1. Hiatus
2. RIP, Satoru Iwata
3. Let there be Robot Battles
4. Regarding pixel art!
5. 16-bit Star Wars
6. Goodbye, Spock.
7. James Randi Retires
8. More Star Wars on GOG
9. gives you DOS Games
10. Ralph Baer, RIP.
1. Quickie: Impressions June 2014
2. Quickie: Penny Arcade Episode 3
3. Quickie: The Amazing Spider-Man
4. Quickie: Transformers: Fall of Cybertron
5. Quickie: Prototype 2
6. Quickie: Microsoft Kinect
7. Quickie: X-Men Destiny
8. Spider-Man: Edge of Time
9. Quickie: Transformers Dark of the Moon
10. Quickie: Borderlands GOTY
1. Musings 45: Penny Arcade and The Gripping Hand
2. Movie Review: Pacific Rim
3. Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph
4. Glide Wrapper Repository
5. Movie Review: Winnie The Pooh
6. Musings 44: PC Gaming? Maybe it's on Life Support
7. Video Games Live 2009
8. Movie Review: District 9
9. Musings: Stardock, DRM, and Gamers' Rights
10. Musings: How DRM Hurts PC Gaming
Main Menu

X-bit labs
The Tech Zone
Twin Galaxies


 Log in Problems?
 New User? Sign Up!

Weekly Musings #17 - Consoles Released Early or Later?
Author: Michael Ahlf 
Date: October 11th 2004
Nintendo this weekend made a big deal of their upcoming release schedules; for their next console, "Revolution", the idea is to release just before Sony releases the PS3. Both Japanese companies, the #1 and #2 in Japan (but #1 and #3 in Europe and America) in the home console market, are openly scoffing at Microsoft's plans to release the Xbox Next sometime in 2005. Microsoft, meanwhile, is trying to improve sales and their place in the market after turning the Xbox, in a single generation, into a powerhouse of the market everywhere but Japan.

In truth, there are good sides and bad sides both to holding off, and to releasing early. Let's explore:

The Ups: Releasing Early

Releasing a console early has a few benefits, and a few flaws. Every console with a competitor has faced these; some have done well, others poorly. 

The largest upside is the early adopter market. Once someone has bought a system, they're much less likely to buy another; after all, at anywhere from $300 to $130 (original launch prices to present-day prices for today's Xbox and PS2) a game system is a big expense. Plus, most games are produced by third-party makers that will put the game out for either platform. Absent a slew of must-have titles, in the way that the original NES blew away the Sega Master System, making your system a "must have" item when everyone already owns your competition is a much tougher sell.

The second part is the game developer market. When your game console comes out, sure, you may only have 10-20 release titles. If you beat your competition to market by 6 months or more, your existing library of now 50-100 titles can look a LOT better than your opponent's 10-20 release titles (absent again a must-have game, like perhaps Halo). Beat your competition by a year, AND have a slew of titles out as the Playstation2 did by releasing early and incorporating the PSOne's library, and you're nearly unbeatable.

The last part is the price point. Release at $300, and you cost a lot. Combine a larger library with a price cut just as your opponent releases - say, dropping to $250 while they are still at $300 - and you look like a bargain to those who are just getting into the generation. With $50 the price of two decent used games, a $250 console looks a LOT better.

The Downs: Opponent Advantage, Releasing Later

There are of course downsides to releasing early. To start with, your opponent can see your advertising strategy and adjust accordingly. If you're going for online gaming (for example), they ship with a built-in network adapter and much easier to use (we hope) network game-finding out of the box. If you're trying to look "cool", they can counter you.

Additionally, their hardware may be superior. The Xbox is gaining steam in part today because it's the most powerful console; games on the PS2 just don't look as good, or are forced into awkward control tradeoffs. The four console ports on the Xbox, compared to hooking in a Multitap adapter on the PS2, are better placed. Two years ago, the Xbox's hardware advantage was there, but wasn't as big because games hadn't quite found the maximum capabilities of the PS2. Now, of course, we're learning exactly where Sony messed up in the design, and we're seeing how it's hurting many of the games.

Known quantities also play a bigger role. It's a LOT easier for Sony and Nintendo, in Japan at least, to say "oh leave the Xbox alone and wait for US, look what WE have coming" and get gamers to indeed wait for all the consoles to be available at once. They've got the street cred, after all. Similar things happened to Sega when the Dreamcast launched in America - gamers saw it, liked it somewhat, but we KNEW that the PS2 was coming, we KNEW it played all our old Playstation games, and Sega didn't get any must-have titles to bait us into buying their console.

Microsoft could learn a few lessons from history. They've got a big chance to get it 100% right with the Xbox Next, and I'm hoping they don't mess it up.

Got Comments? Send 'em to Michael (at)!
Alternatively, post 'em right here for everyone to see!

Weekly Musings #17: Consoles Released Early or Later?

Added:  Monday, October 11, 2004
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf


[ Back to Articles index ]

Home :: Share Your Story
Site contents copyright Glide Underground.
Want to syndicate our news? Hook in to our RSS Feed.