JRock3x8's Life Musings

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Hard Drive - Microsoft's Decision

Well it only took me 4 posts to get to an actual video game related topic.

Everyone knows by now that Microsoft will be selling a console with and without a hard drive and that this has made gamers around the world hopping mad. The consensus among gamers on forums is that Microsoft took the hard drive away from the XBox 360. While I don't disagree, we should consider a few important points on Microsoft's side of the ledger :

  • Microsoft never made a dime on the XBox. They lost countless millions, and the loss keeps growing with every single console they sell today. Yes, it's great that Microsoft is finally giving up some of that stockpile of gold they accumulated while forcing Windows into every PC in the universe, but in the long run, losing money is not a proven business methodology.
  • The reason they lost so much money is - suprise! - the hard drive. Gamers everywhere seems to think this hard drive that is being packaged with the XBox360 is a dimestore laptop model, and I'm pretty sure that's not the case. If you go to Seagate's website, I think you'll see that they have developed an entirely new hard drive called the LD25. While this is a 2.5" hard drive, I don't think it conforms to the laptop standard. And, because it's new and custom built, it costs more.
  • Microsoft seems to be working really hard to reach out to developers. I believe that this is why we have to trust them when they say that they polled all the developers which is how they came to the conclusion that the 512MB of RAM they put on the mainboard was more important than the inclusion of a hard drive. Also, on one of the podcasts I listen to, they mentioned that MS probably has API's written for the developers to handle the whole hard drive (or lack thereof) issue.
Regardless of how you look at it, I think it would be foolish for us to think that Microsoft has not dissected every single issue of not including a hard drive in some versions of their console. If you really think about it, the games that really need a hard drive - Oblivion, Final Fantasy XI - those games are really not "casual gamer" type games.

And as far as Mom buying the wrong console type for Christmas? Well, let's just say I have a soft spot for any scenario where Timmy gets the short end of the stick. 90% of the kids that I have met on XBox Live - the ones who cannot buy the console themselves because they are too young to have jobs - are snotty nosed bratty little kids.

In conclusion, I think the XBox360 will be a smashing success come holiday. In a couple years from now we will look back at this issue and just laugh at how worked up everyone was about it.

Friday, August 26, 2005

An Extreme New Year's Resolution

Everyone make's New Year's Resolutions, right? And everyone breaks them on January 2nd - also correct?

Well, I've been good with mine to date, but it's a bit harsh and it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better. My New Year's Resolution is to spend $0.00 on electronics or electronic media in 2005. Let me explain what this includes : TV's, stereo's, computer parts, DVD's, CD's, video games (that's the one that hurts the most), and pretty much anything else with any kind of electronic circuitry in it or media that plays on it.

Here's what led me to this resolution : In 2003 and 2004, I over spent, big time.

In 2003, we moved into a new larger house and I made a deal with my wife that I would buy a big screen TV if we did, something I've always wanted. The house turned into a real lemon - we had to replace 8 windows, lay down a new layer of shingles on the roof, repair plumbing damage, not to mention all of the painting we had already planned. Suffice to say that the money I had set aside for the TV was not really there when we needed to pay for it. We actually tried to sell it and found that the secondary market for big screen TV's is almost non-existant.

I should also mention that we had to purchase a new stove for this new house, and since we had a good chunk of money from our previous house (at the time), we bought a nice one.

I'm also something of a PC hobbyist, although less so as of late. I used to run a small LAN in my house of 3 PC's plus a couple laptops and I would buy new parts for the best PC and pass down the old parts to the older PC's. Big expense item number 2 was a flat panel monitor (which I'm looking at right now) which was also budgeted with house money. Again, when the bill came, it was difficult to pay it off. I also had purchased numerous smaller upgrades like an ASUS motherboard and a hard drive.

Finally in 2003 we bought an $800 laptop and a PS2 (which I actually sold at a profit and bought an XBox). Needless to say, we had a ginormous Best Buy bill.

Then I took a break as we paid off the Best Buy bill slowly but surely (and painfully I might add). Then at the end of 2004, I went back at it again.

I bought a new car stereo plus four new speakers.
I upgraded my Archos Jukebox that I had bought earlier that same year to a larger hard drive.

Then, the final straw : I had been getting hyped up for two releases in 2004 : Halo 2 and Mech Assault 2 : Lone Wolf. I was a huge Mech Assault fan, and I had unrealistic expectations for MA2. So high, in fact, that I completely ignored the launch of Halo2 and stuck it out until MA2 came out. I bought two copies the day it came out, one for myself and one as a Christmas present for my brother.

What a mistake. Mech Assault 2 was easily the buggiest game I have ever purchased and I had missed out on Halo 2. (My mother did bail me out of that jam 3 months later by getting me Halo 2 for my birthday - thank you, mom.) I was mad at myself like you couldn't believe. Hence, the New Year's Resolution for 2005.

I am happy to report that as of today, I have spent exactly $12 on electronics and electronic media in 2005. The only reason I spent the $12 is that I had the week of July 4th off and I had just joined 2old2play.com. So, basically, if I wanted to play Halo at all with my friends, I had to buy the maps.

Now comes the hard part : the launch of XBox 360 and what do I do about next year? I have a ton of pent up demand but it would be somewhat pointless to go back to my previous spending habits. It sort of defeats the purpose of what I have worked so hard on this year.

Hence my dilemma, which is not a good one for a video game addict. At least I still have Halo 2.

PS : Next year, I am swearing off all electronic entertainment for Lent. What can I say? I'm a glutton for punishment.

Subscription Friends

This particular entry is not so video game related. It's a mini-rant about what I call "subscription friends".

I grew up as a latchkey kid in suburban Chicago. My mother really didn't like me leaving the house while she was at work if she didn't know exactly where I would be and what time I would be home. I didn't like it at the time, but now that I have my own kids, I get it. Unfortunately, this meant that I was stuck inside a lot as my mother was quite busy at work and I couldn't always get a hold of her. Hence, my love of videogames begins.

The other side effect of this pseudo confinement was a lack of friends, and to some extent, it stunted my social growth. I became whimsical about exactly what was a "friend". I've come to realize after many years that friends come in two basic flavors :

1) friends that you hang out with to waste time, to talk, to share experiences, play video games, watch movies, etc, etc, and

2) friends that you only hang out with while there's money being spent (hence the term "subscription friends"). These are the people who you won't see unless you're going to a movie, going out to eat, or playing fantasy football.

The former variety tend to be my outside-of-work friends and the latter tend to be my "at work" friends.

My house is on a very strict budget. My wife and I made the decision very early on - even before we were married - that we would be a single income family and she would be a stay at home mother. This makes "subscription friends" extremely difficult to manage in the scope of my social life. Some of my friends seem to scoff at my suggestion that I can't go out for lunch for the 10th time this month because I've run over my budget for dining for the month.

I guess at the end of the day you have to be thankful of whatever friends you have, regardless of how you interact with them, but it is a challenge to manage it at times.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

First Entry

Everyone has a voice on the internet these days. Blogs are everywhere. Podcasts are becoming ubiqitous and destroying bandwidth budgets from here to Russia.

So, I will add my own $0.02 to the mountain of matter that has become the blog "space".

The basic concept for my blog is simple. I will add my own thoughts on the video game industry based on what I see, hear and read. I am not a "hardcore" gamer. I own an XBox and maybe a dozen titles if that. I hardly play any of them, because like most XBox players that have not been assimilated by the phenomenon known as WoW, I am a Halo addict. I belong to a website called 2old2play.com where other likeminded adults congregate. I've even started my own clan for people who embarass themselves every time they pick up the controller (like me).

A bit about my background : I am a Senior Financial Analyst at a major retailer. My college education started with Pre-Med and ended with Economics. The need to finish in four years can make strange bedfellows of different majors.

A couple topics I would like to touch on in future posts are mostly related to my background in economics : the current state and future of the videogame marketplace from an economist's point of view and subscription friends.

I have somewhat of a thin skin when it comes to negative feedback, so if flaming is one of your favorite pastimes, kindly move along to someone else's blog.

Thanks in advance to all for the visits.