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Gates tries to Define Battlefield

In a battle, being able to define the field of conflict is a definite advantage for the side that can do it.

Gates is trying to determine that field in the minds of gamers. If gamers think that the platform that does X better is the better platform, then that console has won in the gamers’ minds. That’s exactly what Gates wants to do with the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live. If people think that a centralized online service is a must-have for a next-gen console, then the only real choice would be the 360.

Only 10% of original Xbox users ever signed up for Xbox Live. Say that doubles for 360 owners. That would be 20% of 360 owners using Xbox Live. Even tripling the number would still only give you 30% of 360 owners going online. I can well imagine that a large percentage of early 360 adopters are going online. But what happens when the 360 becomes generally available and more normal type folks buy the 360? I think the percentage of 360 owners who are online will actually go down over time. Does anybody know what it is now?

And this is the vaunted battlefield where Gates is trying to grab mindshare. In an area where only a small number of console owners go, Microsoft is clearly superior. Never mind that the lack of a centralized service doesn’t necessarily mean that the online experience will be any worse off. PC gamers have gone without a centralized service since, well, forever. PS2 owners don’t have a centralized online service. The rest of the world seems to be getting along just fine without a centralized service.

So maybe a centralized online service shouldn’t be the battlefield for the next-gen consoles. Oh! I know! What about the games! What a novel concept! Let’s see what platforms has the better games, and declare that the battlefield. Gosh, an even playing field, not based on an artificial definition of what a winner is. What a concept.