Is There an Advantage to Launching First?

When an electronic device has sales as dominant as the Playstation 2, it becomes an industry model. Launching a year before the Xbox and Gamecube, the Playstation 2 built up large sales lead and never let go. Nintendo fans took note: they long debated that the Gamecube’s successor should launch first. Microsoft apparently took note also: they have launched the Xbox 360 a year ahead of the Wii and Playstation 3. So is launching a video game console well ahead of the competition a ticket to success?

The answer is yes, but only if the company can take advantage of the extra time. How so? Consider the first year of the Playstation 2. The system launched in North America on October 26, 2000, with a system shortage and high demand. Knocks against the system included shoddy manufacturing, a lack of power, and being hard to develop games for. Yet the next year saw Sony secure many high profile games as exclusives, while DVD playback ability proved to be a goldmine as the storage medium became the norm in most households for playing movies. By the time the Xbox and Gamecube arrived a year later, their launch titles were competing against Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec, Grand Theft Auto III, Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, and the upcoming release of Final Fantasy X. With great games and DVD playback, the Playstation 2 became the obvious choice for the mainstream gamer.

So what is the moral of the story? Launching first will only bring success if you can grow your fanbase and greatly appeal to the mass market before your competitors launch their products. Every established system has a loyal base of customers, but the Playstation 2 brought value and appeal to casual and non-gamers because of the DVD playback. It also appealed to the core gamers with no brand loyalty because of all the great exclusive games, and the Grand Theft Auto craze certainly helped. The result: 100+ million consoles shipped.

This is exactly what Microsoft has failed to do with the Xbox 360. Don’t get me wrong, the system has some good games, with more coming out in the next few months, but not anywhere near the extent of the Playstation 2. Halo 3, the game with the most mainstream appeal, is probably a year away. There is also nothing to capture the casual and non-gamer. Microsoft has a great online model, but that is geared more towards core gamers, and has nowhere near the same appeal as DVD playback did in 2001 and 2002. By failing to expand the 360’s userbase beyond the loyal customers who were happy with the Xbox, Microsoft has not and will not repeat the success of the Playstation 2 this generation.

What does this mean for the Nintendo and the Wii? Visit Infendo on Friday and find out…