Well, in the last edition of Easy Mode, I mentioned that if my review backlog was taken care of, this would be a return to the full featured Easy Mode. Sadly, it's not - I've still got another half a dozen to do, so this week's edition will be slightly shorter than usual. Nonetheless, the Xbox 360 launch and subsequent release of details surrounding the belated Australian launch has given me plenty to rant about.
Matt's Somewhat Serious Bit
Well, the 22nd of November has passed us by, meaning that a few lucky gamers in the US now have their Xbox 360s. I really mean "a few" too - there hasn't been a launch with such a small amount of consoles since Sega's surprise launch of the Saturn at E3 1995. Many people waited for many hours outside their favourite stores, only to either leave the stores empty handed, or leave with a Core system (affectionately known as a "retard pack") instead of a Platinum system. Scalpers were also out in force, taking consoles out of the hands of consumers in order to re-sell them on Ebay at a great profit - some were even getting over the $US2000 mark on Wednesday morning. On top of that, many users have registered complaints with Microsoft customer service regarding a multitude of problems - overheating, constant crashing, inability to get on Xbox Live, and so on.
Microsoft will come out in a few days time and declare that the launch has been a massive success, and that they've made $X million in X days. I can't help but feel that they really rushed this launch - a large proportion of the machines were only manufactured in the last month, and it is believed that they launched only 300,000 units in the US for Tuesday's release, with a 60:40 split between Platinum and Core packs - a far cry from the 80:20 split that Peter Moore suggested. My belief is that Microsoft willingly gambled on Utility theory; that is a person will likely make a decision based on the outcome that gives them the most happiness, not the best expected monetary value - hence, these people would rather fork out the extra money for a Core pack with the Platinum pack accessecories than wait for a Platinum pack to come into stock. Shipments are likely to continue at a slow pace throughout the holiday season, but many stores feel they will not even fill their pre-orders until January.
"I went to the Xbox 360 launch and all I got was this lousy error screen"
About the same time the 360 went on sale in the United States, the details of the Australian launch were revealed - as you'd have already read, PALGN writers were in attendance, and got to sample a bunch of first party titles. The baffling thing (albeit expected) is that Microsoft are waiting until March to get the console out here, despite the fact that PAL units will be available from next Friday. Microsoft have reinterated time after time that Australia is one of their most important markets, and it is pretty obvious from market share figures (the Xbox has its largest market share percentage in Australia) that Australia is Microsoft's best shot at #1 - we should really be something of a testing ground for them, given that our tastes are relatively similar to those of the Americans (except sports, we prefer our Commonwealth bred sports). Why not take a slice of the European launch and give it to Australia, and make some of those loser Eastern-bloc nations miss out? You know they could have effectively launched here with < 50,000 units.
Once again, we'll be paying the PAL gamers' premium for the Xbox 360, this time it's about $US30 on the consoles (you have to strip the GST out of the price first, as US price are exclusive of tax, as tax varies from county to county and state to state) and ridiculous amounts on the games and peripherals. I made a fairly conservative estimate on the cost of peripherals in a conversation with Luke some months ago - I didn't expect to be spot on, but it turned out to be the case. $60 for a wired pad and $80 for a wireless (plus the price of the play and charge kit) is going to be pretty hard to swallow. On top of that, Australians and New Zealanders allegedly do not get either the headset of the Hi-definition AV cable in their pack - they have to buy those separately, while the rest of the world received them as pack-ins.
Microsoft has stated that they wish to sell 10 million Xbox 360s by the end of next year. It's a bit of a pipe dream - that's more than half the number of Xboxes they sold in 4 years. If they did it, I'd be happy for them, but I just can't see it happening, especially after the PlayStation Hype Machine(TM) kicks in. It'd take a colossal botch up and arrogance greater than that of Hiroshi Yamauchi to stop Sony, given that the entire world is in their pocket. It's too early to write anyone off just yet, though.
Microsoft seems to have done a lot of really cool things with regards to the Xbox 360's internal interface - voice chat is independent of games, so you can chat to your friends over Live while changing games, or even while playing completely different games. The Marketplace looks to have some solid content on there (Xbox Live compatible Smash TV = killer app, no doubt about it), and downloadable demos for many games are already available, though Australia's current broadband pricing structures could prove to be prohibitive to many users' Xbox Live experiences, with many demos and other content already reaching upward of one gigabyte. The launch lineup, while not entirely spectacular, is certainly solid - but there's no real standout title (Perfect Dark Zero seems to be getting mixed impressions). PALGN has been told that the machine will launch with around 30 titles on March 2nd - there's a lot of high profile ones due before then; Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter, Gears of War (allegedly), The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Dead Rising, Top Spin 2, Fight Night Round 3 and Full Auto. Whether these will actually be out in time for our launch still remains to be seen.
Some people just plain love console launches (photo taken by Agent Icebreezy of the Gaming Age Forums)
I can't believe it's a videogame! #1
The year was 1994. Tim Allen had the #1 TV show and #1 movie in the United States at the same time. Some bright person at Absolute Entertainment approached Touchstone TV to do a videogame based on the show.
Yes. A videogame based on a sitcom. It gets better.
The premise of the game is that Tim has had a new line of tools named after him by Binford, but they have been stolen by Hollywood big shots, and the player must guide Tim through various sets in order to get them back.
This even involves fighting dinosaurs. With a nail gun. And a chainsaw.
Left: Tim crimps one out, Right: A dinosaur crimps one out onto Tim
The game itself isn't entirely terrible. In fact, the whole experience is slightly funnier than a Gallagher HBO special.
The views expressed in the Easy Mode article are those of Matt Keller, and are not shared by PALGN, its affiliates or its advertisers.