A Two-Game Console Home

Microsoft formally announced today that it’s dropping the price of its Xbox game console to $150, from $180. The price will go into effect on Tuesday, and with any luck, I’ll be buying an Xbox sometime soon.

A few years back, when I picked up my PlayStation 2, I never expected to buy an Xbox. I had one game console, so why did I need two? Besides, all the good games were on PS2, and I couldn’t fathom dropping more money on an entirely different — and incompatible — gaming system. I wasn’t alone in this — a few years back, as PS2, Xbox and GameCube were launching, the conventional wisdom was that there was maybe space for two consoles in the gaming market. The assumption was that people would pick one console, and stick with it, meaning that one of the three consoles playing musical chairs was going to come up short (like Sega did with its Dreamcast).

And yet, here I sit, two years later, contemplating an Xbox. So what’s changed? Well, a lot actually. The price drop is a factor, though not a decisive one — I’d already decided to get an Xbox, and this merely means I’ll be able to get it sooner rather than later.

A bigger factor is the fact that my gaming group’s mid-week HeroClix sessions have fallen victim to real-life schedules. Bob moved two hours away from the rest of us, and Jon is working a shift that keeps him from joining our games. Plus the Lance and I have kids that put ever-increasing pressures on our free time. Getting away for a night of gaming above and beyond our Friday night games was becoming difficult, if not impossible.

What’s a dedicated bunch of gamers to do? Why, go online of course! And online gaming is something that the Xbox does very, very well. At $50, Xbox Live (Microsoft’s online component) isn’t cheap, but it gets you patches for your games, and lets you easily play with friends or strangers over the net. The service’s live voice capabilities are excellent, and the whole thing can be connected to a wireless network via an adapter (which admittedly costs $70-$100, depending on whether or not its on sale).

Plus, the Xbox has finally gotten itself a bunch of good games. Halo was always a great game, but its been joined by Crimson Skies, Gothom Street Racing 2, and MechAssault not to mention the offline-only (but still very good) Knights of the Old Republic.

So here we have an easy to use, wireless-compatible service that allows us to talk to one another in real-time — and play a bunch of cool games. Folks, for a bunch of thirtysomething gamers scattered across sizeable geographic area, who find their face-to-face gaming time evaporating, it doesn’t get much better than this.

And what of the PlayStation 2? Well I’m not about to ditch it. It still has a better game library than the Xbox as well as exclusive titles — like Grand Turismo 4 — that I’m eager to play. I don’t know if I’ll continue to have two consoles once Sony and Microsoft release their next-gen products, but for now, they’ll be sitting side-by-side in my living room.

And I’m not alone. Lance started this trend and in fact has three consoles — an Xbox, PS2 and GameCube and he and I have managed to at least tempt Bob — who has a PS2 — with the idea of buying an Xbox. What does this mean for the world at large? Well, admittedly my little gaming group isn’t a statistically valid sample, but I think that today’s gaming market can support three gaming consoles, and I think more and more households will be buying two systems as prices continue to fall.

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