Xbox 360: The European Launch

…because we needed another Xbox 360 thread!

I don’t actually want to buy one (I already have a PSP to fill my quota of consoles without games I want to play) but I went by the local Media Markt anyway to check out the demo console and the supply situation.

The demo was Project Gotham Racing 3, I think. Looked pretty good, almost as good as games on my PC. :P Seriously, I didn’t see anything special other than the HD display. Maybe other games are more impressive.

There were seven 'tard boxes on the floor, waiting for a 'tard to pick them up. No premium systems at all – only preorders were sold, and they told me that if I ordered one now, I might get lucky and get mine before Christmas.

I recall Allard or someone claiming that Microsoft would make at most 10% core systems… that was basically a lie, right? My impression is that MS is trying to reduce hardware losses by forcing people to buy core systems with expensive extras, since that’s the only sure way to get one for the holidays.

Speaking of which, there were tons of add-on hard disks, something like 20 or 30. Can’t see how to make an eBay profit off them since they’re already so expensive, unfortunately…

I also checked German eBay for premium systems. They’re selling at about €500 which is merely €100 above the regular price. Looks like the interest in this console isn’t terribly strong over here, to say the least.

By the way, this is the first console launch I’ve seen since the Gamecube (the first one I consciously followed) where the system (i.e. the real one…) was sold out before launch day. GC, DS, and PSP all had a generous supply on the afternoon of launch day, and in the following couple of days as well.

Conclusion from my anecdotal evidence: Splitting the SKUs into Core and Premium was a mistake, or else a dishonest trick to reduce hardware losses. Premium is sold out while Core is rotting on the floor, and there’s a suspiciously large number of add-on HDs available.

Splitting supply across territories was also a mistake. Demand isn’t nearly as strong here as in America, and Japan seems to be weaker still. Sure, I like to get my games as soon as anyone else, but with this small launch lineup this isn’t really an issue yet. Microsoft should have shipped all systems to America where Xbox demand is traditionally much stronger than anywhere else.

PS: The original Xbox is now down to €150. I considered picking one up but other than Halo 2, I didn’t see any games that I wanted to play and that I hadn’t already played on the PC. Microsoft needs to do something about exclusives, that’s for sure…

It would be interesting to see what the true premium/core split actually was for the US launch. To take a wild guess from reports of people waiting on store lines I’d guess around 30-40%.

I don’t know if MS intended this or not but (as I stated somewhere else) it’s a little sad to see hardcore games opt for the retard pack and buy all the premium included materials seperately just to play with it early. I myself would have seriuosly considered it had I been waiting for hours in a B&M store.

News on the British launch by Jupiter analyst Nate Elliott:

Virgin Megastore, 9:40am. They didn’t open at midnight, they just opened at 9am as usual. The staff member I spoke to said they’d received somewhere between 50 and 100 units total, most of them core systems (the ones without hard drives). All the premium bundles (with hard drives) were taken by pre-orders. When I got there, they still had 11 core systems in stock, but the queue at the till was 6 people deep.

  • Dixons, 9:45am. They didn’t open at midnight, and weren’t even open when I got there – they kept their regular opening time of 10am. The staff guy there told me they’d received “around 15 or 20” systems in total, and only 2 of those were premium bundles (both pre-ordered). There were around 8 or 10 people in the queue, but the guy told me if I waited I could probably get my hands on a core system when they opened – meaning there were very few pre-orders here.

  • Game, 9:50am. This is the flagship Game store, and they did open at midnight – but they didn’t sell systems to anyone who hadn’t pre-ordered until their normal opening time this morning. (If you’d pre-ordered and got stuck with a core system, they did have some add-on hard drives you could buy – but they’d just sold out when I got there.) The staff members I spoke with didn’t seem to know how many total units they’d been allocated. But they still had stocks of the core system when I visited, and the queue was around 15 people deep.

  • HMV, 9:55am. They didn’t open at midnight, but there wouldn’t have been a point. In the words of one staff member I spoke to, they “way oversold” their pre-orders. She said that if you’d pre-ordered and not gotten a system, you could either take your deposit money back (£10, she thought) or wait and hope to get one next week when another shipment came in.

I guess that settles it. The core system is not for the poor little children in Nepal and Central Africa, as some would have us believe – it’s deliberate customer fraud. If Microsoft can’t make enough 360s then why are there plenty of core systems everywhere? They deliberately underproduced premium systems in order to trick people into buying core systems with add-ons instead, thus reducing Microsoft’s staggering loss on 360 hardware sales.

In other news, Britain proves once again that it’s part of America rather than Europe:

And much like the American launch, online auctions for the console are fetching drastically higher than retail prices on eBay. Prices on premium systems, which retail for 279 pounds ($483) in the UK and 399 euros ($467) elsewhere in Europe went as high as 820 pounds ($1,421). Core systems, which retail for 209 pounds ($362) or 299 euros ($350) were pulling in as much as 471 pounds ($816).

This is absolutely not true for German eBay which I just re-checked. Premium systems continue selling for around €450 which is even less than yesterday, and core systems sell at less than €350. Makes me wonder if I should buy a bunch and ship them off to crazy Britain…

One of our guys got himself a Premium pack yesterday - pre-ordered 3 months ago - and hooked it up at work. We tried out Kameo, NfS: Most Wanted and PGR3. Kameo looked fun, NfS and PGR3 didn’t exactly overwhelm anyone. And while we’re at the topic of PG3 - didn’t have racing games better looking trees 5-6 years ago?

-Julian

No kidding. I was playing PGR3 at a Best Buy on the Samsung HD screen that MS hand picked for their demo kiosks and was utterly underwhelmed. Same gameplay, higher res, BFD. It didn’t look any better (to me) than PGR2.

Maybe they spent all their extra polys on the individually rendered spectators who take pictures of you as you drive by.

I happened to visit a Big Electronics Chain yesterday and saw plenty of Core systems left, a couple of days after launch. No premium systems left, but plenty of accessories. It seems US gamers are the only ones going crazy over the 360.

Or the only ones stupid enough to buy the crappy core systems and pay a premium to upgrade them to viability. I’d buy the latter. We have a very interesting consumer mindset over here at times.

A friend of mine pre-ordered 3 xbox 360’s last week (at 3 different places) after he heard about the US launch… He got all three without a problem on releaseday.

He wanted to sell on ebay, but the prices are often going lower or same price as retail over here in Belgium.

I really kinda want the 360 to fail on general principal now. I know, Sony is just as much the devil as Microsoft, but this whole Core/Premium BS just keeps getting worse.

Chris Woods

Europe definitely hasn’t been as ravenous as the US. I think the UK was better than other countries, but clearly it’s not a 100% sell-out like we got here, even though Next-Gen has some talk today about it being just that.

–Dave

Good… maybe that’ll shift some production schedule our way then.

Wonder if it has anything to do with the even shorter window between generations over there.

I don’t really know what’s involved in a change of production from Euro xboxen to US xboxen, but I doubt that the switch from PAL to NTSC is so non-trivial that get you guys more shipments before christmas. And after christmas, will it even matter anymore?

Does HDTV even give a fuck about ntsc and pal?

Does HDTV even give a fuck about ntsc and pal?[/quote]
No. But I’d be willing to bet people would care when you had machines that played DVDs in the wrong region.

However, everything that MS has said indicates these things are being assembled and shipped out as fast as possible so to speak. Unless they have a set number of component PAL/NTSC/NTSC-J boards already made and can’t get more, I’m not convinced they couldn’t shift production on the fly since it already sounds like they’re working close to the bone so to speak. Later on when things are entirely automated per region it may be different, but I didn’t get the feeling from some of how things were being portrayed that there’s one assembly line per region and they’re all churning at full capacity. Maybe they are though.

When I think of Europe, especially for product launches, I think of the UK. If it seems to be doing well in the UK… That isn’t to say that countries like Belgium don’t matter, but there should be an expected drop in demand.

Also, see:

The dust has cleared from the European launch of Xbox 360, the next-generation video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, and preliminary reports indicate it’s a runaway hit.

Thousands of gamers queued up at stores in the 16 European launch countries on the evening of 1st December to be among the first to purchase Xbox 360, resulting in a sell-out situation across the region in its first day at retail. Early reports also show a huge demand for games and accessories, with most customers leaving stores not only with an Xbox 360, but with multiple games and accessories.

Top-selling games include “Perfect Dark Zero” (Rare-Microsoft Game Studios), “Project Gotham Racing 3” (Bizarre Creations-MGS), “Kameo: Elements of Power” (Rare – MGS), FIFA Road to the World Cup (EA Sports), “Call of Duty 2” (Activision), and Peter Jackson’s King Kong (Ubisoft). Accessories like the Wireless Networking Adapter, extra Wireless Controllers and Faceplates also proved popular.

Kevin Sage, 33, of London, joined the queue at GAME on London’s Oxford Street in the early afternoon of Thursday to ensure he got a console. “I can’t wait to get home and play this game,” said Sage. “I will remember this for the rest of my life!”

“Xbox 360 sales have been tremendous this weekend” said Lisa Morgan, UK Managing Director GAME. “We have sold out almost all of our initial allocation over the weekend, and have seen great sales on games and accessories too. We will be getting more stock in over the next few weeks and expect similar levels of support from consumers and expect the exceptional levels of demand to continue.”

Despite the sell-out, gamers who missed out on launch day can still experience the next generation of gaming and entertainment this Christmas. Xbox will be replenishing stock at retail over the coming weeks and into 2006, so anxious gamers should continue to check back at their local retailer.

“The demand for Xbox 360 has been incredible and we are well aware that many gamers are disappointed to have not got their Xbox 360 on day one,” said pointed to have not gotten their Xbox 360 on day one," said Neil Thompson, Senior European Regional Director, Home and Entertainment Division. “We are working around the clock to manufacture as many Xbox 360s as we can and are replenishing retail stores in Europe in the weeks coming up to Christmas. We remain committed to delivering up to 3 million consoles to consumers worldwide in our first 90 days alone. Consumers should check back with their retailers frequently.”

Fifteen Xbox 360 titles are now on sale in Europe, with more lined up in the near future such as Dead or Alive 4 (Tecmo/MGS), The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2K Games), Splinter Cell 4 (Ubisoft), Tomb Raider: Legend (Eidos), Burnout Revenge (EA) and The Godfather (EA).

“The arrival of Xbox 360 marks the industry’s leap into the next generation, and EA’s launch line up is right at the forefront,” said Gerhard Florin, Executive Vice President and General Manager for International Publishing, Electronic Arts. “We’re delivering five of the world’s most popular franchises right out of the gate to give consumers spectacular versions of their favourite games that truly unlock the magic of the new console. And more quality entertainment is on the way - we will continue to deliver a slew of games in the months ahead that combine the power of the 360 with EA’s innovation in graphics and gameplay.”

At Activision, Roger Walkden, Vice President, UK, Emerging Markets & European Marketing, said; “Activision is thrilled to have worked with Microsoft on the launch of Xbox 360. Our four launch titles, Call of Duty 2; Quake 4; Tony Hawks American Wasteland and Gun are already selling through well. The next generation of videogames consoles offers Activision the opportunity to maximise on the technological advancements offered, benefiting both our development teams and consumers.”

Jose, I’ve seen that Microsoft report. It’s pure bullshit, except for the UK. Did you miss the fact that a bunch of Europeans were posting here and reporting stacks of unsold core systems, and eBay prices falling towards retail level? Do you think we’re making this up?

Also, it’s nice that you “think of the UK when you think of Europe”, whatever that means, but that doesn’t change the fact that the UK has only about 1/6 the population of the EU, and maybe 1/5 the GDP. Since nobody outside the UK cares much about the 360, its success there does not make it a success across Europe.

Er, the 360 still has to support standard TV. HDTV is even less popular here than in America. TV magazines started running HDTV primers only this fall. Maybe some freaks get a HDTV along with their 360 but it’s definitely not common. That’s also very likely another factor why few people care about the 360.

Also, region coding of DVDs and games, like mouselock said.

Like Christoph said, you are free to check my local ebay, but 385 - 400 euro for a premium pack + game is not really comparable with what i’ve seen on the US section of ebay.

And like I said, 1 of my friends got 3 premium pre-orders that he placed a few days in advance, another one just walked into the store and got a premium pack without preordering.

Not that I want it to fail or anything, but it’s a nice trick from MS to only concentrate their successtory on the UK market. Christoph is also right about the lack of HDTV. They’re just not that common around here, I know only one person who has HDTV and that’s my mother. Most people just switched to 16:9 screens 2 or 3 years ago - and they aren’t going to replace their perfectly good television without a very good reason just yet.

Can someone find the percentage of European games/consoles sold in the UK? It’d be willing to bet that the UK is the primary market. The others are secondary markets. It is expected for there to be a decrease in demand in the secondary markets.

Er, the 360 still has to support standard TV. HDTV is even less popular here than in America. TV magazines started running HDTV primers only this fall. Maybe some freaks get a HDTV along with their 360 but it’s definitely not common. That’s also very likely another factor why few people care about the 360.

Also, region coding of DVDs and games, like mouselock said.[/quote]

Oh right, I forgot about DVD regions since they dont matter for anything at all anymore, but I guess the 360 will be stuck at whatever region, especially for games, for a longish time. The standard TV thing is just weird, HD is the reason to own a 360 as far as I can tell.

Can you perhaps do you own research before you make an argument? It usually keeps people from thinking you’re a dumbass. But then again, it’s not like you have any credibility left to lose, right?