Bundles of Whining

The Xbox 360 pricing and various bundles have been in the news a lot over the last week. The general mood among the fanboys appears to be a mixture of anger and betrayal. As usual, my feeling is that most of the traffic on this subject shows a startling lack of intelligence.

Whining about the 360 system pricing seems to take one of three attack vectors.

1. Microsoft promised a hard disk based console for $300. Microsoft are dirty liars!

2. Having more than one “SKU” (it’s amazing how many people suddenly know what this means) will “confuse the market”. Microsoft are stupid!

3. The split tier will keep the hard disk from being well used in games. Microsoft are crippling my pony!

I think it’s easy to refute each of these attacks. The first is, pure and simple, the result of wishful thinking colliding with harsh reality. Nothing in the hype running up to the pricing announcements indicated that there was any guarantee at all that Microsoft would be selling a $300 console with a disk in it. In fact, for reasons I will get to later, it was pretty clear that Microsoft was backing away from putting the disk into the console at all.

The second argument is just FUD. The market will not be “confused” by having two choices. The market will choose the one it wants and move on. I think most people are pretty sure already which one of these bundles makes sense for them. In addition, if they have a pulse, it’s pretty clear that the $400 one is their choice. But, [others have said this](http://www.penny- arcade.com/news.php?date=2005-08-19) better than me.

The third whine, about the hard disk being underutilized, is the one that comes closest to having some justification in reality. In fact, it would be a pretty compelling argument except for one little problem. Think back into the annals of Xbox gaming history and count up the number of games that actually use the disk. Then subtract the ones that only use the disk to store game saves. Now subtract the ones that only provide custom soundtracks. Finally, subtract the ones that only use it to store content downloads that could just as well be delivered in some other way.

If my memory is correct, then there are two games left in the pile, and they are both called Halo. Pete says that Blinx also used the disk, and there may be a few others that no one remembers at all. What this says to me is that even if the disk is in every console shipped, game developers won’t use it anyway. Therefore, I think the disk is in the 360 purely for the functionality unrelated or tangentially related to games (music, downloads, etc) and to provide backward compatibility. People who opine for some candy-colored land of instant level loads or gigantic transparently cached game-worlds should keep in mind that most games on the PC don’t even do that stuff. In fact, the one game I’ve played that comes close to the transparent barely noticeable level loads that Halo and Halo 2 have was God of War on the PS2, which, as well all know, has no disk. What all this means to me is that as far as games are concerned the disk is a mostly non-issue.

I guess it’s not surprising that people should be looking for something to complain about. This, after all, is what the fanboy gamer does. The arguments don’t need to be rational or even peripherally based in fact. Almost any semi- coherent barely formed chest thumping will do if what you want to do is post on some 733t gaming forum. This leads to a general level of discourse which is probably below the median intelligence level of the average consumer. However, as misguided as all of this chest-beating is, it is nothing compared to how stupid Gamestop and EB think we are. An $800 launch day pre-order bundle? Who exactly do they think is that desperate? Just walk into Target. The hardware will be there.


Don’t let something like this happen to you. Just go to Target.