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Something wrong with Microsoft's Xbox Team


foogledricks
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I'm an Xbox fanboy but I'm seeing some odd rumblings in the media about Microsoft falling apart right now. I'm not making a case why Microsoft sucks here. But there seem to be a lot of little and big things that make me think "What the hell is going on at Microsoft?" - individually they're not important, but altogether they seem perhaps to indicated something bad going on.

 

  • -Bungie leaving
  • -Project Gotham/Geometry Wars team leaving
  • -Rumors about the Marvel MMO being cancelled
  • -Shadowrun/MechAssault team gone
  • -Rare continuing to suck (I think this might turn into something significant if Rare gets canned which they might)
  • -Recent XBlive problems
  • -$50 XBlive and growing sentiment that it should be free as PSN HOME gets closer to release (Again, not significant now, but if Home is actually good, the tide could turn on people's love for XBlive)
  • -Downfall of HD-DVD. This represents a big investment for Microsoft, and a factor that will probally give the PS3 a greater advantage going forward.
  • -Red Ring continues to hurt. No way to know what affect this had on Microsoft's support for the Xbox division.
  • -"Exclusive" Splinter Cell game has not been well-received by people who have seen it
  • -Promises like XNA bringing an avalanch of indie development to XBLA have been fairly quiet and insubstantial since that was annouced.
  • -Peter Moore leaving
  • -No presence at CES
  • -Games for Window, Live Anywhere, Xblive for Windows, and Windows Vista all being vaporware, quiet, dissappoint, or irrelvant.
  • -Gears of War, one of their biggest IPs, is tied to a 3rd party developer that has no loyalty to them.
  • -Their second shot at Japan, is flopping pretty hard with only marginal success of Blue Dragon, and upcoming Japanese games unlikely to move consoles.
  • -The 360 won't be able to ride the wave of Sony's horrible start for much longer. Soon, the PS3 will actually start selling, gaining momentum, and provide stiffer competition in the coming year and beyond.
  • -Games like Too Human, Fable 2, and Alan Wake were all once considered AAA titles but based on the way they're marketing and public relations have gone, it is unclear how important these titles are going to be for Microsoft. I mean, "Gears of War" had unwaivering support by Microsoft that made everyone believe it was going to be awesome, for over two years straight! What does the silence say about their confidence in these products?
  • -Mass Effect trilogy now in the hands of EA?

It seems like either there has been a perfect storm of bad tidings, or we're seeing a recession of investment in the Xbox platform by the Microsoft execs (perhaps after the red ring loss, the execs cut the budget and told them to basically let 3rd party support,their existing momentum, and Sony's blunders, carry them through the next two years?)

 

Or am I being alarmist? Seriously, anyone think the Xbox platform isn't being as loved by Microsoft as much as it seemed to be two years ago. It seems odd timing for them to take their foot off the gas. Just as Sony is about to pick up steam.

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Sorry, I can't discuss due to open litigation.

 

But in all seriousness...

 

Some great points and certainly shows an overall downward swing. Hardware & LIVE problems are my two biggest concerns. Obviously their holiday growth had a negative impact on LIVE's performance. Not that I know what the hell I'm talking about but with over 10 million subscribers, simply expanding their server farms is probably not the only thing they need to do. I wonder if a whole redesign of the network infrastructure is being considered. I would think troubleshooting intermittent issues of a service as large as LIVE has got to be some what difficult.

 

All said and done, the xbox 360 has got the games I want to play. IMO the PS3 is still a year away from being able to compete effectively for my gaming dollar. Microsoft needs to step up before they lose a good chunk of their market share they worked so hard for.

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I wrote about this 7 months ago. Microsoft isn't a ghost town, its playing everything very smart.

 

http://www.lcvg.com/forum/showthread.php?t=10809

 

Is it just me or has Redmond been a ghost town recently. The only word out of there is Halo 3.... Surely there is something else going on?

 

I'm betting that late last year they started development on the Xbox 360^2 and have since started bigger production work on it. After the release of Halo 3, their resources will start throwing their weight internally to the next generation platform in a big way.

 

Predictions for the XBox next:

1) Fully networked dashboard. The barrier between yourself and other people will have new groundbreaking innovations which will help make the system both feel more personal and more social.

2) 12 General Purpose Processors: Why 12? Why not 16? Because as die size increases, manufacturing process errors becomes a big huge problem. This is because the reliability of a system is defined by the multiplication of the reliability of each of its parts. In other words, although each processor in the 16 has a 90% probability (grossly overestimated!!) of being a working processor, a 16 processor system has a probability as a whole of .9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9*.9 or .9^16 or 18.5%. Whereas potentially having 4 processors as redundant, gives a yield of 28.25%! Although these numbers seem small, relatively speaking you have an additional yield of about 50% more working processors. Therefore the approach would be to make 16 and treat 4 as redundant to increase yield.

3) 192 GPU Processing Threads: The GPU threads will be made to be even more general purpose, but the biggest improvement here will be the asynchrony of the system as a whole. Very few operations will require the GPU to stop and flush its cores current processing workloads. This will be accomplished by sending up state packets through the pipeline along with normal rendering data. Parallelism limits here will eventually be reached because, if you are rendering to a texture, and you subsequently need to use that texture the previous operations must be finished before the next operations can begin. Although I do think these limits are another generation away from being hit on a massive scale, there is still much to be gained in the meantime from exploiting this parallelism.

4) 4gb of memory. There is going to be much more data necessary to drive those 12 processors efficiently. Even with 4gb, this is going to seem small when you start considering that texture sizes will also increase. Nevertheless, breaking the 4gb barrier on consoles is something that will probably be done two generations from now. Although bandwidth will improve here, latency will commonly be the determining factor in everyday calculations.

5) With all of this graphics prowess, perceived gameplay quality will still only marginally improve from previous console generations.

6) Animation at this point will be at a very high quality. People will actually start moving and responding to the world like real people in every situation. Previous generation games will also have great animation quality, but this console generation will set a standard and raise the bar.

7) Physics will become a more and more important part of gameplay. The motif that HalfLife 2 started will be echoed and amplified in the next generation.

8) Novel input mechanisms. Speech recognition will be common place in some game types. Gone will be the days of "Choose between the following options to speak", you will actually start talking to people and it will try to discern meaning from what you said. This is going to be bad news for the people who loved Blue Dragon 1 & 2 and are mute.

9) Every game will be a MMO. Ok maybe not, there will still be a few "classic" single player titles, but the majority of titles in the future will be networked in some way. The lines between a MMO and a regular game will blur in the next generation and be almost completely eliminated the generation after.

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I'm not making a case why Microsoft sucks here.

I can do that if you want. ;)

 

Those are all excellent points Keith. I think the biggest concern with MS is what their plans are for the next console. If they release too early, it will cost them huge. I know I will not be buying their hardware for at least a year unless it comes with the 3 year warranty out of the box. I wonder if HD-DVD going the way of the dodo will cause them to accelerate their plans. I have a sneaking suspicion that Holiday '09 will be the release of the new console, and it will be a disaster. Especially if they go and just abandon the 360 like they did the original X-box.

 

-Dean-

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I have a sneaking suspicion that Holiday '09 will be the release of the new console, and it will be a disaster
That would be a disaster, and incredibly stupid IMO. That would mean the 360 would only be out 4 years, then they would release a console so soon after finally making a profit on a console.

 

The comment about CES means nothing. The last 4 years rumors come up of some big Microsoft announcement and it never happens. Nothing big gaming related came out of CES from anyone. Except Skype on PSP, and demo's people have already seen everyone was quiet

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Nobody outside Microsoft can say with absolute certainty when they will ship their next console. Expecting it before 2010 would be odd. Making a next generation console is not a very quick thing to do. The very term "next generation" implies research and development, and perhaps even basic research before the R&D. I would expect though, some level of backwards compatibility. I'm willing to bet though, that whatever they have planned it will be absolutely amazing.

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Sony is in the one down position (or two down if you include Nintendo), Despite all the FUD flying around about Microsoft recently. Sony needs Microsoft to screw up big time if it is to more than double its sales while at the same time more than halving Microsoft's. I don't think Microsoft is that stupid. I mean, the FUD campaign is their own trick! You can't bull shit a bullshitter so to speak.

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I have a sneaking suspicion that Holiday '09 will be the release of the new console, and it will be a disaster.
I think this is a terrible prediction. And I'll take that bet. I will buy you that new console if it comes out in 2009. But if it comes out in 2011, YOU will have to buy it for me. If it comes out in 2010, we're both in the clear. How about that. You down?
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My only small concern about the 360 is that it blew its load this year by releasing too many great games in such a short period of time. 2008 doesn't look as exciting as 2007. That being said I expect I'll be picking up some bargain bin games (or at least renting some) in 2008 and catching up on games I missed. Heck I haven't even beat Mass Effect yet because of my addiction to COD4 online. I'm not worried about the state of the 360 although there have been times when I've questioned wether MS can keep this up. Right now its hands down my favorite console when it comes to sheer gaming goodness and I dont see that changing this generation. PS3 still has a grand total of zero games that interest me and the Wii is nothing to me without a Wave Race and/or Mario Kart game. :) Thankfully the PS3 has been a great Blu-Ray player and gets frequent use because of it. Obviously the PS3 will benefit alot from Blu-Ray's recent win of the format war but damn release some killer games already. I am really interested to see what MS does next generation though. They can't survive more hardware issues.

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That would be a disaster, and incredibly stupid IMO. That would mean the 360 would only be out 4 years, then they would release a console so soon after finally making a profit on a console.

 

The comment about CES means nothing. The last 4 years rumors come up of some big Microsoft announcement and it never happens. Nothing big gaming related came out of CES from anyone. Except Skype on PSP, and demo's people have already seen everyone was quiet

 

Yes, the FUD is deep in this one isn't it.

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I would say that a good hunk of that list is outside of MS' control and therefore really shouldn't be put on their plate. Gears of War is 3rd party, so what? GTA games were 3rd party and it worked out just fine for the PS2.

 

The parts that worry me in MS' list of woe are these:

 

* The issues with Live. It worked like a charm for 3 years, suddenly I can't even log in under 2 mins just to access my saved games. Very poor, they need to fix this yesterday!

 

* The Japan situation. Maybe this generation is too far gone, but they really need to figure out what the Japanese like and dislike and design to that.

 

* The console price should be lowered $50-100 by this spring/summer. Enough with playing "me too" with Sony, use your cheaper console to force them to make tough choices. It should have been lower last Xmas, but as of now it's almost neccesary IMHO.

 

* Get the hardware problems solved for goodness sakes. This is just pitiful and the ultimate price of releasing a year early. But it's been quite a long time, if they wouldn't keep taking short cuts in redesign this would be a dead issue by now (instead of more dead consoles.)

 

At the end of the day, are they going to commit to this business or just nickel and dime themselves to death? They don't need to address every issue, but those above are the most pressing IMHO.

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Well we will see at GDC what Microsoft's plans are for 08.

 

The CMP Game Group announced today that Microsoft's John Schappert, who oversees Xbox Live and Games for Windows, will be presenting the session “A Future Wide Open: Unleashing the Creative Community” at the Game Developers Conference 2008.

 

As corporate vice president of LIVE, Software and Services for the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft Corp., John Schappert oversees all platform technologies and businesses, including console software, Xbox Live and Games for Windows.

 

The organizers revealed that the session will set the strategy for Xbox 360 this upcoming year, revealing top developers' plans for the platform in 2008.

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* The Japan situation. Maybe this generation is too far gone, but they really need to figure out what the Japanese like and dislike and design to that.

 

The Japan situation doesn't really have very much to do with the games. The Japanese have a lot of loyalty to their country. They see Microsoft as a kind of outsider, and so their strong sense of country suggests to them not to support MS. How to solve that problem, is a difficult one. I can say one thing though, just getting the majority of Japanese to develop on the 360 at all is quite an achievement.

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* Get the hardware problems solved for goodness sakes. This is just pitiful and the ultimate price of releasing a year early. But it's been quite a long time, if they wouldn't keep taking short cuts in redesign this would be a dead issue by now (instead of more dead consoles.)

 

Although I've heard many woes of 360 problems, my 360 is an original and its running just fine. My PS3 on the other hand is as dead as a doorstop. I'm debating on if I should get a new one. Convincing the boss to drop another $400 (a total of $1000 on the PS3 not including controllers, connectors, and games) might be tough right now.

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Although I've heard many woes of 360 problems, my 360 is an original and its running just fine. My PS3 on the other hand is as dead as a doorstop.

I'm sure you realize that you are in the complete minority with that statement, right? One only need look at the poll conducted here to see a more than 40% failure rate on the console with just this small group of gamers.

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I'm sure you realize that you are in the complete minority with that statement, right? One only need look at the poll conducted here to see a more than 40% failure rate on the console with just this small group of gamers.

 

I do realize that and hope that I did not just jinx myself! :)

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