Is the Xbox 360 hurting the gaming industry and hense the "public good"? Nich Maragos of 1up.com thinks so, and he makes his case in a scholarly essay that quotes everyone from Atari CEO Bruno Bonnell to Pyrrhus of Epirus:
"In this case, Microsoft is underinvesting in the public good of maintaining a stable and growing market in general -- something that its rivals Nintendo and Sony could also benefit from, resulting in resources spent to further its competitors' goals -- and putting its own interests first.
... You can't really fault Microsoft for that, because that's capitalism for you -- a deeper-seated issue than this essay has the scope for. But I submit that the rush to a new generation was a bad idea anyway, not so much because it weakened the market but because it weakened its own position. Microsoft, after all, was also a victim of the market -- those were Xbox titles suffering right alongside the PS2 and GameCube games on shelves. Furthermore, the 360 production issues caused by the rush to launch have impacted the one reason Microsoft had for going ahead with it in the first place: that key first-mover advantage."
Maragos opines that Microsoft's willingness to sandbag the market in exchange for a clumsy head start is a Pyrrhic victory at best. Only time will tell. But please, let's not confuse the "public good" as it relates to competing multi-national corporations with the "public good" as it relates to actual gamers. A slow-down in the current-gen market might cause concern at MS and Sony, but it's fine for consumers, who now have the ability to pick up Xbox and PS2 titles at reduced prices. As for fanboys, our early-adapter options have only increased, despite whatever troubles you may have had at the local Wal-Mart. I'll credit the evil capitalists at Microsoft with getting the party started. Of course, if you disagree, don't tell me, tell CBS.