While many gamer’s first instinct will be to either embrace or shun this as some sort of hate article about the Xbox 360, it couldn’t be further from the truth. It will only be viewed that way by those that either can’t stand to face the fact that their favorite console has faults or those who just love to gobble up anything negative about competing consoles. No matter which side of the fence you sit on, there’s no arguing that Microsoft has dropped the ball in a few instances while sculpting one of the most innovative machines to grace the home videogame console market. We all know how achievements and Xbox LIVE have furthered the gaming hobby in recent years, so we’re going to look at the “not-so-smooth” moves by gaming’s youngest console company.
Launching Xbox 360 Models without a Hard Drive
It was the gripe heard around the world since the launch of the Xbox 360. After boasting an internal HDD in every original Xbox that landed in the homes of gamers, Microsoft felt it was just too expensive to continue including the harddrive and chose to offer SKUs (models) that didn’t have a hard disk in them. The plan was to get more consoles into more homes by offering variety. Microsoft’s thinking was that if people wanted expanded memory for saves and DLC, they could buy it later. They just wanted to make sure they got as many consoles out the door as possible. The problem arose when developers, who had liked the cache ability on the original Xbox, started complaining that the limited size of DVD-9 and the uncertainty of HDD inclusion affected game design. It’s a valid argument and one that still remains, although it has dissipated in recent years.
The X-Clamp Design Resulting in the RROD
Why, oh why did Microsoft choose this design for the Xbox 360? The X-clamps caused stress on the motherboard, which combined with the large amount of heat in the original Xbox 360 models, caused the CPU and GPU to become unseated and pull away from the board. Obviously the console can’t operate with the computing and graphics chips disconnected from the consoles motherboard. This resulted in the highest failure rate of any major console to be on the market. After a huge marketing campaign and an extended warranty, Microsoft was able to overcome this very costly mistake and has managed to hold onto a large market share. Who knows how much better off the software giant would have been if they had done a better job with the hardware.
Mismanagement of First-Party Developers
This, like the other mistakes on this list, is no secret. Microsoft did what anyone would do when entering a very competitive business like console gaming. In addition to a stable of internal development houses from their successful Windows games, they equipped themselves with an arsenal of weapons. Bringing in independent studios like Bizarre Creations for first-party titles like the Project Gotham series and Bungie with their now iconic Halo franchise, Microsoft was equipped to be a major player. Shortly after the launch of the original Xbox they even acquired Rare from Nintendo. Since then, they’ve shut down FASA Studios and Ensemble Studios– famous for Mech Assault and Age of Empires respectively. Rare has failed to deliver outside of a decent Banjo Kazooie game and a critically successful, but commercial failure in Viva Pinata. Bungie is now under contract with Activision. If this isn’t considered mismanagement, we don’t know what is. Especially considering we barely touched on the closures and losses under the Microsoft Games Studios umbrella.
Lack of Policing on Xbox LIVE
Xbox LIVE is the leader in online console gaming. Some people gripe about the cost, but no one can argue the service’s supremacy. There is one common complaint on Xbox LIVE and that’s the ridiculous amount of cheating and immaturity. That’s not to say XBL is the only service with immaturity. Play Call of Duty (any version) on the PS3 or PC and you’ll inevitably get called a racial slur or hear a ton of curse words in a high-pitched voice from little kid attempting to sound older by using foul language. So that’s not exclusive to XBL, but because of the large number of XBL users and having more “younger” players than the PC, we’d like some form of policing. That’s where the completely useless report system comes in. This rarely works. Some can argue it’s the price you pay to play online, but I thought that was one of the reasons we actually paid a price.
No Actual Controller Option for Kinect
The fictional “V.P. of Everything” Kevin Butler said it best at last year’s E3, what about those millions of gamers who like “buttons”? The Kinect hardware still holds a lot of potential while already being adopted by a good chunk of the established Xbox 360 populous. Right now though, its library of games consists of a lot of “dodge, jump, and dance” games. The games that are available are fun. The first time I booted up Kinect Sports, I had a ball. Then I booted up one game after another that continued to feel the same. I played Dance Central and that’s fun, but then you find every other dance game is the same. It would make a huge difference to have one single button for something. Examples being turbo in racing games instead of the strange-feeling jerking of the arms. Kinect is innovative and we look forward to seeing what’s in store, but for now we really wish we had at least one button.
- Choosing DVD-9, although many popular games don’t even push this format to capacity, so not a major failure.
- No Killer Instinct release from Rare
- No Web Browser on the 360 (both competing platforms offer one)
- No wifi built-in until 2010