You can almost still hear the echoed wailings from attendees at Microsoft's E3 press conference yesterday:
"A cuddly new interface for the Xbox? Living-room social games?"
"A cute multicolored dingus of a controller that looks like it was designed by Playskool?"
"Avatars, for the love of Master Chief?! They're totally copying the Wii!"
Of course they are. They're Microsoft. That's, well, what they do, duplicating other companies' breakthroughs and bringing them to the mass market. Aaaaand it's worked out pretty well for them so far, with some exceptions (I'm looking at you, Zune).
So, fine. They're copycats. That being said, Microsoft's Xbox 360 plan for the year is really smart. They've got the core gamers with their solid lineup of franchises like Gears of War, Resident Evil, Fallout, and Fable. The players of these games are what the industry is starting to call "primary gamers," the person in the household who plays a given console the most.
The fact that Microsoft devoted about half their time yesterday to the "innovations" noted above means that they get the potential for the market of "secondary gamers," other people in the household who play the console but not as much as the primary gamer. These folks are likely to play casual games like those found on Xbox Live Arcade, party games like Rock Band, and "family game night" type titles like Scene It.
The type of person, in other words, who might buy a Wii, and who probably doesn't think of him- or herself as a gamer, definitely not someone who's going to gib the neighbors in a lively Call of Duty 4 matchup.
Hell, with Microsoft's shiny new media partnerships like NBC Universal and Netflix, you don't even have to be a gamer at all for the Xbox to have value-- you can download TV and movies on the thing.
All of which, incidentally, are selling points when Timmy or Susie Primary Gamer is lobbying Mom and Dad to buy a console.
Oh, and the Portal sequel will be on the Xbox.
Shit. I may actually have to buy one now.