Hundreds of video game fans braved chilly temperatures on both U.S. coasts on Tuesday to be among the first to get their hands on Microsoft Corp.’s new Xbox 360 video game console, which went on sale in North America on Tuesday.
Hundreds of gamers camped out in front of stores, braving rain in Manhattan and dense fog in Seattle, to get their hands on the new video game machine, designed to offer near-photo-realistic graphics, play music and video and link up gaming communities over the Internet.
And elsewhere too, of course. Bill Gates was on hand at a Bellevue, WA Best Buy as a Microsoft employee serendipitously bought the first one there and as promised:
Gates took on drawing-winner Isaias Formacio, 26, of Bellevue in a game. As I [Todd Bishop - ed.] predicted earlier, the title that they played was from Gates’ preferred genre, a car racing game, “Project Gotham Racing 3.” However, Formacio more than held his own against the Microsoft chairman.
Meanwhile, at the aircraft hangar in Palmdale, the Zero Hour launch party wound down:
…at precisely 9 p.m. Monday, security pulled back the police barriers near the cash registers at the far end of the hangar and three huge trucks pulled in. Best Buy workers jumped out and opened the trucks’ huge rear doors. To deafening cheers from the crowd, hundreds of Xboxes appeared, stacked floor to ceiling in the trucks.
As the line streamed forward, gamers emerged with huge smiles on their faces, looking as if they’d won a huge reward–not paid $400 for an Xbox.
And with their Xboxes in hand, many of them headed straight for the exits. Over and over again, groups of friends crossed the hangar floor, one with a stack of Xboxes, another with two or more of the beanbags [beanbag chairs -ed.], which Microsoft was giving away.
The general expectation is that the Xbox 360 will sell out this holiday season, but what happens next is anyone’s guess. For the really big picture, Bill Gates says Xbox 360 Key to Microsoft Strategy:
Xbox 360 is at the center of a strategy that will also eventually tie in elements of Microsoft’s new online initiative, called Windows Live, says company Chairman Bill Gates.
Gates said Monday that he expects Xbox Live, Microsoft’s service that allows gamers worldwide to play one another, to eventually work with a Microsoft instant messenger that is slated to become part of Windows Live.
Microsoft already offers limited ways for people on Xbox Live to communicate with those on Microsoft’s messaging software, but the new offering — not yet slated for release — would expand that significantly.
Gates said he’s also expecting a new Xbox service called Microsoft Points, which lets people pre-pay for things like virtual armor or other game-related items, to eventually work with Windows Live, so people could use a single account to pay for offerings there, too.
“The PC and the Xbox are very complementary,” Gates told The Associated Press.
Microsoft also is attempting to more closely tie Xbox 360 to the rest of its universe by trying to make it a conduit for other entertainment activities such as watching high-definition TV, looking at family photos and listening to music.
Xbox 360 can do some of those tasks itself, and it also can function as an “extender” that links to a PC running Microsoft’s entertainment-centric Windows XP Media Center Edition.
“In the living room itself, Xbox 360 is our centerpiece and a product that redefines what goes on there,” Gates said.
There’s more at the link, but the more general feeling is that as a home convergence device, the Xbox 360 isn’t quite there yet. My take is that the Xbox 360 is just a game console with aspirations and it has to prove itself as a game console first.