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TK's MORNING BUZZ: It's Put-Up-or-Shut-Up Time for Microsoft and Its Much-Ballyhooed New Xbox

14 May, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

It's put-up-or-shut-up time for Microsoft and its much-ballyhooed new Xbox video game console.

The computer software giant is gearing up its Xbox demonstrations for this week's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the console's pivotal debutante ball in which it has to prove itself against such nimble-footed dancers as Sony (with its PlayStation continuing to gain momentum, particularly as fans "discover" it doubles as a DVD player) and Nintendo (whose GameCube is said by those in the know to be quite the little dazzler).

As chief Xbox marketer Robbie Bach, ex-Disney video chief Mitch Koch's boss, told the Reuters news service, "E3 is the turning point for us. That's when everything really starts to focus on the games themselves."

Indeed, the success or failure of Xbox depends not just on the player's capabilities, but on the software -- how much of it will be available at launch, and how cool it is. As a Reuters reporter notes in his story, "All the Xbox's power will be wasted if game developers haven't made titles that are fun: Titles will build buzz and sway shoppers unsure of which console to pick. Video game trade press will line up at Microsoft's booth to play the handful of titles that will be demonstrated. The impressions they take away and later post on popular Web sites and gaming magazines will play a crucial role in the fate of the Xbox. Will it be the must-have machine for the holiday season? Or will it fail to distinguish itself from rivals?"

It will be interesting to find out. One should note that even Microsoft, known for its heavy-handed successes in the computer world, isn't immune to stumbling now and then, and the experts are divided whether Xbox will be the latest pearl in Bill Gates' string of victories or whether it will be a dud.

We shall see. Microsoft execs say they expect to have 15 games on hand when the machine launches this fall, at a price rumored to be around $300. Those games will be previewed at E3, and we should know within a week what the street buzz is.

With apologies to James Carville, "It's the software, stupid."

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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