Or put more generally, why do we have three different, completely incompatible video game consoles on the market right now, instead of multiple companies making video game consoles that play a single format? We have unified formats for CDs, DVDs and bananas, so why not video games?
Here's an article
that discusses rumors that Microsoft was considering licensing other manufacturers to make their own versions of the 360 prior to its launch. On the surface this doesn't seem like such a bad idea. It'd remove the responsibility for manufacturing hardware from Microsoft's sloped shoulders and birdlike arms - they've never really proven themselves adapt at the sort of heavy lifting that manufacturing requires. Third party Xbox's could potentially be cheaper, and also, you know, work.
But for now it remains a rumor. Why have console manufacturers resisted licensing the manufacture of their consoles, and in general why haven't we moved towards a single standard, like the DVD? As is generally the nature with rhetorical questions, I've already prepared some answers...
One, the inability to maintain control of the price of the hardware - particularly the ability to sell it at a loss. In the video game industry it's fairly common for a manufacturer to sell their console at a loss for the first few years of production, a sacrifice they're willing to make to build up market share. But there's no way an external, licensed manufacturer would be willing to manufacture Xbox's and price them so low that they'd be losing money. Both the CDi and 3DO were licensed to outside manufacturers, and high prices are one of the reasons they failed (they also weren't much good at playing video games.) I guess this kind of scheme could work, if the licensing involved assorted payoffs and kick-backs from the licensor to the licensee in exchange for the licensor being able to set the price. Seems complicated though.
Two, video game content providers aren't as powerful or concentrated as movie or music content providers. The vast majority of American films are owned by