Saturday, March 25, 2006

360 Degrees of Financial Separation

Since November, Microsoft has been churning out all kinds of hype for their latest video game system, the XBox 360. Being the video game enthusiast that I am, it was incredibly hard for me to avoid all the glowing reviews that the system received from early adopters and gaming magazines; everywhere I looked, there was yet another article or person hyping the XBox 360. And of course, the biggest story this Christmas (outside of the NYC Transit Strike), was the fact that NO ONE could find a 360 for their loved ones because Microsoft rushed the system to the market, and failed to churn out enough systems from their plants. (IBM, the people responsible for creating the main processor on the machine, couldn't keep up with demand... not too much different from the way they couldn't keep up with Apple's demands for the G5 processor in their Macs...)

At first, I was extremely skeptical of the 360. I saw some of the product shots that were coming out of the woodwork from the various game developers making games for the system, and I really wasn't impressed. With all the ballyhoo that MSoft was making about the system being "next-gen," the game screenshots that were coming out didn't look like that much of an improvement over existing video game systems. Combine the unimpressive looking games with the bank-busting price of the new system ($400, plus tax, not including a game or another controller), and you had a company that was smoking some serious crack. Outside of annoying Microshaft fanboys, who the hell was going to buy this system?

Months after the system's November release, Microsoft has yet to catch up with demand. Everywhere you look, systems are sold out, and people are still paying ridiculous prices on eBay just to land one. The other day, I was on eBay, and I saw people bidding well over $600 for USED 360. People are just going nuts over this damn thing.

So, here I was looking from the outside, in, on the craziness surrounding the 360, out of sheer curiosity. I saw the initial reports of people getting lemons for 360s and shook my head in disgust for the way MSoft rushed the system to market, bypassing Q.A. and failing to get production going on the system months before its street date in November. On the other side of things, I also saw the glowing reviews that people gave the system for its innovative interface, interconnectivity with other media, and for its incredible "XBox Live Marketplace", where one could, right from their television, connect to MSoft's online servers, and download classic games and playable demos for upcoming 360 games. And then finally, I saw reviews trickle in for some of the games that launched alongside the system, and noticed that some of the games actually did look much better than their current generation counterparts.

As time passed, my interest in the system grew even more. I began reading more into the system and, in a profound mental shift, I was actually weighing in on whether or not I actually WANTED one. I started looking on eBay a couple of weeks ago, hoping that I could find a system that wasn't too overpriced, but found no such luck. And every game store that I went into was completely sold out. Most of them were still fulfilling preorders that were made way back in September for the freaking thing! With the way things were going, I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to be able to land a 360 till the summer, when supply finally caught up with demand. Besides, I told myself, that freaking system is expensive as all hell, and it was probably better that I just save my money and get back to concentrating on school.

Yesterday, I walked into a local Electronics Boutique, like I occasionally do, (most of the time, I never buy anything, but I just like passing the time in there, looking through the stacks of games, hoping to find some incredible bargain) and noticed that there was one 360 in stock. I did a double take. WHAT?! In stock? I've never seen that before! I paced around the store, deciding whether or not I was ready to take the $500 plunge and invest in a brand-new system. After about 5 minutes, I decided, "fuck it, let's go," and right when I got to the counter, a forty-something year old gentleman and his single-digit year old son jumped right in front of me and inquired about the lone 360. I couldn't help but just laugh over the lost opportunity. After about 15 minutes of "upsell" (y'know, that whole routine that retailers are notorious for when they want to turn a $500 purchase into a $10,000 one?), the guy and his son walked away with a brand-spanking new 360, and I was left with an "I'm sorry" from the dad.

I didn't feel too bad about it, though. I was still unsure about the purchase, so it was just as well that they got it and not me. I told him to not feel sorry for me, because I was sure that somehow, it would all work out in the end. I was actually kind of happy for the kid; he was able to go home with the pure, unadulterated satisfaction of opening up a brand-new, must-have gadget, without any of the buyer's remorse that older people feel when they shell out that much money on a luxury item. (Sigh, I miss those days)

After buying some random PSP game, (after spending all that time in the store, looking at this dude getting a 360, I suddenly felt the need to soothe myself with SOME kind of purchase), something told me to drive on over to a nearby Target. So, I walked in, headed on over to the electronics section, and chillin' right in front of me were three 360s waiting to be bought. I couldn't believe it. Without thinking twice about it, I called over a Target employee to get a 360 out of the glass case that held them, and snatched a copy of "Dead or Alive 4" and an extra controller. Three minutes later, I held a 20 pound box in my hands and was down $550.77. Before I could change my mind, I ran to my car, threw on some Tribe Called Quest, and sped my way back to the EB, returned the PSP game, and zoomed on home.

I never thought I would see this box in my home


Almost immediately, I experienced a heavy dose of buyer's remorse. I contemplated turning right back around, and returning the system to Target, but the closer I got to home, the harder it was for me to do that. Then I considered selling the system on eBay to turn in a nice profit. I called my roommate Pedro and told him what I had just done and asked him what I should do. He just told me that I was smoking some incredible crack. When I got home, I paced back and forth for about an hour, weighing in on whether or not I should open the system's box, which would make it un-returnable. Finally, after thinking about everything, I decided to go ahead with opening it up and setting up my new system.

After I got over my buyer's remorse, I made the 360 feel at home



After spending a night playing around with the system, I can honestly see for myself what all the hype was about. The 360 IS the real deal. Not soon after he called me a crackhead for buying the system, Pedro swore that he was going to buy one, too. We spent the night playing with the game I had bought, as well as spending time with the awesome "Fight Night Round 3" demo that I was able to download off the XBox Live Marketplace. And for some retro thrills, I downloaded copies of the arcade classics, "Smash TV" and "Gauntlet," which we all played well into the early morning. The wireless controllers alone are a godsend; I could turn the system on and off without even having to get up off the sofa.

Pedro and Edwin playing 360



I ran into a slight technical difficulty early on when I tried to transfer my old XBox Live profile onto the new system. I had to make a call to MSoft's customer service center, and of course, in true Microshaft tradition, I was directed to a call center in India. They weren't able to completely satisfy my issue, but I was able to get it working, regardless.

Man, I sure own a lot of games



Surely the excitement of my owning the 360 will die down by the end of today, but I couldn't be happier with my purchase. It's an awesome system, and sure, it was incredibly expensive, but it's worth it.

Now, it's time for me to get back to work... after I play a round of Geometry Wars, first. :-)





PS: I know there's a $300 dollar "Core" version of the system, but one can't really count that as a "real" XBox 360, considering that it is missing several key components that make the 360 such a joy to use, such as the wireless controller, or the hard drive. If you were to buy these components separately, one would spend well over $400 to match the contents of the more expensive "Premium" version.

7 Comments:

Blogger Jose said...

talk about a journey into the consumer's mind. good blog. i'm "feenin'" to get one too now, but my broke ass won't, so i'm good.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

I'm envious. I have the standard XBox. Have you run into any problems playing older games on it (Halo/Halo2)?

3:58 PM  
Blogger djkibblesnbits said...

I played a little Halo 2 on it last night, and from what little I saw, it looks like the graphics are a little cleaner than what they were on the original XBox, though nothing too noticeable. The thing that sucks? I can't move my saved games and profiles over to the 360, so I would have to play through the two Halos over again.

I've determined that if I want some classic XBox goodness, I'm just going to have to turn on the old system if I want to keep on accessing my old game saves.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew when I didn't hear back from you that you had taken the plunge. There was no way you were going to go so far as getting that thing home and NOT opening the box!! LOL I guess we all have our weaknesses - I get $300 pairs of shoes and you get $500 gaming systems - HEE HEE!! It's all good though . . .

L.

P.S. are you still willing to give up the old Xbox?

12:29 PM  
Blogger Freebird said...

My younger son wants one, but I know if I give in it will be the point of no return for him. He's a game junkie already.

7:59 AM  
Blogger Ivy said...

HAHAHA.. the mac propagandist has umm.. fallen for a microsoft? LOL. J/K. That thing is sooo cool but I'm saving money for a new phone instead. Sigh.

*envies ray big time*

11:14 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Hey that's a good point. Be careful Raymond, I wouldn't want you to be excommunicated or denied the sacraments (OSX updates).

11:35 PM  

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