Microsoft's J Allard: No HD is a good thing!

Just saw this article on Edge Online about Allard’s X05 interview regarding the Xbox 360 SKU without a hard disk.

Faced with the suggestion that Microsoft might have let down developers by removing the guarantee of a hard drive in every box, Allard said: “I don’t know who we’ve let down. There isn’t a game on 360 that you can’t play without a hard drive, so I think that’s a good thing for consumers. We’ve made a commitment to broadening the audience, and while I think most of our energy here at X05 is about the hardcore, over time we’re really setting the stage for making this a bigger category for everybody. […] So that seems like a win for developers – I’m not sure who’s supposed to be disappointed.”

It was put to Allard that Saint’s Row developer Volition had expressed difficulty in realising some of its ambitions for the project since the removal of the hard drive from the equation (citing issues with streaming and caching), to which he responded: “Sometimes doing the right thing means doing the hard thing. Are there developers who are disappointed? Yeah, sure. I wish there was a hard drive and I wish there were four terabytes of memory; I wish it were free to consumers and I wish we could put one in every TV set – there are a lot of wishes that I have but at the end of the day we’re trying to run a business, and you have to make those trade-offs. It was a difficult one – I was the biggest fan of the hard drive and its potential, but the problem is that we sold 22million Xbox consoles and 5million, maybe 10million just don’t care about it. But we paid for it. So who pays for it this time? We can either ask the gamer to pay for it, pay for it ourselves, or prove that there’s enough value in it and have the gamer say ‘I want to pay for it’ – I think that’s the right model. […]

You know, being first you sometimes get some crap, and we’ve had some crap. But I think it’s very pro-consumer and very pro-developer, and I think that in five years everybody will look back and say that this was a very, very good move on our part to launch worldwide and to have the flexibility for consumers to decide on their products.”

One site visitor posted the only appropriate reply to this embarrassing propaganda drivel:

I can’t believe this Allard is such an idiot, so I guess he’s taking the consumers for idiots.

So who pays for it this time? We can either ask the gamer to pay for it, pay for it ourselves, or prove that there’s enough value in it and have the gamer say ‘I want to pay for it’ – I think that’s the right model.

:lol: Seriously, :lol:

Right model indeed. One hell of a way to defend a expense saving decision.

What’s wrong with it? Honestly, name some things.

The creation of the core system pack (or “retard pack,” as it is sometimes called) has split the potential userbase, and, more importantly, has caused difficulty and some cutbacks in development for the system. Bethesda apparently had a hell of a time getting Oblivion crammed into the system memory without a HD to stream from, and Volition’s game will no longer have planes or any kind of flight gameplay because the engine was designed with a HD in mind and simply couldn’t be recalibrated in time to stream that much from the disc.

It was an absolutely bonehead move. Anyone who looks at the stuff you get in the premium pack will find it obvious that the core pack is a ripoff, but how many will do that? Hopefully it’s just a PR stunt allowing Microsoft to say “we have a $300 next-gen console!” that can quickly be phased out in favor of standardizing the system with a HD in all territories. Hell, Japan’s getting just the premium pack version, and about $60 cheaper than the US gets it. I’d rather have that, thanks.

Matt, developers have known all along that the hard drive would not be standard, this is no surprise. Bethesda new about it, Volition did as well.

Developers can’t put in any major feature that depends on a hard drive. So even if you have one of the units that has a hard drive, you’re getting less value from it than you might, because the developers can’t really leverage it.

Matt, developers have known all along that the hard drive would not be standard, this is no surprise. Bethesda new about it, Volition did as well.

Yep. Even when Microsoft were saying the harddrive was standard, developers were told to support a system where the harddrive was unplugged.

I think it’s really dumb that the hard drive isn’t being made standard, but I’ve never read anything that would indicate that MS ever mislead developers into thinking it would be.

Well, other than the fact that Bethesda and Volition were making games expecting it to be there. Why would they do that if they were told that it was optional way back when they started? Hmmm?

–Dave

I don’t know why Dave. Every other developer knew this in advance.

Did they? How do you know?

–Dave

You mean it won’t matter if I buy an XBox 360 with a hard drive or not, since nothing will support it? YEAH BABY!

Well, heh, that’s not really true either. Supposedly, without the hard drive, you’ll potentially be missing something. It might be that the game loads faster with the hard drive. You might not be able to download certain add-ons. You likely won’t be able to play Final Fantasy XI without the HD.

So it’s not that clear cut. Better hold up on the WOOOOOO! for a bit. :)

–Dave

And let’s not forget… no backward compatibility without the hard disk!

Now let’s think for a second. Who’s likely to buy the cheaper SKU? Not perhaps the same people who don’t have an Xbox and would like to get some old Xbox games at a reduced price?

I predict that Microsoft customer support will be swamped with complaints of non-HD customers one day after launch because they can’t play Halo 2.

"Did they? How do you know? "

Because I develop games and that was one of the first bits of information that was really known about Xenon development.

So why did those guys not know that?

–Dave

They may have been aware that the HD wasn’t going to be standard, but did they think they could make a game requiring the HD to play? Maybe what changed is a ruling from MS that no games can require the HD.

That’s why I’m asking. There’s something that made these two companies think they would have the hard drive there in the machine and they were planning to use it as an integral part of their game designs. The company line that “everyone knew” rings hollow when two developers (at least) were planning on using it all along and had to reverse course late in development.

–Dave

They didn’t say nothing will support it. They said nothing will REQUIRE it (though supposedly FFXI does).

Several games will have faster load times with the hard drive. Itagaki has made it very clear that they’re fully supporting the HDD with DoA4, and that while you can play the game without it, you really want it to be happy. And of course with the hard drive you have a practically infinite memory card for saves. If you don’t buy the HDD, you have to buy a memory card, which will eventually fill up and require you to buy another, and then you gotta remember where your saves are, etc etc.

There will be a fair amount of large stuff to download off of Live with the 360, and the hard drive is good for that. I don’t just mean for-pay stuff, I mean game videos and playable demos.

Regarding the quote: I went and read the whole article, and it clear to me that Allard is not saying that development is better or easier without a hard drive. He’s saying that offering a HDD-less version, and requiring nearly all games to work without a HDD, allows them to - in the future - drive down the cost of the system a whole lot more and really broaden the audience, selling in parts of the world where the systems really didn’t get a push last time. And that’s what he is saying is good for developers; their ability to reach a much bigger market by offering a HDD-less model.

It seemed that’s what he was talking about when I read it.

I don’t think that’s the point of the HDD-less model. I think the point of it is that in 2007 or 2008 they can offer an Xbox 360 for $50-100 less than they sell the Xbox for now. Like $99 or something. It’s not so that people have a $300 option right off the bat…that’s not “growing the market” becasue anyone who would spend $300 on an Xbox 360 probably bought at least one of the existing consoles. The idea is to be able to offer a $99 console in China and India and basically all over the world in a couple of years, and get some new people playing who weren’t before. And by the time they get down to that price in 2007 or 2008 or whatever, people aren’t going to be looking at old Xbox games so much as 360 games.

To be clear, before I get accused of backing MS blindly: the above is what I think MS’s ambition is. I personally love the HDD and I’m disapointed that developers can’t make games that require it - at least not yet (maybe they’ll ease up on that in the future?). I understand the economics of it, and I know why hard drives can’t drive down in price the same way silicon can, so I can see why they did it. Some developers said they were asked early on if they would rather have a standard hard drive with 256MB of RAM or an optional one with 512MB of RAM. If that is indeed true, I think they went the right way. That doesn’t stop me from truly wishing every 360 had a hard drive.

360 noob question here ,but if you do buy the core pack, does that mean you can’t buy the hard drive later on and get it that way? I’m still deciding which next gen systems I would consider buying buy haven’t made up my mind yet.