There is no question that the original Xbox is dead. I haven't seen a new game in months. I haven't seen a new game listed for I don't know how long (at least here in Australia). Heck, even Halo 2 for the Xbox has been discontinued. Just about everything I see for Xbox is budget priced. Despite all the budget-priced trash, there are still some good titles to be had, and surely many that have been deleted.
Now I'venever had an Xbox. I do however have an Xbox 360. Of course, some Xbox games do work on the Xbox 360. Anyone reading this is obviouslyan avid game player, but what about the rest of the game playing public who don't read gaming news? They probably couldn't be bothered to find out if an Xbox game is compatible or not. I probably wouldn't if I didn't know where to look or simply couldn't be bothered searching for the info.
Are some of these games still in production, or is it just excess stock slowly being depleted? If they are still in production, how much is it costing to produce and distribute to retailers?
So we come to my obvious suggestion; release selected Xbox games via Xbox Live Arcade. I'd expect 1200 points would be the right price. That works out to about 20 Australian dollars, and the price of most budget games is $20-$30 here. But gamers would then have the comfort of downloading from their own home instead of having to go out and search for ttles which are becoming scarcer to find. I fail to see how they couldn't sell more copies of a game to Xbox 360 owners this way than standard distribution. Developers would be better off because there is more money in their pocket. I don't know Microsoft's business model, but I can only assume they charge for server space for downloadable content, and/or a percentage of each piece of software downloaded, so they can't be worse off either. The developer would have these costs offset by the fact that they no longer have the costs associated with producing a physical product.
What are the downsides? Well, for starters, I'm not a tech-head. I don't know if a downloaded game saved to the hard drive will play the same as it would be played from a disc. Maybe some code needs to be rewritten for that. Having never played an Xbox game on my 360, I am also unaware of how save games work. Perhaps these issues would be too problematic, and require too much rewritten code (and thus cost) to remain viable at budget price points. Players don't get a physical manual,but Iwould assume it is not too much trouble to include a digital one with the game.
AllXbox Live Arcade games also have a demo. I wouldassume this is not possible with many Xbox games. Of course, even classifying them as Arcade is probably not correct in any case. These would probably be given their own home in the downloadable section. As an option to replace demo's, perhaps there could be trailers or gameplay footage; these might tip someone into making a purchase.
As I've never played an Xbox game on my 360,I don't know if games played this way still retain their online features. If anyone can shed any light, that is appreciated.
There is the question of size. For reasons unbeknownst to me, when I first started writing this article, I was writing under the impression that Xbox games fit on a 650 megabyte disc. I must have had a mental lapse, because I know in fact they are DVD's. But I've written enough now that I may as well follow through. What I thought was going to be a minor point (given that we download demo's of up to a gig all the time) has probably become the most relevant. Of course, I'm sure most Xbox games do not comeclose to filling the DVD's capacity; Xbox 360 games are still on DVD's, and we can assume that they would require more content. We only have limited hard drive space after all. You can always delete a demo and redownload it later if you want to play it again. While you can download games again for free after you have paid for them the first time, there is the chance that consumers don't know this (I didn't; I asked in the forums as research for this article). Perhaps the size would have to form a part of the selection process for games made available for this service. It could however, be extra incentive for new consumers to purchase an Elite or existing users to purchase an extra hard drive.
One potential issue from a business perspective, is they probably don't want to release these games via Live while there is still physical product out in the market place. Furthermore, physical product gets into the hands of original Xbox owners, but downloads can't. This is on the assumption that they are still producing discs for the system; surely there can't be too much life left there though.
I think Microsoft are in the prime position to test this idea. As I said earlier, I didn't own an Xbox, but I own an Xbox 360. I'm pretty excited about Halo 3. I've never played Halo 1 or 2, and I'd like to play these before Halo 3 gets released. I have a friend who has them, and I can borrow them when I want. But if Microsoft releases them as a download for 1200 points, I'll download them, and the size won't matter. Instead of borrowing the game, Microsoft will get some more of my cash. Releasing Halo at the end of July and Halo 2 at the end of August would probably be a wise business move. It would be the perfect trial to see if such a system would be viable.
Have I covered all the issues? Are any of my thoughts misguided? Would you download games via this service, and if so, how much of a factor is size? If anyone can give me an idea of how much space the average Xbox game takes up on the DVD, that would give me extra food for thought.