged with each new 360 – this would've been a hype wagon I'd have jumped on with full gusto. The question in my mind: is it better to launch your new system with a big game attached, or is it better to ride two waves of hype, and hopefully have two waves of sales?

Personally, I'd go for one big wave, but I'm also the kind of guy who will wait until A Big Game hits for a particular platform before buying it. I recently purchased a Game Boy DS not for the stylus or the twin screens, but to play the new side-scrolling Castlevania (which is amazing) and Mario Kart DS (which is also amazing). The Big Awesome Spectacular Must-Have Game for me will be the New Super Mario Brothers game that's supposed to be out next year, but these two blockbusters were enough to convince me to drop my coin now.

When I was a kid I bugged Mom to buy an 8-bit NES to play the original Super Mario Brothers, and when the 16-bit SNES came out I spent weeks of gleeful anticipation not for the purple plastic buttons but for Super Mario World. The two games I'm most looking forward to now are the new 3-D The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the GameCube, which finally uses the graphical prowess of the GameCube to do some amazingly dark and mature graphics for the Zelda series, and the aforementioned New Super Mario Brothers. I'm also seriously looking at developing my own games, so we'll see what happens there.

What I'm hoping is that the Xbox 360 scores huge as a delivery system for independent game developers via the Xbox 360 Live Arcade network. There's a very slick system built into the Xbox 360 where users can pony up a couple of bucks and download smaller games over the Internet. GarageGames is purportedly working on a new version of their Torque engine that is optimized specifically for these types of games. When budgets for the new MMORPGs are spiralling upwards of US$30M a game, that's $30,000,000 a game, I'm much more interested to see what comes out of the basement workshops of America. Give me a contract, a house in Wooster, my old development team and an indefinite supply of Dr. Pepper and I guarantee you we'll deliver something interesting.

My God, I miss the Inkblots homebrew days.


When you finally do break down and get one, drop me a line so we can hook up for some XBL-style fragging.

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