If market research firms are to be believed, the entire retail industry could hibernate for 11 months out of the year with no ill effect. In fact, it might even be better for their bottom lines.
In the US, the shopping season kicks off with Black Friday, so named because of the dark cloud of debt which coalesces over the nation like the Ghost of Christmas Bills Future. More money is spent on that day than, like, the whole month of February or something. Ironically, fewer people are trampled in Wal-Mart than on an average Saturday but Black Friday gets all the coverage so people think it's this huge epidemic. Just like the youth violence meme.
Most companies plan their whole year around Black Friday and the rest of the Thanksgiving shopping weekend: Second Wind Saturday and This Isn't Fun Any More Sunday. (Incidentally, the much talked about Cyber Monday was in fact created by online marketing group Shop.org a week before, in the hopes that human herd-mentality would turn their made-up announcement into fact.) But not Microsoft. By releasing their much anticipated videocard upgrade for the XBox the week prior, and not supplying enough units to even fill all the preorders, Microsoft guaranteed that the most talked about item of the holiday season will also be the least purchased.
The thing about a shopping frenzy is that it's fairly undiscriminating. Adrenaline-crazed soccer moms thwarted from purchasing a 360 for their ungrateful larvae will spend that money on something else like a Motorola Raz(o)r or an iPod Nano, because little Johnny doesn't take an IOU. He'll probably still be annoyed that it isn't a 360, because that's what ungrateful means.
By one metric, Microsoft's XBox 1.5 launch is a total success. They sold all 400,000 overpriced driving simulators in record time, netting them a cool $160 million.
Actually, that's the gross. The net is something like a $50 million loss. But they can make that back on volume.
By another metric, the release is an abject failure. At least 10% of all 360s sold in the US have been re-sold over eBay, for as much as $5000. The promised restocking of store shelves hasn't happened as store employees buy the units before they hit shelves and re-sell them for a quick profit.
If Microsoft were smart, they'd cut out the middle-men (and distribution costs) and set up an eBay store of their own. I mean, if somebody's going to use your plunger to proverbially rape consumers, it might as well be you.
Despite the lack of anything to sell, Microsoft hasn't slowed down on their marketing blitz. They continue to pour money into advertising like a government trying to prop up a failing airline industry, with no hope of a return.
In fact, by releasing the upgraded XBox and advertising it exclusively, Microsoft has effectively punk'd their own product, the original XBox, which people could actually buy if they wanted to. But they won't want to, because the new XBox (which they can't buy) looks so much better.
According to the spin dentists, the marketing blitz isn't for existing gamers, nor is it really about driving sales NOW [caps quoted from original document]. It's about creating a "cultural icon".
The 360 is not going to be a cultural icon. Nor is it going to attract a host of non-gamers to the pastime. What is there about the XBox that is anything but focused directly on existing gamers? Do they really think that the only reason people haven't been playing WWII shooters and racing games is that they didn't look good enough?
If anyone's going to create a cultural icon and attract non-gamers, it'll be Nintendo with their waving-around dealie. The 360 is about as revolutionary as a Ford Explorer.
The 360 has exactly the same sorts of games you've played on other machines, except with better graphics. And when I say other machines, I mean other consoles. The 360 doesn't look any better than a current gen PC. I guess its advantage there is that Dell isn't willing to take a 20% loss selling you the PC.
Part of the reason for the shortage is that Microsoft decided to do a simultaneous world-wide launch. The world, in this case, meaning everyone except Australia.
Really, they're just trying to suck up to the Japanese. We can presumably expect some delightful translations of Jap-focused games for a very happy time having. No word yet on whether the American version of Dead Or Alive 4 will support the upskirt photo finishing move.
Today's filler is an example of what Penguin's been doing instead of working on UAC. I was originally going to put a caption on it, but what's the point really? This way you won't be disappointed by the punchline because it's not there. And to make it up to you, the rantenspiel was longer than usual. Which, if television has taught me anything, means it's better.