09.21.10

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Halo Coverage (Hype) is Fake, Largely Paid For; Xbox 360 (Slim) Sells Just 700 Units in Japan in Debut Week

Posted in Hardware, Microsoft at 8:53 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bye, Halo

Summary: A sobering look at the iffy launch of “Halo: Reach”, which left some buyers upset; Xbox 360 hype is compared to a relatively disappointing reality outside the United States

IF HALO’S latest release is known to many people, it’s because Microsoft flooded the press with money as part of its huge marketing campaign. Lavish spendings on development may justify a lot of PR, but shouldn’t good games sell themselves to journalists? Need writers be prodded and pressured to bow to Microsoft? That’s just one of the issues we’ll explore today.

Let’s start with a reality/sanity check. The release of Halo had some true problems, even if the press was overrun by PR that masked those problems. As BNET put it, “early glitches show how difficult it is to roll out a game to millions and manage online play without problems. It has to make you wonder whether Microsoft can reliably rely on gaming as a strength for Windows Phone 7.” From the same long complaint:

My son typed in the code and he got an error message. He clicked Try Again and the prompt cleared as he was told that the code had already been used. A friend of his experienced the same thing. Eventually, he went into some system settings, found an option to download the specials again, and was able to do so.

However, you don’t want to rely on the comfort and technical prowess of consumers in online gaming, and that becomes even more of an issue as Microsoft sees games as a potential advantage in the roll-out of Windows Phone 7. Here’s a hint: It’s only an advantage if you don’t have to think to make titles work.

“It’s all just ‘synthetic’ reporting, manufactured by PR people with a huge budget at hand.”The writer predicts that Vista Phone 7 [sic] may also suffer from this type of mess. “KIN” users were sure complaining in the forums about technical problems (we covered this at the time). But will readers of major newspapers pay attention? Probably not because Vista Phone 7 also has a marketing budget of about half a billion dollars (that’s a lot to spend on a really bad platform to be merely promoted). It’s all just ‘synthetic’ reporting, manufactured by PR people with a huge budget at hand. The machinations and the process involved are a subject we wrote about before along with some examples. Here is Bloomberg helping Microsoft create some hype around “Halo: Reach” (just in time for release) and the PR blitz for Halo is also aided by free advertising from the MSBBC (well, “free” as in taxpayers-funded), which hired many people from Microsoft UK and continues to hire more, most recently for iPlayer [1, 2]. The latter article states: “The new role is part of Hugger’s restructure of the FM&T team following the departure of Anthony Rose to become chief technology officer of IPTV joint venture Project Canvas.”

“Here we have a former Microsoft employee bringing in other employees of Microsoft to the MSBBC.”Here we have a former Microsoft employee bringing in other employees of Microsoft to the MSBBC. The BBC has been corrupted by Microsoft influence at its very core. It will be hard to recover from that as it usually gets worse over time, not better. Just look at Yahoo! Unlike the BBC, the Yahoo! news portal only syndicates news, it doesn’t pretend to be an “objective” news-teller (which the BBC certainly is not, at least in the technology section).

Some weeks ago we explained that there were fake Halo leaks whose sole purpose was to create hype under the guise of “taboo”. It’s just marketing spin, served with $200,000,000 as the off-the-shelf number of choice. A lot of the press just printed this number without asking questions (how is this number calculated? What does it represent?) or using some critical thinking. Microsoft utters some big number and the ‘journalists’ just quote or type it down as fact. It was the same type of media blitz with previous Halo releases as I pointed out on the Web at the time (it was clearly not natural, just artificial hype). Watch Microsoft using celebrities like Snoop Dogg and LL Cool J to promote this thing. Bill Gates is currently using a similar strategy which we will write about tomorrow (famous black artists used to support his hijack of the school system).

Hype aside, what is it really that’s reported about Halo? Well, there are already problems, of course. Here we go, there are disc read errors [1, 2, 3]. To quote:

While Bungie and Microsoft’s Halo: Reach has seen impressive success in its opening week, some of its users have reported disc read errors on older Xbox 360 models, rendering the game unplayable.

Users on the Bungie.net forums have reported error messages, looping cinematics, and lock-ups when trying to play the game, even on brand new discs.

The disc errors are being confirmed by Microsoft and attempts are being made to get somebody to start a survey which determines what proportion of the buyers will be affected (Microsoft lies about Xbox 360 error rates in the most shameful of ways and fires employees who say the truth):

A report from Paul McDougall today over on Information Week says that Microsoft has confirmed receiving complaints of glitches with Halo: Reach. Apparently the problem seems mainly to affect users on the 20GB Xbox 360 Pro, sold between 2005 and 2008 although there have also been some problems for users of the 120GB Xbox 360 Elite.

Endemic Xbox 360 scratching issues cannot be forgotten [1, 2] because they ended up leading to formal complaints and investigations. Microsoft just cannot get hardware to be made reliably, maybe because it chooses underpaid labour.

“Microsoft just cannot get hardware to be made reliably, maybe because it chooses underpaid labour.”There are other issues with “Halo: Reach”: “According to numerous players, the 4GB of internal memory the system has is read by the game as a memory unit and not an HDD. Because of this, the game keeps popping up a “hard drive is required” message to these gamers as they try to go into online co-op.”

“Halo Reach is what’s wrong with the gaming industry today,” claims this troll from CNET and other publications including Ziff Davis’:

But all the laudatory comments and gushing over the game just don’t work for me. I’ll be the first to admit that Halo games are fun to play. But for me, Halo Reach – and all the hoopla surrounding it – is what’s wrong with the gaming industry.

[...]

So, as Halo Reach gets all the accolades that most gamers say it deserves, I’m left wanting more. The game might be fun to play. It might be a great step up over predecessors. But to me, it’s everything that’s wrong about the gaming industry. The game is part of a major franchise. It’s yet another first-person shooter. And it doesn’t push the industry forward in any measurable way.

So there we have another unexciting game without any innovation being hyped up because Microsoft is a marketing company (and lawyers’ den too). “Team Fortress 2 support for the 360 was a “train wreck,” says Valve,” according to Geek.com. So it’s not just Halo then. To quote: “A perpetual sore spot for Xbox 360 gamers is the debacle of Valve Software’s 360-port of their incredible and constantly evolving team-based multiplayer shooter, Team Fortress 2. While the PC and Mac versions of Team Fortress 2 have been privy to a constant stream of content-adding updates, all of them free, the 360 version has barely seen an update since it was launched.”

Maybe that’s because most gamers use a console like Wii and truly hardcore gamers would rather have a PS3. Xbox 360 may be doing well in the US because it’s the only American console (and accordingly, it’s heavily advertised there). Over in Asia it’s another story because there is a ban on Xbox 360 in China (and new competition that is a lot more affordable).

“Xbox 360 may be doing well in the US because it’s the only American console (and accordingly, it’s heavily advertised there).”In Japan it is the very opposite of the US in the sense that Xbox 360 is somewhat of a joke in Japan (the English-speaking press won’t touch the topic). To quote some numbers from the article “Week One Japanese Sales Of Slim 360 Fail to Perform”: “This week Japan saw the launch of the new slimmer Xbox 360, but Japan didn’t seem to get suckered in. The revised console sold about 700 units, accounting for less than 20 percent of total Xbox 360 hardware sales.”

That’s right! Just 700 units!!! Taking all 360 sales into account it’s still just a few thousands. That’s pathetic performance in a technically-advanced country with a population of over 100 million (127,420,000 is this year’s estimate).

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