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Old 05-03-2004, 03:00 PM
Join Date: Dec 2002
Posts: 26
Default Why Microsoft Shouldn't Make a Game Boy

<div class='os_post_top_link'><a href='' target='_blank'></a><br /><br /></div><img src="" /> <br /><br />It seems almost everyone now plays games. Games were once ruled by 13-year old boys, but that is old news now. Those same boys, and increasingly girls have grown up and consider games as much a part of their lives as music, movies, TV, and books. As a result almost every home owns a PC for games or a PS2, Xbox, Game Cube, Game Boy or a combination thereof. The average age of game players is 29 and the worldwide market for video gaming is more than $20 BILLION each year.<br /><br />So what does this have to do with the Pocket PC and more importantly the Smartphone? The answer is simple, these devices and their future generations are why Microsoft may never make their own device to compete with the likes of the Nintendo Game Boy. It is why Microsoft is probably taking a much closer look at the failure of <a href="">Nokiaís N-gage</a>. It is also why youíll be seeing a lot more cool games on your phone in the next couple of years.<br /><br />Here is the premise. Instead of making a competitor to the Game Boy, Microsoft will make its future designs for the Smartphone compelling for gamers. Theyíll make them cheap enough to attract consumers and profitable enough for the wireless carriers and phone manufacturers. Your phone will be your Game Boy!<br /><br />Why is this Microsoftís best strategy? Let us start with a quick look at how the video game business works and why it has a lot in common with the phone business. <br /><br /><b><span>Free Phones and Cheap Consoles</span></b><br />Most of us get a phone for free or for much less than a phone really costs, because we enter into a contract. Carriers buy the phones and are willing to eat part of the phone cost. As cell phone users, weíll pay carriers $40 or more every month for as long as we remain a subscriber. Wireless carriers make their money from our phone usage, not from the phone purchase.<br /><br />Consoles are the same. The PS2 and the Xbox are technically fantastic devices and both launched for about $300. Now you can buy an Xbox for $150. How can they afford to sell a device with high-end 3D, a DVD player, hard drive and internet connectivity for less than the cost of a decent 3D video board for the PC? The answer is that they lose money on every unit sold. Where do they make it up? They charge software publishers a licensing fee for every game sold, in the order of $8 per copy. Thatís right they make money on every game produced. This is obviously completely different than the PC business where anyone can make games and you donít pay anyone any licensing fee.<br /><br /><b><span>Mass Market Appeal</span></b><br />The benefit lies with the mass market. That is, Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft can sell a lot of video game consoles quickly because they are competitively priced. Thatís why Sony has sold more than 100 million Playstation consoles and Nintendo over 100 million Game Boy handhelds. Both companies make all the real money from the software and not the hardware.<br /><br />What would happen if you produced a gaming phone which enjoyed the carrier phone subsidies and the gaming royalty model? You could create a really powerful gaming phone and sell it very cheaply, perhaps even give it away. It would be your phone and your gaming device (and your MP3 player for that matter!) The carriers would be happy to subsidize this new phone in return for your annual phone contract and a piece of the software sales. Microsoft would be happy to charge less to the manufacturers for the design and OS, because they would make money on every game sold. Developers would happily make games, because they could be looking at a 100 million unit market within three years. Donít forget over 500 million new phones were sold last year worldwide. Thatís a lot of phones!<br /><br />The next reason why this is Microsoftís best strategy is that at the heart of it, they are a software company. They make money by either selling software to consumers or licensing it to manufacturers. Microsoft doesnít really want to be in the hardware business. It is expensive and competitive. Other companies do hardware much better than Microsoft, which is why Microsoft doesnít build the Xbox in its own factories and doesnít manufacture its own video chips. Microsoft tried licensing into the video game world with Sega. They licensed Windows CE to Sega for the Dreamcast console. The Dreamcast didnít make it for a lot of reasons, but if it had sold well Iím not sure if Microsoft would be in the Xbox business today.<br /><br />Microsoft has the ability to design a phone, as in the Smartphone, license it to manufacturers and let them worry about making it as cheap as possible. Then they create a proprietary system for the sale of games via PC, wireless, and memory cartridges.<br /><br /><b><span>Itís The Games, Stupid</span></b><br />Of course, games are the key to the success of any gaming device. Nokia learned this the hard way with their n-gage gaming phone. The n-gage was the closest attempt to date at what Iím describing here. What a disaster! If it could be done wrong, Nokia did it. From making it overpriced, dumb to hold and operate and most importantly, failing to take advantage of the unique features of a mobile wireless device. However, donít count Nokia out yet. Theyíve figured this out and have already released a new model, the QD (Quick Do-over?) and they are promising some games that can be played multiplayer over wireless.<br /><br />So how does this all evolve? Start with the devices that exist today. Many people, including our company are producing great games for the Pocket PC and Smartphone. We have action, adventure, puzzle and strategy games that are as good, and in some cases better than much of what you will see on the Game Boy Advance today. I invite you to check out the free trial versions at <a href="">Portable Games</a> and decide for yourself. These games would be even better if the devices were mass market. Our biggest restriction on the quality and innovation of our games is how much we can spend on development. After all, weíre doing this for a living. This is a real business to us and other serious Pocket PC and Smartphone game developers.<br /><br />If Microsoft sells the Smartphone as a phone that can play games, as an entertainment device, they could quickly create a huge market and weíd be able to create even more compelling games. Itís something of a chicken and egg situation, but in this case the chicken really can go first. Come on Microsoft, weíre ready to innovate! Our company has shown this with the beta of <a href="">Lands of Shadowgate</a>, a multiplayer strategy game for Smartphone and Pocket PC. Imagine a multiplayer version of our upcoming football management game, <a href="">Football Director</a>. (Thatís soccer to everyone in the US!) Try playing a multiplayer game on any other handheld today. What youíll see is just an example of the sort of innovations we could explore if there was a real market to support bigger development budgets.<br /><br />Microsoft innovates along with its hardware partners too. Weíre already seeing prototype phones with higher resolution displays, and accelerated 2D and 3D graphics. A phone focused on entertainment could compete with any console or handheld gaming machine that comes along in the next couple of years from Sony or Nintendo. Yes, there will be the likes of the Sony PSP, but at what price? It will probably be a $200-$300 device. This is certainly not for everyone. Nintendo proved with the Game Boy that you donít have to have the best hardware to own the market.<br /><br /><b><span>Microsoft, Donít Put Another Device In Our Bag</span></b><br />Iím sure not everyone will agree with this hypothesis. We will hear the usual arguments about too many features in one device and why Microsoft has to get their basic phone right first. I agree, but suggest that what Iíve outlined could be their ultimate destination. Microsoft has the patience and money to make it happen.<br /><br />Phone companies are waking up to games as a major source of revenue and a means of keeping subscribers and making more money from them. I hope someone from Microsoft is listening and hears this among the first of many voices. Maybe the debate will drive Microsoft to pursue the Smartphone as an alternative to creating their own Game Boy competitor.<br /><br />- - - - - - - - - - <br /><span>The above article is a paid advertisement for Infinite Ventures and does not necessarily represent the views of Pocket PC Thoughts.</span>
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Old 05-03-2004, 03:12 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 241

I hate those personal, portable gaming devices. PPCs are fine, but these hunks of wasted hardware, udes ONLY for games, is rediculous.... i love my xb0x, its the best out there to date. MS is becoming more competivitive with Sony now, as the increasing population of great games is upon the b0x. I wouldnt buy any PGD, but this future xb0x sequell is a must have.

btw, that 'xboy' pic is great :P
anyone else have an opinion?

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Old 05-03-2004, 04:02 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 830

i love portable gaming. I have 6 gameboys (gb pocket, 2 colors, 2 adv, 1 sp) , game gear, and a tapwave zodiac1. I had a gp32 but sold it. I plan on purchasing a psp, gb dual screen, a wm2003se pocket pc, and a zodiac3 in the future as they become available.

I love the ability to not be restricted as to where i can or cannot play games. I have several tv based systems (genisis, nes, saturn, psone and gamecube) but i find that i easily grow tired of them due to the price of games and restricted @ home only use. I prefer spending my $50 on a pc game, or on several portable games. The chances of me buying a xbox2, ps3 (we cant think of a new name), or nintendo's next gen tv system are pretty slim. Sure, it is fun to play need for speed on a 65inch hdtv with 7.2 surround sound (7 speakers and 2 woofers, no bull) but i loose interest fast.
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Old 05-03-2004, 04:50 PM
Felix Torres
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 1,887

With the recent XNA announcements its pretty clear MS is *not* going to make a separate "XBOY" portable gaming device but will instead game enable WinCE and its offshoots.

Add in the new 3d capable PocketPC chips coming from Intel, ATI, and NVIDIA and the fact that Both snartPhone and Portable media center will now run 320x240 screens and you get the obvious answer that these devices will be game enabled.

Indeed, the pics of the Creative PMC prototype suggest a game capability might be in the box, judging by the placement of the buttons...

Kinda easy to tell MS to not do something they aren't going to do anyway, isn't it?
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Old 05-03-2004, 05:34 PM
Zack Mahdavi
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 1,055

Originally Posted by Felix Torres
Kinda easy to tell MS to not do something they aren't going to do anyway, isn't it?
I think Microsoft will wait to see how Sony's new high-end gaming handheld will do. I wouldn't be surprised to see Microsoft launch a high-end gaming handheld if the new Sony is a success. We'll have to wait and see...
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Old 05-03-2004, 05:38 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 241

zkmusa, id have to agree. MS will go with what kicks! Not a bad trademark, but likely how it will go down.
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Old 05-03-2004, 08:04 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 119

Very nice post, you cover a lot of business aspects, which is the core of the video game industry. The general consumer isn't as familiar with the games industry from a business standpoint, and tend to base their decisions on brandnames.

Here's a little more filler to throw into the stew:

MS Portable Rumor
Some food for thought which has been in the Microsoft Rumor-mill for a while concerning the Xbox/Portable. The next console's HD has been up for debate, and one rumor is that it will be a portable device that will dock with the xbox. While not a fullfledged portable, the concept was dubbed the "ipod killer." This might be all MS needs to introduce more consumers to the premise of having a portable device on them for more than entertainment value, and usher in a new wave of PPC users.

PocketPC = MS gaming portable?
If you fancy emulation, and have deep pockets, then I whole heartedly agree that MS is already in the portable business, albeit not as a hardware manufacturer. PPC's have come a long way in appeasing the entertainment aspect of their capabilities. We can press two buttons at the same time on ipaqs now, which should lend some credence to PPCs being used as gaming devices. Why just emulation? Because that's where the big name franchises are. Not to step on anyone's toes, but the PPC's gaming scene is rather lack luster, with most of it's "best games" being knock offs of already established console/PC games, with just a spattering of actual ports, like Age of Empires.

Game Franchises?
Something I didn't pick up in your article is Microsoft's aggressive stance in securing high margin triple A titles as Xbox Exclusives. This might not mean a lot to a casual gamer, but exclusive titles are what sells consoles to the hard-core generation Y gamer. Exclusives are what distinguish one console from another, it's no longer about system specs, as any gamer will tell you, if you want to play Legend of Zelda, you have to buy a Gamecube, if you want Doom III, you need an Xbox. In this respect, it's a safe bet that MS would procure the same exlusive titles for it's home console as it would for it's portable.

In the case of the N-Gage, form and function were only half of it's problem, the thorn in it's side was it's lack of exclusive titles. What gamer is going to spend over 300 dollars and sign up for a cellphone contract to play the same Sonic game they can on a gameboy for less than half the price of an N-Gage?

To look into the future of phone technology, one only has to look at Japan, and their strong phone market. Phones with the power to display polygons have been out in Japan for literally years. Interstingly, with that level of power, it was never tapped into for more than animated avatars on your phone's display. What's interesting to note here, is that this is in Japan, the nation who resurrected the game industry here in the US, and noone outside of Capcom and Larry Banks have ventured to make games for phones. Personally, I think smartphones will not have any impact on the portable game market, just as the current batch of powerful phones hasn't either. While the game industry generates more money a year than Hollywood does, that doesn't mean it's consumer will buy anything, and that said, Smartphones are not in line with the pricepoint gamers have come to expect from a portable, $79-$199 dollars. You can argue you get a smartphone free when you sign up for a contract, but let's be honest, nothing is free in this world, and as an ex-airtouch employee, you're still paying for the phone, trust me

In closing
I welcome MS into the portable gaming market. They have the money, and exclusive game titles to push such a product, and if it's combined with any semblance of a windows CE OS, it's safe to say, that said portable would reign supreme in the Homebrew community. Case in point, Korea's GamePark 32. The aspect of "doing more" with your device is a very lucrative one, especially since it already applies to the Xbox, which you can modify to be an all in one digital media center, linux node, web browsing, game emulating powerhouse and more. In my case, an actual PPC made for gaming, with actual exclusive titles by established developers like Blizzard, Rockstar, or EA, all of which are MIA in the ppc community.

"Game Industry Vet since '96"
Play Magazine Staff/Net Monkey
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Old 05-03-2004, 08:41 PM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 734

Just a few quick comments:

- The article pointed out the Nokia N-Gage's failure. It failed partly because it... well, sucked as a phone and game device, but also because it was far too expensive. People didn't buy it simlock free, and who wants a contract for their GameBoy? Nobody! They only shipped [Not sold!] 600.000 units, and even now it's not selling.

- Yes, Sony's PSP will be more expensive then a GameBoy, but gamers will pay anything for great games. The PSP promises PS2 quality games and video, and at $200 I'd buy one right now, sight unseen, based on the Sony brand name and the big publishers that will flock to it.

- Which brings us to my third point. You can't compare Smartphone games to GameBoy games. They certainly aren't 'better' with a few exceptions. Gamers don't want another ****ty Puzzle Bobble - we want brand names. Mario, Sonic, Half Life, Doom, Gran Turismo! Games sell platforms.
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Old 05-03-2004, 10:31 PM
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 51
Send a message via ICQ to MichaelA Send a message via AIM to MichaelA Send a message via MSN to MichaelA Send a message via Yahoo to MichaelA

I don't know if I'm the typical gamer or not, but I'll post my views here for what it is worth.

I never want to play games on my phone. If I could create my perfect cell phone, it would be incredibly small, have a simple b/w LCD display, and be able to run on battery power for a really long time. Bluetooth might be interesting for internet access to my PDA, but I've lived without it this long and it would probably just hurt the battery and bloat the size...

Instead, I will play games on a device with a larger screen. A device designed with gaming controls. Until a few months ago I hadn't found such a device. I love the speed of my ASUS A620BT, and although it has some of the best gaming controls of any Pocket PC on the market, it still provides an awkward gaming experience.

I was astonished to find the Tapwave Zodiac was exactly what I was looking for. The shape is perfect. Landscape by default actually makes sense. It's thin, it's light, and it has an analog d-pad and lots of buttons in sensible locations. Heck, it even has side trigger buttons! And with all that it doesn't look like a cheap toy. It actually looks nice and could be mistaken for a regular, boring, PDA. (At least if you don't examine it closely!) I've learned to live with the icky Palm OS that is on the device, but I still don't like it. However, I'm willing to put up with the OS to have a REAL gaming PDA. You haven't played a Gameboy, Gameboy Color, NES, or SNES game on an emulator properly until you play it with real gaming controls and a nice resolution (320x480) display.

So now I have two PDAs, and depending on where I am going and what I plan to do, I bring one or both of them along. If someone (ASUS, HP, Toshiba, anyone?) made a Pocket PC device that was designed as well as the Zodiac is for gaming, then I would buy it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, I doubt this will happen. So I guess I'll have to uncomfortably live in the Palm world when it comes to gaming...
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Old 05-04-2004, 03:56 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 144
Send a message via AIM to bitbank

I agree with several of you and the main author that Microsoft doesn't need to make a separate gaming handheld because the SmartPhone and PocketPC are gravitating in that direction. It's too bad the Tapwave people chose the wrong OS for their device, but I'm sure some ambitious company will take Windows CE and use it on a PDA with a focus on gaming. The Gizmondo is looking to be the first real gaming device based on WinCE ( It looks like it won't have many PDA features, but it certainly was designed for gaming.

I have been trying to sell companies on the idea of game emulators for Windows CE for a while. The biggest challenge is not the coding, nor the licensing, but the lack of a market. The PPC market is just sooo small that game companies are reluctant to bother with it. Finally with the release of the MPx200, the SmartPhone platform looks like it has a chance to make a foothold. This shows lots of promise for gaming. I disagree with MichaelA about using the phone for gaming. I've recently written a GameBoy and GameGear emulator for the SmartPhone and I think it's great. My phone goes everywhere with me and I enjoy playing a quick game of Pac Attack or Soukoban when I'm on the road. The GameBoy and GameGear games were written for a small screen and lack of buttons and play extremely well. I am working hard to get licensed emulation titles to the SmartPhone and PPC. If all goes well you will be able to play them soon. I'll be at E3 next week demoing my emulators and trying to convince several companies of this idea.

Larry B.
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