Freon

Microsoft’s next salvo in the gaming wars…

For those that thought MS was sticking with “just games”, welcome to the real world. This isn’t set in stone yet, obviously, but pushing other features into the machine and turning the console cycle into something that’s only two or three years long isn’t going to make anyone at MS any friends on the retail side. You can’t deal with retailers the same way you deal with OEMs. More importantly, you can’t expect consumers to enter into a costly, shortened upgrade cycle for something they don’t “need”.

This part jumps out immediately too…

Still, Mr. Gates doesn’t seem convinced. In his memo, sent after one of his periodic “think weeks” away from the office, he mused about whether a hard drive would be necessary for Xbox’s online-gaming service, expected to be launched later this year. “Do we really know that you have to have a disk to do online?” Mr. Gates wrote. “I think it’s probably right, but say Sony tries to do online without it – how bad will it really be?”

The answer of course is not bad at all. Dreamcast had great online play with no broadband and no hard drive. Of course, Mr. Gates probably never played anything online on a DC nor did his guys tell him about that when pitching the original Xbox I’m sure. Why would they? They were competing with another branch of MS for the job. There’s so much optimistic thinking behind Xbox. The business plan just gets further and further from games and was clearly never targeted to stay “just games” ever despite the constant comments that said otherwise.

Instead of worrying about all this added functionality and “changing development cycles”, they should worry about making some games that sell their box. Otherwise, this will always be an also ran and appeal to the hardest of the hardcore or the posers only.

–Dave

Interesting. The article says that Microsoft might release a new system next year. If it’s a next gen Xbox, that will anger some people who plopped down $300 for the current one. Sega created some ill-will with their Genesis CD system that they quickly abandoned for the Saturn.

OTOH, if what they release next year is simply an Xbox with the Tivo stuff built-in, I doubt current Xbox owners will be upset.

And if MS does release a next gen Xbox in 2004, like the article hints at, I bet the PS3 will be bumped up a bit.

2004 would be early to release an upgraded Xbox.

But if they’re just slapping a Tivo inside, they’d just be increasing the cost of the unit when the going rate for an Xbox will probably be $125-150.

Maybe it’s just a trial balloon.

Well, the Xbox already has a hard-drive in it.

  • Alan

Sony has to make online gaming work without a HD because PSX2 dosn’t come with one. Especially for MM type games.

Before anyone gets too hot and bothered, please read the article carefully. And please note that it’s not necessarily written by people who know enough about games to clarify what we want clarified. :) I suspect we’ll see some interviews pop up in the coming week or so asking questions.

Some things to note specifically:

  • They’re not talking about Xbox 2. In fact the article specifically states that “Microsoft officials are also mum about the release date for the Xbox console’s next version, known as “Xbox Next,” expected about 2005 or 2006.” And look at the title of the article. “Microsoft’s Freon project is an Xbox, with extras.”

  • There’s lots of speculation going on here, including guessing a price ($500) for a device that is not yet designed, hasn’t had any market testing, which “Microsoft officials won’t comment” on, etc. My favorite source in the technology business is the anonymous “sources familiar with the project.” That guy is responsible for breaking the news on a whole lot of things that never happen, or getting the details totally wrong. :)

  • Some of the quotes are definitely misleading. They’re pulling out old quotes from people who aren’t actually talking about Freon. Like Gates’ quote from January (given in a meeting about how well they sold during the Xmas season), or best of all, Shinichi Okamoto’s quote from Sony, which I read a few months before the Xbox’s launch.

I think this Freon project is probably real, but it’s just that: a design project. One of many, I’m sure. MS designs and tests many things, some of which see the light of day, some of which don’t, and almost none of which go unchanged before release.

But this is NOT the next generation of Xbox. They’re NOT talking about something that will break compatibility with the current Xbox library. This is an article about releasing a new machine that will play Xbox games and serve as a TiVo-like device.

That’s why the quotes about changing the system release cycle is misleading. It’s not changing the system release cycle because it’s not going to be met with new games requiring new hardware. There will be no “Freon” games, just Xbox games.

The remarks about “beating Sony” with Freon is sort of misleading as well. They’re not talking about beating Sony’s PS3 to market with their next-gen system, they’re talking about beating Sony’s long-rumored plans to turn the PS2 into a “media gateway” for your TV with their media wonderbox plans.

Here’s another link to similar speculation:
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/zd/20020701/tc_zd/940843