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Long read: The beauty and drama of video games and their clouds

"It's a little bit hard to work out without knowing the altitude of that dragon..."

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Fatal exception in Xbox?

Nothing to worry about yet, we say

Microsoft's critics have been giving it the elbow in light of embarrassing software errors at E3, saying that it's shaping up to be the greatest business failure in Microsoft's history. The basic gist of the failure argument goes something like this... The Xbox is a Microsoft 1.0 technology, in other words a public beta test, and since the Xbox is fundamentally just a PC in a console package, the instability of previous Microsoft operating environments will remain. Apparently parents won't explain crashes and bugs to children, they will just return the console to the store. Furthermore, the competition consists of Sony and Nintendo, whose GameCube really cleaned up at E3 this year. Finally, even if unit volume is successful, the Xbox business model calls for a loss on hardware. In my opinion, there are a number of issues that have been overlooked, the most crucial of which is that the Xbox is a static development environment, something that will make a huge difference. If you take a random PC game released over the last few years, the developer can probably show you one unique hardware configuration somewhere that it will work on without issue, whether or not it does on yours. Now imagine that every game was developed with one specific set of components in mind and you have your Xbox. In the past Windows has been given a tough time and looked flaky on your average PC. The goalposts are definitely not in the same position for the Xbox though, because the target is much easier to hit. In fact, as long as Microsoft are being liberal with their use of Windows and keep it away from areas where hard disk fragmentation and other instances of sustained use could give it problems, it should be fine. One might argue that the embarrassed demonstrators at E3 getting Blue Screens Of Death were more at the mercy of the developers' competence than anything else. As a journalist I've seen PlayStation, N64 and even GameBoy software crash further into development than these early Xbox titles, and already some people are sounding the death knell for Microsoft's console. We're not going to make assumptions based on the first card out of the pack. Once Microsoft give up their hand, we'll be better equipped to do so. Until then, here's to waiting. Related Feature - Microsoft introduce Xbox