The Grinch & the Xbox 360

Posted by joefunk :: Company News-M&A | Retail-Products

Grinch_ponder_2 I haven’t seen anything like it since – well, it wasn’t that long ago actually – the “Star Wars: Episode III” launch this summer.

There were all the customers, standing in line all night, a crowd eerily similar to those Star Wars crowds in demographics, size and geekiness. It’s the kind of easy story local TV news stations love to pick up on, and which the networks happily pile onto.

But this was different. This time, it was a cold November night, not Spring time. And this time, unlike all the Star Wars fans who were able to actually pay for and consume the product they waited in line for, the majority of the people in this line would be waiting in vain. In the queues I monitored near the Target and Wal-Mart by my home, a couple hundred people stood in line for what turned out to be 12 vouchers, which meant 12 lucky people out of a crowd of hundreds were able to get their 360s last Tuesday.

Later that night, 360s were selling on Ebay for $1,200. And that story was covered by the mass media, too.

Why? Because Microsoft, one of the richest and most powerful companies in the world, claims that it just couldn’t rev up production capacity for their most important product launch since, well, Windows. They blame it on the goal to launch the 360 in three markets simultaneously  (US, Europe and Asia) and not some artificial shortage designed to spin the hype exactly as it has been spun.

Peter Moore, VP of worldwide marketing and publishing for Xbox, acknowledged the shortfall – and fallout. “I’ve seen all of the conspiracy theories. Somewhere in Roswell, New Mexico, we have a hangar where we’re stockpiling it, creating false shortages. No,” Moore told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He dismissed the rumors as “ridiculous” and said they are “trying to get as many units to retail as we possibly can.”

Whether it’s a carefully orchestrated play to walk the line between supply and demand, or Microsoft really is scrambling to catch up, I do not know (though I’m guessing Microsoft would much prefer to get a 360 into the hands of everyone who wants one asap, and entrench themselves as much as possible before the PS3 launches next year.)

But this I do: With all due respect to my gaming brethren in the other hemispheres, we Americans want our 360s now! As PT Barnum and Wild Bill Cody understood about us more than 100 years ago, and George Lucas demonstrated more recently over two generations of fans, Americans will stand in line, and we will endure hardships, and we will pay good money, to be entertained – but by gosh there better be a payoff at the end. There isn’t yet – at least not for most people who want to buy a 360 – and no matter how you slice it, that sucks.

Meanwhile, you want a real conspiracy theory? Is there any coincidence that the green in the Xbox is the spot-on same color as the Grinch? You tell me…

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