As far as history is concerned, what's about to happen to the video game industry can only be described as broken. Of course, I'm referring to the Xbox 360 launch, which at this point is nothing short of disastrous, and it's not even out yet. The majority of the problems lie with Microsoft.
This has nothing to do with the quality of the hardware or the console itself. It's going to be a fantastic piece of equipment. Microsoft though doesn't seem to have a clue what they're doing with this. Nothing seems ready, and they've done nothing to calm rumors of heavy shortages, broken demo kiosks, delayed (and major) launch titles, and a complete lack of advertising.
Actually, I'll take that back. They do have an ad. Two of them actually. You can view one here (look for TV Spot: Jump In). There have been some truly awful video game ads over the years, but these are most baffling, frustrating, and uninformative ads ever. There's zero indication as to what the 360 is, what it can do, or that it has anything to do with video games.
Chances are if you're reading this, you're a gamer and you know already. That's great, but what about the mainstream gamer? What about parents? In other words, the people who might play games, but don't keep up on message boards or read articles, etc.? How is the Xbox 360 going to end up in the hands of 3 million gamers by next year with ads like that?
Then you have the demo kiosks. They're not perfect either. Actually, they're as broken as this whole situation. To be fair, most seem to be working. However, a day or so after they started appearing, Wal Mart employees found that the wireless controllers (why wireless in a kiosk anyway?) interfered with their equipment. Most have been/were turned off until the reps from the company head back to fix the problem. Another missed opportunity.
The obvious problem, even without the other things, is the consoles themselves. Most stores had their shipments drastically cut, and even major the EB in this area is only getting 20 (with 150+ pre-orders). That same store is getting a single core console, nearly proving that the non-bundle version is nothing more than a marketing tool.
Could the shortage be a strategy? Of course, it did work for Sony during the PS2 launch, planned or not (we'll never know). The hype made eBay sellers happy, and that seems to be the logical way this will go for the 360. Who is to blame?
They're 100% to blame if it's a true manufacturing problem. Actually, even if it's planned, it's still stupid. They're attempting to have a full launch in three separate countries (all major markets, including Japan where the first Xbox failed miserably) within a matter of weeks, limiting allotments even without manufacturing issues. This is the Christmas season, and holding off the launch until the next year would make far more sense. Rumors have stated there could be more kiosks than consoles in people's homes, not including the 400,000 used for the Pepsi promotion (now done) at every10minutes.com.
You'll have more consoles in stores to satisfy everyone (and not just send them home to wait for a PS3), have a head start leading into the next holiday season, and likely still have the jump on Sony. The games might actually be ready then too, especially since as of right now, there is still no official launch title list, and games are on and off it on a daily basis. Some of the ports, especially stuff like Tony Hawk Wasteland, don't even seem to use the console and come off as cheap upgrades. Certainly nothing worth $400 on a launch day, assuming you can get one.
Are the stores to blame? Partially. Most stores stopped taking pre-orders a few months back (at least for the first shipment). They're the ones that told people they would have them. Instead of playing it safe, they completely drained their stock long before they knew any allotment numbers. When someone puts $400 down on a console and doesn't get one as expected, it's hell on the employees who are (for whatever reason) blamed, and it doesn't shine well on the console maker either when that same clerk explains whose fault it really is.
Even if the launch fails miserably, there's no question Microsoft has made some great hardware. It's going to take a while to really see what the system can do, so maybe it's all for the best that not many people get their hands on the early stuff. Once the developers have a better grip, then it's time for a complete launch. Still, all of this makes far more sense for an April-May launch than late November. Someone didn't think this through.