Category Archives: xbox 360

Xbox Live: How an Old Tech Company Built a Social Media Juggernaut

Xbox Live: How an Old Tech Company Built a Social Media Juggernaut

Harvard Business Review analysis, no less:

Amid the flood of social media IPOs during the last 12 months, another “old guard” tech company has quietly built one of the most dominant, fiercely loyal and profitable social media businesses to date. You might have heard of it: The company is called Microsoft, and the social media business is called Xbox Live.

Xbox Live is easy to miss. It’s a $2 billion revenue business embedded within the $9 billion revenue entertainment/devices business of the $73 billion revenue of Microsoft overall. If Xbox Live was a standalone business, its 40 million members would be dwarfed by user base of Linkedin, Twitter, Zynga and Facebook. But while Xbox Live’s membership is less than 20% of the size of Zynga (a comparable gaming company), it likely has nearly double the gross profit that Zynga generates. Not bad for the old guy.

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E3 Trends: iPad, Augmented Reality Loom Over Video Game Trade Show

E3 Trends: iPad, Augmented Reality Loom Over Video Game Trade Show

There’s a 900-pound gorilla stalking the halls and suites of E3: Apple’s iPad. I lost count of how many times tablets were mentioned, and while few game companies specifically mentioned the top-selling tablet, iOS’s hold on gamers is being felt in the mainstream game business.

 

Microsoft is trying to move out of the living room with SmartGlass, which provides two-way communication between the Xbox 360 and software running on Windows 8 tablets and other Windows 8 devices.

Nintendo’s Wii U Game Pad offers strong similarities to tablets, but the device is more tightly coupled to the Nintendo ecosystem, and doesn’t look like it works as a standalone device.

 

Sony announced more games integrating the PS Vita with PlayStation 3 games, but Vita’s integration seems even more loosely coupled than SmartGlass. Hedging its bets, Sony also talked up PlayStation Mobile, an attempt to bring PlayStation-style gaming to Android tablets.

 

PlayStation Mobile could become a credible competitor to iOS, but Sony’s track record in taking on Apple has been spotty, lest anyone forget how Apple took over the portable music player business.

Despite all the companies’ best effort, none of the gaming devices addressed key benefits delivered by the iPad and iPhone: games cost less. Major game companies try to eke out more revenue streams beyond the $60 boxed title. Phrases like EA’s Riccitiello’s “games have evolved from the disc that you buy to the place that you go” are heard more often, and efforts like Battlefield 3 Premium strive to generate revenue beyond the ship date of a title.

Microsoft Xbox Is Winning The Living Room War. Here’s Why.

Microsoft Xbox Is Winning The Living Room War. Here’s Why.

Forbes analysis, no less. A good para:

In May Microsoft effectively stopped treating Live like an add-on for a videogame console and started pricing the console as a loss leader for an entertainment platform. Rather than pay $199 just for the unit, users can now get an Xbox for $99—as long as they also take a two-year contract to Xbox Live Gold. This new low price looks even better when you consider you don’t need to buy a new TV, which is what Samsung and, soon, Apple want you to do. “If you want to start a phenomenon,” says Ballmer, “it doesn’t start with thousand-dollar-plus devices that sell at unreasonably low volume and need major room redesigns.”

Microsoft’s Kinect Being Employed to Help Detect Autism Early

Microsoft’s Kinect Being Employed to Help Detect Autism Early

Kinect might not be the greatest way to play video games, despite its introduction via the Xbox (unless you really, really like dancing), but the technology is still being unraveled as more and more uses are found for the device.

The movement and voice sensing systems of the Kinect have found a great many uses through unofficial “hacks,” which Microsoftactually encourages. From 3D object scan to asurgery aide, new uses for the Kinect are still being discovered.

This one caught my eye however, as a new study is attempting to  use Kinect to detect early signs of autism in children with its motion sensing capabilities. The project is by researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development in Minneapolis.

A nursery was fitted with five Kinect sensors that were set to monitor a group of 3-5 year old children. Each child was tracked by the colors they were wearing, and their movement patterns were fed into a bank of computers that would use an algorithm to recognize if they were being hyperactive or unusually still, which could indicate  possible autism.

Wii, XBox, PS3, Nintendo DS, Gameboy Advance, PSP, iPhone, iPad: global market share and sales comparison

My two most popular posts of all time on the blog have been my two previous posts about Wii versus XBox 360 versus PS3 market share, with a total of over 50,000 pageviews.

They are clearly years out of date now, so the thought that I should update them now that I’m blogging again was pretty obvious. This is that update.

Data is primarily from the wiki pages for Console wars and for each of the devices, which I’ll link from the table below. The latest quarter sales figures for iPads and iPhones are in Apple’s quarterly results.

I’m including data for the 7th gen consoles, but also 2nd gen handhelds, and iPads and iPhones, because I wanted to see a comparison across device formats, and I particularly wanted to compare figures on Apple’s new devices against the earlier generation devices. I realize this is somewhat an apples to oranges comparison, based on a spectrum of gaming-only to general-purpose device, and mobile versus non-mobile usage. I’m not trying to make predictions or comparison across the device formats; I’m just looking for high level patterns in actual sales data.

I did not include Android phone or Android tablet sales figures because, given the fragmentation of the Android market, it doesn’t seem like Android is as viable as a game development platform as these others, because a game developed on Android can’t run as easily across all Android devices as games developed for any of the other platforms. If any Android developers want to disagree with this thought and tell us better news about cross-Android game development, we’d be glad to hear it, and I can update the data to include Android.

The data:

Worldwide units (M) Years since launch Units per year (M)
Wii 95.85 5.5 17.4
XBox 360 65.8 7 9.4
PS3 62 5.5 11.3
 
Nintendo DS 151.2 7.5 20.2
Gameboy Advance 81.5 11 7.4
PSP 71.4 7 10.2
 
iPad 79 2 39.5
iPhone 218.2 5 43.6

So, caveats about the data. First, as the wikis show, the available data is not as current for all platforms. Second, the various platforms usually released at different times in different regions of the world, so years since launch is an approximation based on that release information as shown on the wikis. The point of looking at this data is about looking at the patterns in it, not about making mathematical calculations and models based upon this freely available imperfect data. To that point, here are some visualizations instead:

This is where the visualization gets interesting across platform types. Note that iPad has already sold more units than either XBox or PS3, and it will surely surpass Wii as well by year end.

Note that iPhone alone has already sold roughly as many units as Wii + XBox + PS3 combined.

iPad and iPhone together will surely surpass total handheld sales this year as well.

Note the large gap down from iPhone to the Nintendo DS, and again a large gap from Nintendo DS down to Wii. At the high end, these sales figures are not well balanced.

I see a few interesting patterns in this one, too.

Note how consistent the sales velocity is across consoles and handhelds. Which of course reinforces how striking the new pattern is, for the iOS devices.

That pattern for the iOS devices shows they are selling 200% to 600% as fast as the earlier devices. This means that the data over time will quickly skew even more in favor of them over the other platforms.

It’s interesting the iPhone and iPad are so close. Given that we know current iPhone sales are much higher than iPad sales, this points out that iPhone sales started much more slowly than iPad sales. A quarterly breakdown of iPhone sales on its wiki page shows this clearly. There are multiple reasons why iPad is off to a quicker start, the most obvious one being that it benefits from iPhone’s previous sales and adoption.

Interesting data, yes? Comments welcome.

Wii versus PS3 versus XBox 360 market share data II

MAY 2012 UPDATE AVAILABLE AT: https://theschwartz.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/wii-xbox-ps3-nintendo-ds-gameboy-advance-psp-iphone-ipad-global-market-share-and-sales-comparison/

My previous posts on this topic have been my most heavily trafficed since I started blogging, so I obviously have to continue with last month’s (and the first quarter’s) data. My previous posts are at

Wii versus PS3 versus XBox 360 market share data

Wii versus PS3 versus XBox 360 market share predictions

Lots of coverage on the latest industry data; here are some highlight:

From the Associated Press: March Video Game Sales Jump

U.S. video game sales jumped 33 percent to $1.1 billion in March, boosted by strong sales of gaming consoles from Nintendo despite ongoing shortages for its newest system

Software sales grew 15 percent for the month, to $574 million

For the first quarter, software sales climbed 30 percent to $1.6 billion, while total U.S. video game sales were up 54 percent to $3.3 billion.

Of the independent software publishers, Activision Inc. more than tripled its monthly sales of games for consoles and handheld systems

U.S. sales at Electronic Arts Inc., the world’s largest video game publisher, declined 28 percent in March

(This is after, as I reported last time, a 26% drop in February. Ouch.)

For the first quarter, hardware sales nearly doubled to $1.3 billion from $659 million in the year-ago period.

The Wii, Nintendo’s playful system that has players jumping around their living room for certain games, seems to be succeeding in drawing a wider audience to gaming.

And from Reuters: Nintendo’s Wii Again No. 1 New Game Console-NPD

The Wii was again the No. 1 current-generation video game console, selling 259,000 units. That $250 console uses a motion-sensitive controller that has been popular with mainstream gamers as well as new audiences like females, senior citizens and very young children.

Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox 360 U.S. unit sales were 199,000 in March and outpaced Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 3 unit sales of 130,000. The high-end versions of those machines sell for $400 and $600, respectively.

Sony’s last-generation PlayStation 2 continued to see strong sales with consumers picking up 280,000 units.

Overall video game related sales rose 54 percent in the first three months of 2007, to $3.3 billion, NPD said.

Here’s a table summarizing the data across this post and the last:

February March Q1 2007
Wii 335,000 259,000 1,030,000
PS2 295,000 280,000
PS3 127,000

130,000

501,000
XBox 360 228,000 199,000 721,000

Note that Sony is holding it’s position better than Wii or XBox 360, at least in this month-to-month. We’ll see how it looks next month.

The year to year trend as described above is most important, with 54% to 100% increases in total video games sales and in console hardware sales.

Activision is the software company doing the most right things, as measured by their sales. And EA continues to slide. Hope their pipeline delivers quickly…

Could Apple Become Games Console King? Part II

Here’s the article from MacNN:

Apple TV: RSS plugin, video games, bounty

Here’s the most relevant highlight:

newly released hack allows users to play video games on Apple TV via video game emulation for NES, SNES, N64, and Sega Genesis game consoles. After enabling SSH and installing VNC, users can install Richard Bannister’s free emulation software for Mac OS X, including Nestopia 1.3.6 for the original Nintendo Entertainment System (US), Generator 0.4.2 for the Sega Genesis, BSNES 0.17 for Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and Sixtyforce 0.9.0 for Nintendo64.

I blogged first about this question last year, in Could Apple Become Games Console King?  This was only one of nine killer scenarios I mentioned in last year’s blog:

  • play a classic arcade game running in an arcade emulator running on the iTV itself

The MacNN article lists several other hacks that have been made that push toward getting some of those other killer scenarios I also mentioned.  More from the MacNN article:

Following last week’s revelation that Apple is not disabling hacked devices, over the past few days readers have developed a RSS plugin for Apple TV that offers the ability to display RSS feeds (version 1.x/2.x) within the Apple TV interface. While still in beta, the plugin is expected to be updated with support for ATOM feeds and video RSS feeds (streamed rather than synced via iTunes).

Users have already managed to get a full version of Mac OS X and the Joost internet television application running on the device as well as hacked the Apple TV USB port, enabled Xvid files, and provided instructions for upgrading the internal hard drive.

Note the link there, if you’re curious about drilling in, to the article about an Apple spokespersons official assertion that they are not monitoring or disabling hacked AppleTVs.  From that article:

Apple on Thursday afternoon denied allegations that it was undoing hacks on the Apple TV. A company spokesperson asserted that Apple has a resolutely hands-off approach to the media hub, choosing not to monitor or control user habits through users who allow the device on to the Internet. Owners can modify both the hardware and software as much as they like as long as they understand the risk of voiding the warranty, Apple said.

Whether Apple or Microsoft or Sony or Nintendo or someone else gets to the full function killer convergence device in our living rooms first, someone’s going to.  Here’s my product description from last year’s blog.  I’ll stand in line to buy one of these:

The really really interesting potential for this, if they do it like customers would want it, instead of as proprietary business instincts will want it – the really interesting potential for this is to make it a cross-platform convergence device, which will let us do whatever we want with our TV and entertainment center:

  • play music from our iPod or other mobile music device
  • take calls from our cell phones
  • watch DVDs or MP3s or Tivo or any other video stream
  • play a game that runs on our PC or Mac or Linux box
  • play a game that runs on our XBox 360 or PS3 or Wii
  • play a game that runs on our PSP or GBA or Zune
  • play a classic arcade game running in an arcade emulator running on the iTV itself
  • surf the web – putting that in one bullet isn’t really fair; there’s a whole range of Web apps which would be unprecented on a good audio/video entertainment system – just think about how much is happening with digital media of all kinds on the web, and how ideal our home entertainment system is for all those kinds of digital media
  • manage, organize, tag and edit our audio or video or digital photo collections, right from an ideally comfortable, loud and big-screen seat

Wii versus PS3 versus XBox 360 market share data

MAY 2012 UPDATE AVAILABLE AT: https://theschwartz.wordpress.com/2012/05/06/wii-xbox-ps3-nintendo-ds-gameboy-advance-psp-iphone-ipad-global-market-share-and-sales-comparison/

No more predictions – the data is in. And a shocker, despite my own predictions. Obviously it’s still early, and it’s still a problem that the PS3 availability has been so bad – but here’s the data and some coverage:

From Forbes: Video Game Sales Jump in February

U.S. video game retail sales grew 53 percent in February, as next generation systems continued to advance and games from Nintendo took three of the top five spots for the month, according to data from the market research company NPD Group.

Software sales grew 28 percent to $441 million.

Hardware sales nearly doubled to $402 million from $203 million in February 2006. Of the three next-generation systems, Nintendo’s Wii, released in November, sold 335,000 units during the month, followed by Microsoft’s Xbox 360 with 228,000 units and Sony‘s PlayStation 3 with 127,000 units.

Wii’s results pretty well blow away the analyst predictions I blogged about a few weeks ago, in Wii versus PS3 versus XBox 360 market share predictions. It is early in the cycle, and PS3 continues to be plagued with availability problems – but on the other hand, we all know that console technology and games is a viral business. If Nintendo can keep the hardware and softwares pipelines full, and maintain a lead like this…

The Reuters coverage added some important data: Nintendo Wii top-selling game console

the Wii is priced at $250, compared with the $600 top-end version of the PS3.

Retailers sold 295,000 PlayStation 2 consoles, the best-selling console of the last cycle.

Note that the Wii even beat the PS2.  I will look into the data, but I’m betting this is the first time any console has beat the PS2 since it released.  That’s gotta have Sony’s attention…

TheStreet.com added some interesting game software details – but didn’t mention Spore or anything else in EA’s pipeline – Nintendo, Microsoft Tops in Games Sales :

Overall, game sales grew nearly 28% year-on-year last month to $440.7 million, largely based on increased sales on the Nintendo and the Xbox 360 consoles.

U.S. game software sales for EA declined 25.6% in February to $65.8 million

Other game publishers fared better. Sales for Activision increased nearly 20% year on year to $19.8 million and grew nearly 40% in the quarter to date.

Xbox 360 continued its strong performance; sales were up 156% year-on-year thanks to Microsoft’s Crackdown, the best-selling title for the console.

The San Francisco Chronicle has the most analysis of the console difference in
For gamers, Wii is No. 1
Low price, unique controller make Nintendo most popular

Nintendo’s surprisingly popular Wii game consoles have pulled ahead of its competitors for the second month in a row.

(theschwartz: who is surprised? 🙂 )

Despite superior graphics on PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 — which also come with hefty price tags — Wii has managed to win over customers with its wireless controller, cajoling them off of their couches and enticing them to move about their living rooms as if they were playing a real sport.

“The Wii is like a jeep and the Xbox and PlayStation are like a Maserati and a Ferrari,”

(theschwartz: I didn’t only quote this because I drive a jeep 😀 )

One explanation for the Wii’s recent lead, he said, is its price. Nintendo is offering the console for $250 while Sony has priced its high-end PlayStation 3 for $599. Microsoft’s high-end Xbox 360 costs $399.

“We’re still early in the game console cycle,” he said. “This is going to be a protracted console war.”

Wii versus PS3 versus XBox 360 market share predictions

This Gamasutra feature, Screen Digest: PS3 To Lead Through 2010, Wii ‘Great Unknown’, is VERY interesting.

The report is from a talk to Screen Digest’s Ed Barton, based on a research report they are selling. The outline of the report is here – but to actually read the report you’ll have to cough up, um, $3600.00. Yowsa.

“estimating $13.9 billion in global sales of next generation software by 2009”

This is about 3% lower than the estimate I blogged about six months ago:

Console online game software 2005 $0.26 billion
Console online game software 2010 $2.95 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate 62.5%

Console game software 2005 $11.0 billion
Console game software 2010 $11.4 billion
Compound Annual Growth Rate 0.7%

The article doesn’t discuss a disparity between console and console online revenue growth, but the outline of the actual report does include a section titled Exploiting online business models. My estimates from last year also include PC, mobile and handheld figures, btw. In a nutshell, online is the only place there is either console or PC growth to be had, but mobile growth is better than both.

His overview comment:

“PS2-style dominance will not be repeated in the next generation hardware market: we anticipate that competition will be far more intense with market shares split on a territorial basis.”

Another good one:

“Third party publishers aren’t so concerned about showing off the particular technical features of a particular console, these guys are interested in selling as many games as possible. … This is why we think that you’re now seeing a lot of games going multi-platform which were previously exclusive to a single platform, say PS3 or Xbox 360”

I’d recommend clicking to see this developers-per-studio graph; it’s too small to be worth embedding here. Quick summary: EA is more than twice as big as anyone else, with over 5500 developers. Ubisoft and Sony are next in size, each around 2200. Nintendo is 11th in size and Microsoft 12th, with around 800 and 750 respectively. Interesting analysis of three distinct strategies from the big three:

The report notes that Sony’s Worldwide Studios employ around 2,200 staff in 14 studios, all but one, it notes, are strictly devoted to PlayStation 3 development, a number only rivaled by third party publishers like Ubisoft and Electronic Arts.

By comparison, though with a number of large teams under its own wing, Microsoft has instead focused on “aggressively forged relationships” with third parties to create Xbox 360 exclusive titles, which, the report says, is already beginning to find success with games such as Gears of War.

Nintendo’s own strategy, the report says, has been to focus on “game play innovation” and has “shunned high-definition graphics, ensuring the cost of making Wii games has not increased as dramatically as its counterparts,” a strategy Screen Digest says is similar to its own for the DS, “accessible hardware and software designed to appeal to a wider range of consumers, such as young women who would not usually consider gaming to be part of their lifestyles.”

This connects directly back to the point in my last post about Wii appealing to (and marketing to) girls and women. I think their estimates and predictions about Wii are low, but only time will tell. Here’s a link to the chart, and here’s the summary from the article:

In looking at the group’s predictions for regional market share by the year 2010, Screen Digest has shown the battle lines clearly drawn evenly between the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360, apart from Japan, where the PS3 shows a clear lead, while in all three markets, the Wii comes in a distant third.

A detailed explanation of his analysis:

“The one thing I would admit is that Nintendo’s strategy with the Wii is, at the moment, the great unknown,” said Barton. “Can they repeat the kind of success that they’ve had with the DS by applying that strategy with the Wii? Absolutely, if Nintendo can make this work on a home console and appeal to those demographics outside the core gamer constituency, the potential is absolutely huge.”

“However, we also have a lot of faith in the ability of, in particular, Sony, which we see has really got a huge amount of development resources, and they are backing the PlayStation 3 to enormous unprecedented levels for a first party publisher,” he responded.

“One of our core beliefs,” Barton continued, “is that no one buys one of these plastic boxes on technical specs alone, people tend to buy them for content. Our forecasts at the moment are based on the belief that PlayStation 3 has this level of support. The numbers that we’re seeing now for the Nintendo Wii, they’ve come out of the blocks fantastically strongly – no one would deny that – however it’s incredibly early in the hardware cycle. There’s still another five or six years to play out on this one, and the first big battleground will be Christmas of 2007.”

“There’s also a third pillar,” he added, “in that the PlayStation 3, and this is also true for the Xbox 360, is, if you like, a domestic broadband hub, the magic box which enables a consumer to buy premium content delivered over broadband. And so, if Microsoft and Sony can execute and convince consumers to buy content delivered over broadband stored and played in the magic box, then this could grow the market for the particular games consoles, and also has an influence, in my opinion, on how the market will shape up over the next five or six years.”

And two last points from him about how the Wii is the big unknown:

“As market forecasters,” Barton admitted, “it’s very hard to take a view on a new strategy which is effectively what Nintendo are executing with the Wii. They’ve stepped aside in the graphical arms race, and improvements in graphical technology in a gaming sense has historically been what’s driven market growth, and having seen what they’ve done with the Nintendo DS – which obviously they’ve executed fantastically, and which has basically created a new gaming phenomenon – we don’t deny the possibility that this is a possibility with the Wii.”

Tying together the challenges of rising development costs with the relatively modest costs for Wii development as compared the prior cycle, Barton added, “This is the massive positive point for the Wii, that it’s basically cheaper to develop games for. As to whether more cheaply developed games can continue to drive Wii sales momentum, when you put it against the kind of games pipelines we’re seeing for the Xbox 360 and PS3, I would argue that the jury’s still out.”

Phrogram makes the XBox home page!

In the Top Stories list on xbox.com is a video from Monday night’s XNA open house, a celebration about Monday’s XNA release. Here’s a direct link to the video, which includes a bunch of our own demo programs, and our 15-second explanation of how Phrogram programs will run on the XBox 360. No, they didn’t call out in the short highlight film what was Phrogram and what was not, but yes, it’s still great to have this level of visibility.

If you haven’t been following my blog, it may be news that we are about to release an add-in to Phrogram which will allow Phrogram programs to be compiled and deployed onto the XBox 360, thanks to XNA. Woohoo! Talk about a killer scenario: 35 simple Phrogram instructions to fly a 3D model around on your own XBox 360 on a big plasma display!

We say, thanks to Phrogram, “If you can read and you can type, you can program.” I’ve said and demoed that to thousands now – and still not a single person has disagreed when they have seen it. And yes, that simplicity will run on the XBox 360. The 3D model example is the canonical example we use to prove that point. In the video it’s the one of the cool-looking 3D ship flying around on a background of purple space dust. Yes, you or your kids could do that, even if you’ve never programmed before.

We had a great time participating in the event, and were more than encouraged by everyone’s interest in Phrogram. Did you see my recent blog, When User-Created Meets Gaming: a Revolution is Coming? The slideshow and video there are a pretty good introduction to how and why this will be a revolution, and to Phrogram’s part in that. It includes its own demo of running a Phrogram program on top of XNA.

Thanks for the invitation and the visibility, XNA!