Today I was going through comment sections reading the madness after the NPD results were dropped. Once again people were saying that the Xbox 360 is ONLY in the lead because it had a 1yr lead. They said that the PS3 would be destroying the 360 right now if they launched together. So to retort, I started thinking about the possibilities Microsoft had to be in the lead 4yrs later if they launched along side of the PS3 and Wii.
I did a little research using the data that we already had and with the worldwide totals for year 4 on the Xbox 360, I had 31.5 million. That means by year 4, using the data we have, Sony would be ahead of the 360 right now by 4.45 million. I wouldn’t call that destroying, I would call that close. There are so many other factors involved with the 360 launching a year later you can’t assume anything. Let’s look at some scenarios.
Scenario 1: Launch Titles
If the Xbox 360 launched a year later, Gears Of War would have been a launch title. Gears Of War is one of the top selling 360 franchises available. It’s also one of the top selling console games this generation. If you just look at launch titles in November 2006, I think Microsoft would have not only had many more games available than Sony, but they would have had triple A titles drawing fence sitters to the Xbox.
Scenario 2: HD-DVD Built In
HD-DVD was launched in March of 2006, 4 months AFTER the Xbox 360 launched. Because the tech was newer than the Xbox 360, Microsoft couldn’t include it in the console and had to opt for an add-on which added cost to the system. Blu-Ray was launched 3 months after HD-DVD and 5 months prior to the Playstation 3. Had Microsoft launched a year later, it would have had HD-DVD as part of the system. This would mean more HD-DVD disc sales, uncompressed audio and better textures for games. This also would have meant no multi-disc games…for the most part. There are other ramifications with this scenario. Judging by my calculations, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 sales would have been neck and neck had they launched together, with Playstation 3 pulling ahead late in the 3rd year. So with neck and neck sales and Microsoft probably still leading in the US, would Blu-Ray have still won the format war? What made Warner Bros. choose Blu-Ray? Was it money or market share? Every PS3 that was sold meant one more Blu-Ray player in homes. Had that situation been the same with HD-DVD, maybe Warner would have went with HD-DVD. We’ll never know will we?
Scenario 3: Better Hardware
Microsoft screwed up with the 360. The QA on the hardware sucked and they lost BILLIONS of dollars trying to appease customers with warranty repairs. Not only that, but many customers lost faith in Microsoft and bought Playstation 3 consoles instead. Surprisingly, Microsoft still weathered the storm and was able to hold on to their lead and sell millions of consoles. This is unprecedented. So what if Microsoft had an extra year to work out the kinks of the Xbox 360? What if in that whole year, they caught the problem and fixed it before the system launched? Well, had this happened, they would have retained more customers. The Xbox 360 wouldn’t be known as the worst console hardware ever made. Faith would have been sustained, customer loyalty would have been retained. I can’t tell you how many people stopped supporting the Xbox 360 because of hardware issues, but if the hardware issues weren’t there, Microsoft’s retention rate would be much higher.
Scenario 4: Pricing
If Microsoft had launched a year later, they wouldn’t have had the same price advantage. With HD-DVD included, we probably would have seen a $500 Xbox 360. Some people will tell you that the only reason Microsoft is in the lead is because of price. Maybe if the price was higher, that would have hindered many sales of the Xbox 360. Price drops would have been more competitive. You’d see Microsoft and Sony dropping the prices of their consoles during the same fiscal year.
We’ve all argued this on the Warzone before, but I just have to put some logic to it. You can’t assume that Microsoft is in the lead solely because of the 1yr lead. The Sega Dreamcast was out a year before the PS2 and that didn’t stop Sony from gaining more market share than Sega. It was so bad and so fast, that Sega left the hardware business because they couldn’t compete with Sony and Nintendo financially. Now apply that logic today. Why didn’t Sony pass Microsoft like they did with Sega when they had a 1yr lead? Also, if Sony could have overtaken Microsoft’s market share if they launched together, how come they haven’t overtaken Nintendo’s market share yet? The Wii and PS3 were launched the same week and Nintendo is now the market leader after passing Microsoft. If you are going to use silly logic, apply it to everything.
What kind of scenarios do you have? Do you think Sony would have steamrolled Microsoft if they launched together? See you in the comments section!