The  10 commandments for a console launch


posted 2/6/2007 by Charles Husemann
other articles by Charles Husemann
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6. Remember a gaming day and keep it holy (release new online content on a consistent basis)
If you're going to have a system which can download content, pick a day every week to release new content.  Music and movie fans know that every Tuesday they can hit the store and buy new content.  Pick one day a week like Microsoft (Wednesday) and Nintendo have (Monday) and stick with it.  No random day of the month crap, pick one day and stick with it.  Companies will need to plan ahead to make they have a full pipeline of content lined up though.  Gamers are more likely to accept the occasional weak release as opposed to a week without any content.

7. You shall not covet your neighbors titles, make sure you have at least three solid first party launch titles
Launch lineups are notoriously weak, you know you're going to get a few games from Activision, a shovelware version of Madden that's been hastily ported to the system, and maybe a few Ubisoft titles.  Game development for a new console is tricky as developers are coding towards a moving standard but every console launch should have at least three quality first party titles to help get gamers through that slow period at the start of the launch.  The closest thing we got with this generation was the Xbox 360 with Kameo, Project Gotham Racing 3, and Perfect Dark: Zero but you really need at least three quality titles to keep people interested (put down the torches Wii owners, I'm not discounting Zelda but it was the only first party title Nintendo released with the Wii). [UPDATE: I forgot about Excite Truck, I don't include Wii Sports as it was a pack-in for the system in the US.]

8. You shall not commit gaming adultery, backwards compatibility should be an all or nothing deal
Look you either support backwards compatibility or you don't.  Don't just support the top games or support the games in a crappy low resolution mode.  You either support it or you don't.  Gamers shouldn't have to check an online list to see if their games are playable on the next generation system and then pray that they will be.  In the immortal words of my father "Take a dump or get off the pot", either you support all the games or you don't.  Having a half-baked approach to this just confuses frustrates people as they have to wonder if a game is going to be workable on the new platform.

9. Thou should have good tech support and a solid replacement policy in place for defective units
Nothing is worse than purchasing a new high tech gadget only to have it break down after a few days or weeks of use. Factor in having to deal with customer service and it just leaves a really big sour taste in your mouth.  All products (especially cutting edge electronics) are going to have a certain defect rate and we're not asking for a 100% defective free launch. Just don't make getting a replacement for your defective unit a hassle as you want the consumer to continue using your console and to purchase more games and peripherals for it. A working console is a profitable console so don't make it hard for consumers to get a replacement console if theirs goes bad.

10.  Future launches will launch with one and only one SKU
Two SKUs for a console launch are something that's been tried and should now be officially buried.  Sure you can say that people still bought the lower end SKU's for the 360 and PS3 at launch but given how scarce units were at launch I don't think everyone who bought a lower end unit would have made the same decision if a higher end sku would have been available.  Not only does this cause customer confusion but it means that you add variability into the console configuration and isn't that the main benefit of consoles? 

Hopefully these guidelines will help eliminate some of the ugliness that we saw with the current next generation launch.  I'm sure there will be other problems but hopefully there won't be the violence, camping, and massive eBay profits from the next major console release cycle.

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