Episode 360? Xbox vs. Star Wars

It's hard to determine which is getting more press right now, "Star Wars Episode III" or the Xbox 360. Both are resolving many questions that have resided in our minds over the past few years, and both signal a distinctly different, technologically advanced future.

"Star Wars" resolves all the questions about how Anakin becomes Darth Vader. The Xbox 360 resolves all the questions about whether or not Microsoft will improve its foray into the gaming world, as well as how Microsoft is going to push to own the virtual world that will reside in our homes. Oh, and both have made endless references to the Dark Side for many, many years.

If you've seen the press surrounding the Xbox 360, you surely know this is potentially an enormous success or a monumental failure, and given the track record that Microsoft has, I can't possibly predict the latter. The new Xbox attempts to merge together gaming with the media center concept (it can wirelessly link to your home network and be used to view pictures or listen to music), your entertainment center (it plays DVDs and CDs and your iPod can plug into it), and even your telephone (it possesses some striking similarities to VoIP technology). If one console has ever been poised for success, it's this one. It has the potential to truly transform your digital environment and possibly bring back the aforementioned digital home concept (which I pronounced dead not too long ago... imagine that).



What's even more exciting is that Microsoft is actually innovating and leading the charge here, rather than allowing someone else to launch and then mimic or improve upon their ideas. This is new ground to tread for a company that has built a business on being second, but going big. The competitive platforms of Playstation 3 and Nintendo won't be out until some time in 2006 while the Xbox will come to us around Thanksgiving. I can just picture Bill Gates sitting at his Turkey Day dinner, giving thanks for his family, his brain, and his Xbox 360.

I've only seen screenshots thus far, but if these are anywhere close to the realism displayed by the actual games, then this signals an exciting development in technology that can also be applied to advertising. If the graphics are video quality, and the box is always online, then networks like Massive and other efforts to dynamically integrate ads into the games will surely take off. There appears to be technology incorporated into the Xbox that allows the user to find other players, a la Xbox Live, of similar skill level and interests. This profile could also be used to provide more effective targeting for advertisers, especially if Microsoft can somehow harness all the data from pictures, musical preferences, and Internet surfing, into one household profile. It will provide the first cross-media profiling opportunity that is based on actual behavior rather than predictive modeling. Now THAT is strong!

Of course, it could be a monumental failure, too. In the end, even Darth Vader returns balance to the force and ventures back from the Dark Side to redeem him and save his son from certain death at the hands of the Emperor, right? You never can tell these days.

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