Xbox 360 Inside & Out
By the GameSpot Editors
Developers, Microsoft executives, and GameSpot editors talk about the Xbox 360 and its capabilities.
While it's convenient to draw parallels between the Xbox 360 and the Sega Dreamcast--another white, modular console that launched before its two competitors--that's just a little too easy of a comparison. Yes, the 360 is hitting a fair amount of time before the Revolution and the PlayStation 3, but there isn't any substance in the comparison beyond the superficial similarities.
First and foremost, this is Microsoft. So love it or hate it, the company's got a fair chunk of change in the bank...at least the last time we checked. The success of the original Xbox has everyone on board with what it's doing now. You also can't underestimate the appeal and untapped potential of Xbox Live. The online service has been one of the key reasons Microsoft has had so much success this generation of consoles, and Microsoft is obviously hell-bent on pushing that advantage over the competition, which never really offered as comprehensive a service to gamers. Although the comparison to the Dreamcast is an easy one to make, Microsoft is doing enough things right with the 360 to make sure it won't go the way of Sega's last console. That's not saying it could never happen, but it's highly unlikely the 360 will fail to catch on with the masses.
Hardware, Software, and Services
As a game console, the Xbox 360 comes packing a serious amount of appeal for both gamers and developers. From a development standpoint, game creators are being handed the keys to a powerful piece of machinery that challenges them to try to tap its potential. The powerful hardware, complete with an unprecedented amount of RAM (one of the key things developers always want more of), is as tricked-out as a console has ever been.
Third-party support is shaping up strongly, with just about everyone who developed on the Xbox coming to the party in a big way. Even more significant is that Microsoft has made sure to fill gaps in the stable of third parties that were absent on the Xbox, namely Japanese support, which should help the company both stateside and in Japan. Finally, having someone like Peter Moore around, who was at Sega during the Dreamcast's life, helps quite a bit. Not only is he a smart guy in general, but also he has experience at Sega that will serve him well as Microsoft works to ensure the Xbox 360 finds its stride.
Above and beyond the meat and potatoes of the hardware and software, services like the new incarnation of Xbox Live have a lot to offer 360 owners and developers alike by opening the door to expanded community features, downloadable content, and microtransactions. As far as developers go, the 360 has a lot of potential for new revenue streams. Downloadable content was something we saw flirted with this generation, and, in most cases, it went well. The ability to extend the life of a game you've had for six months or a year adds quite a bit of value to it, especially if you're talking about something like a Halo, which has a huge fan base hungry for more content. The much discussed, but heretofore not implemented, concept of episodic content is also a very real possibility for developers to try. You'll also probably see crazy retail promotions that will let you have microtransactions based around game content or even products in the real world. Hopefully developers won't get too greedy by cluttering up games with product placements or blanketing them with microtransaction offers (although they probably will at some point).
Several Microsoft executives up and down the line have repeatedly stressed that the Xbox 360's strengths will be its hardware platform, software, and services.
Xbox 360: Inside and Out
Xbox 360 Inside and Out: This special feature analyzes Microsoft's newest console, including discussions on hardware, games, and the upgrades to Xbox Live.