Who or what 'killed' the MSX?

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By J-War

Champion (413)

J-War's picture

12-09-2003, 00:56

Here or on iRC, I already saw several time something like " Piracy Killed MSX and or Killed MSX in Europe. "

I have a point of vue about what and who killed the MSX, i would like to share it with you wether or not you'll agree with it !

Please folk, let's go back in japan in 80's !

1983 was the year Nintendo introduced his famous Famicom. It quickly became an HUGE success. In a few years, Nintendo sold 15 million consoles and over 150 million games. The system was so popular they released it in USA in1985 and Europe 1986. In Europe and USA it was called NES. Remember ?

Well, because of this success, Nintendo owned quickly the game market in Japan and as the absolute leader they began to monopolize and CONTROL most if not all 3rd party editors...

Because of the absolute leadership of Nintendo, Sega wasn't able to sell enough or his Master System (Mk3) in Japan... The console lauch was a total failure in JP which was why Sega started to attack the US and EU market to try to earn money at all cost and avoid bankrupt.

Few time later, Nec with it's fabulous PC Engine tried to launch his legendary console. No matter the PCE was technologicaly a pure jewel for it's time, Nec & Hudson Soft weren't able to establish as a major actor into that market partialy controled by Nintendo. Fortunately they released very good game and well... The console wasn't selling that bad... But of course nothing close to the Nes incredible sells.

The lauch of the Sega Megadrive didn't change anything... It was impossible for them to beat Nintendo, and the console wasn't selling that good at the begining... Because The Megadrive was a total succes in US and EU, and was selling damn fast, Sega was the able to star huge advertising campaign in JP. This is how the Megadrive realy started to hit the JP maket with a bunch of great Arcade Port or sega games. This is how Sega finaly succesfuly made it to the Second place into the Jp, just above nec.

I should mention Nec made some huge strategical errors, but well, as i said the console wasn't selling enough to put nec in a comfortable place... That was because of nintendo of course...

You should know Nec released the SuperGrafx, a superior PC Engine console... It feature 2 time the GFX chip of the PCE, so 2x more sprites, colors, sprite size etc... It was able to compare to a Snes... but only 5 games were released on it. (1941, Aldynes and Gn'G are the one to try out).

Also i would like to mention the PC engine was superior to the Megadrive, it has almost same sound quality, but superior graphic engine with more colors. ( just test lords of thunder on both (winds of thunder jp)

Should i mention the Game Boy ? The most sell console of all time ? It gave even more money (then more power) to Nintendo...

You already understood... All was a matter of " strategical war " based on money power and 3rd party editors control .

End of the history for now.

With all i explained in mind, imagine how nintendo asphyxiated the Jp market.
Eventhough The MSX was quite popular (due to MSX1 sells mainly) the MSX 2 had quickly to fight against NEC, Sega and Nintendo which was totaly impossible due to the lack of 3rd party editors (They all fled quickly mostly in 1986-1987... Just compare to 1984-1985.) and the fact the MSX 2 was totaly outdated compared to the Master System, the PC Engine (1987) & Later the Megadrive...

Dudes ! Without Konami, the MSX 2 won't have lived long... And Konami did the good choice, they ported some MSX hits to the NES and even developed games for it to not be worried...

I know the NES was even more outdated than the MSX but it was popular enough to not have to worry about that... Newcomer in the video game market get established by using their features and superior specs and at least a good advertising campaing...

This is mainly why the MSX2+ appeared as a joke to JP customers when it was released... It was just an MSX2 with new GFX chip... How would they have been able to grab any interest from public and editor with that ? It was an HUGE strategical error...

When the MSX began less or more to colapse... all companies wondered if it was possible to count on the EU market, and do like Sega did it with the Megadrive and US country.

The Japanese MSX companies never though it would be interesting to take care about the EU market or the rest of the world, then when they finaly realized all was colapsing, they suddenly woke up... It was way to late !!!

philips had to establish the MSX himself in EU and done some tiny advertising and established it's line of MSX 2 products. Unfortunately that was back in 1986. (Sony did some too but well... almost nothing)

In Eu there never was real advertising, the MSX imports were damn poor so the maket was already taken over by Commodore, Atari and Amstrad in some countries...

So who and what killed the MSX ?

- Nintendo and it's awful policy in the 80's (There was even some lawsuit in this period.), but they didn't only worsened the MSX situation... They also asphixiated the market, controled it and almost killed Nec and Sega... Hopefuly Sega had the chance to hit the US.

- The bad advertising campaign and lack of interest the JP members of the MSX standard had for the EU and rest of the world.

- A succession of strategical error.

- Growing anger, bad communication between some of the members of the MSX standard.

- The MSX2+ which was realy a joke ! It totaly destroyed the credibility of the MSX consortium. Of course it wasn't able to be of any interest for the masses and the 3rd party editors...

- No real establishment effort were made to implant the MSX in the world, basicaly each company had to do it itself... Like philips done it in the Eu and Ru... That's a real sign of realy poor coordination.

So when you read all that, what the hell kept the MSX alive back in the early 90's 'till now ?

The MSX was unique, it was the genesis of many kind of games & game franchises !
Many known popular companies made their first steps on MSX...
Of course unlike the Amiga, AtariST, Amstrad and a lot more, the MSX was a [B]JAPANESE GAME[B] system... Which means a majority of games [B]" a la Japanese "[B].
All of us grown with the Japanese game style, unlike most of people in our respective countries who grown with games made the US or European way... And that's a big difference !

In the first half of the 80's there was 2 system that basicaly created the Japanese game style we know today : The MSX, and the NES.
Both are where all the major JP titles and JP companies appeared first...
And while i'm a it, no ! Vampire Killer didn't appeared first on MSX ! IT first was released on Famicom Disk System as akumajou dracula one month before vampire killer.

Well and to finish answering the " what the hell kept the MSX alive " thingie, with all i explained just above in mind, you can understand how much affection ppl had to the msx, this so unique computer... All of them inspired by the Konami Games ! Can you imagine that ? Of course you do...
So during years lots of devellopers appeared in spain, france and other countries... and well everyone slowly got back at the MSX.. in 1990 a real alternative MSX scene was born.

It's a quite strange history, because i never heard such things happened on other systems, or if it did, trust me, it wasn't that important...

Because of that, the msx had real commercial and high quality games released until 1992 as far is i remember. And the community of MSX lover kept quite alive since then.

I would like to say this : Back in the end of 80's some companies instead of dying could have go to Nintendo and earn more money... But they simply didn't... They followed the MSX until the End and died with it.

Trust me, there aren't many systems where you could find similar history !

Now, you know what and who killed the MSX, at least for me Smile
You should began to understand i am a real MSX lover too, well, i admit it... I had my first one in 1984... I litteraly grown with it...

And from the first game on tapes... Hero, Sorcery, Maxima, Ghostbuster, Master of Lamp to the latest Micro Cabin and Konami release... I REALY had much love for this little computer.

Cheers MSX freaks

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By snout

Ascended (15184)

snout's picture

12-09-2003, 01:15

I took the liberty of changing the topic title and removing some returns (which are quite annoying on highres)

There are, however, some big misunderstandings. The MSX is not a game console. It's an all purpose home-computer. People also used MSX computers for text editing, video tasks (superimposing!), databases. In the netherlands a lot of shops/libraries even used them as a cash-register etc. Of course the system was mainly used for games, but hey.. that's still the case with PC's these days Tongue

I agree with you that the MSX2+ was a bad step. It was too little, too late. Especially for European users who were already used to memory mappers and 128kB memory. A lot of things were standardized that should have been standardized before. So, for the standard itself the MSX2+ was an important step. For consumers it wasn't. The turboR was a cool successor, though. (Although it would have been a lot cooler with a V9990 aboard Wink)

There is not 'just one' reason why MSX died. It was a downward spiral. Nishi had promised companies like Philips, Sony, Panasonic etc. that because the MSX could be connected to a TV, they could sell an MSX with every TV. The expectations of these resellers were thus a lot higher than the actual, but still respectable, sales figures.

Another reason is that a lot of the features of the MSX weren't used with the MSX spirit in mind. Example: The Philips Muziekmodule (MSX-Audio). Excellent hardware, but it came with an awful internal application. No real useful Muziekmodule software was developed by Philips. It was the FAC who showed the true force of this muziekmodule long after Philips had dropped the MSX. I still believe that FAC Soundtracker was a major turningpoint for the 'amateur' MSX community. I often wonder what would have happened if Philips had offered such a solution at the launch of the Muziekmodule.

There are similar examples, like the failed efforts of Philips to develop CD-ROM for MSX (well, there were interfaces, but they were way too expensive, and I never really saw them on sale). The relatively small steps that were taken from MSX1 to MSX2 and - especially- from MSX2 to MSX2+.

But one other reason that was important was the fact that commercial software developers stopped developing software for MSX. One reason was the MSX market was getting smaller and smaller, while others were growing. But a very important reason for the MSX market getting smaller was piracy. I have told several times before in this forums that a dutch MSX group was offered the chance to sell Microcabin MSX games. Microcabin even wanted to translate the games from Japanese to English themselves. However, at least 150 games had to be sold. Given the thousands of people visiting MSX fairs in Tilburg/Zandvoort those days it should have been peanuts. But it wasn't. Because they knew most people wouldn't want to pay for it.

But, even in the darkest days (and really, the MSX world is a lot better now than just a few years ago) the MSX still had a heartbeat, awaiting its revival Smile

By J-War

Champion (413)

J-War's picture

12-09-2003, 01:29

" There are, however, some big misunderstandings. The MSX is not a game console. It's an all purpose home-computer. People also used MSX computers for text editing, video tasks (superimposing!), databases. In the netherlands a lot of shops/libraries even used them as a cash-register etc. Of course the system was mainly used for games, but hey.. that's still the case with PC's these days "

Is i already said, i used my MSX 2 a lot for GFX design, music and programming. Unfortunately in this post i was talking about the MSX for the masses, wich mean profit, wich mean games...

By the way even as an application computer, Amiga and St were still a lot better and powerfull. <<<< HEY IMHO OK (Guyver800 plz don't kill me)

I did a lot of music on amiga, the 4 channel were not enough tho... i was missing more channels like on FM Pac... But the use of digital sample with a good quality and the great fast ram system of the Amiga was way more comfortable...

The fac soundtracker was quite good in it's time tho... i still have the MusicModule here... 2 of them actualy.

I have a complete 8280 Philips with midi keyboard, music module, printer, cassette reader, boxes all in absolutely PERFECT condition. i admit, am very proud of it muhahahah

By snout

Ascended (15184)

snout's picture

12-09-2003, 01:40

It's no secret that the MSX computers have never been the best computers just on specifications. However, it's easy understandable hardware structure, it's open documentation.... but there is something else that makes the MSX a lot more intersting than other systems of the same era. And I can't find the right words to describe it without sounding very nostalgic. (And I know it's not nostalgia, since I have had this 'feeling' ever since I first used an MSX computer. And I had used ZX-spectrum and C64 before, tried Amiga while I didn't have a turboR yet)

Somehow.. this computer seems to have more... emotion... than other computers. Somehow it shouts 'create new products on me'. Somehow every MSX has a bit of MOJO hidden inside.

Are all other computers not cool then? Hell no! I enjoy using PC's (well, most of the time) and - although I don't own them - the PSX, PS2, Gameboy Advance and GamePark also have a similar (yet smaller) 'attraction' on me.

Is it because I have the love for Japanese machines in my DNA? Maybe... should discuss that one with Hideo Kojima I guess. Smile Maybe I'm just in denial and it's 100% nostalgia.

Darn, being a 23 year old nostalgic. Everything used to be good in the old days. Or at least better. I wonder why my grandchildren never come around. They have these new wrappings around cookies these days. Did you see my new geraniums??? (juz kidding folks Tongue)

By anonymous

incognito ergo sum (116)

anonymous's picture

12-09-2003, 02:47

MSX was already dead in europe 2 years before MSX2+ was even released. Definitely killed by piracy.

This is mainly why the MSX2+ appeared as a joke to JP customers when it was released... It was just an MSX2 with new GFX chip...To most people, MSX2 was just a MSX1 with a new GFX chip... There's more to MSX2+ than meets the eye.

I'm not even gonna comment on your word about MSX vs. Nintendo, coz that's just total horse manure. Your view of history is very interesting but, sorry, it's not reality.

By wolf_

Ambassador_ (9918)

wolf_'s picture

12-09-2003, 03:41

imo, the msx lacked many technical inovations that other systems offered.

You could argue that these new technologies were way too expensive for simple home-users, and that PC's looked like ugly brutes (compared to the slim/sexy appearance of the msx2's), but at least it was available for those that needed a computer with these specs (and had the $ for it).

I don't believe in piracy. Sure, a shop wouldn't invest in loads of titles as they know that they only sell a few before the game is cracked.. but is that different today?

Lets asume that a shop can only sell 5% of all game titles when these games are still 'new' and fresh. (after that, the price drops and so does the margin of the shopkeeper). 5% of a potential public of 100000 ppl (like a big town) is still a lot better than 5% of 1000 ppl (all msx users in a town).

Piracy is even worse today.. a coder I spoke to, a while ago, actually was convinced that the msx was kinda holy (when it comes to piracy), compared to Amigas and PCs. Now, afaik, the Amiga didn't really survive the PC revolution (tho the amiga demoscene is still quite lively), but the PC is still here.

Maybe it's the age of the average msx user, back in the 80s. Lotsof older PC users buy their software, they have money, and they've a little more respect for the developers.
You can't demand from a 13yr old brat to simple BUY everything. That's the typical discussion between the record industry and the kazaa-freaks. A copy of a game isn't always a game that the shopkeeper misses, many wouldn't have bought it anyway if they couldn't get a cracked version of it.

By J-War

Champion (413)

J-War's picture

12-09-2003, 03:47

We're all quite interogative about " what the hell made the MSX so magical ? "

I might have an idea, or even several ideas...

When you think about it, the MSX was one of these early systems " a la japanese " and was the very first to carry the japanese games mood.

Basicaly when you had an MSX 1 then an MSX 2 you had the chance to live the very first BIG real evolution in video games history. Why ? Because it was a time where devello team had all right, all was to discover, there wasn't all the restriction every devello team have today.

Today making a game = making a game that incorporate enough highly commercial patterns that can touch and interest the masses.

MSX games were pure creativity, most of time when a game was released, you had never see such game ever... Now it's the opposite, it's most of time a systematic " deja vu " feeling.

We used to discover the games with MSX, nowaday we just revisit them, and sometimes there's still some that are original, but well not as much as there used to be, back in the 80's !

Now when editors release a game, they ask devello team to incorporate musics that follow the fashion, this way they can release an OST too, and earn more money and ensure the masses won't dislike the music.

MSX games had real progressive music, you hardly find equivalent now... Even Metal Gear Solid 2 has a Movie / Tv fiction kind soundtrack... Which does not strech what you see as well as the old MG2 music. It's just better commercialy to have music made by the Movie film maker : " xxxx ".

Games used to have their OWN KIND of music style, i'm not for putting movie/tv fiction kind music in games... Game musics are game music.

The same goes for the GFX...

We grown up with an unique computer, while all was still to be discovered... Now you can't compare ever more. Just because you won't have that feeling you have the first time you DISCOVER something.

Btw, hopefuly there are still games that impressive me almost as much as the msx years.
Metroid Prime is my best gaming experience of all time, and it feature one of the 3 best in game music i ever heard... Just because those songs are real GAME MUSIC !

Hey, no arguing there, it's just a matter of taste... just explaining my though... no need to tell me Metroid sux for you Smile

To be continued...

By J-War

Champion (413)

J-War's picture

12-09-2003, 04:00

I don't believe in piracy. Sure, a shop wouldn't invest in loads of titles as they know that they only sell a few before the game is cracked.. but is that different today?

I totaly agree, and don't believe in piracy too, well no much at least...
There had many interesting articles lately about piracy and real impact on consoles/comps lifes that are quite confusing.

There were such systems as the PC Engine / PC Engine CD (CD-rom², Super CD-rom² & Arcade CD-rom²) that never encountered piracy and died the same way the MSX did, and almost for the same reasons.

There's the exemple of the SNES which was the first cart system to be massively pirated... It never prevented it to be one of the most sold home console.

The same goes for the PSX, if you except handheld systems, the psx is the most sold and pirated system in history... but it was a real huge succes.

The Game Cube is actualy the only one that you cannot read copies with... It's not popular at all, and doesn't sell very well...

Xbox, which is the actual console that has the most piracy activities, modding, hacking and stuffs sells quite well just because of that...

Back to the end of 80's piracy wasn't what it is today... you should have know what piracy was on A500 in comparison... haha

By Niles

Hero (545)

Niles's picture

12-09-2003, 08:19

MSX was killed by the time, as many others.

By snout

Ascended (15184)

snout's picture

12-09-2003, 08:54

I don't believe in piracy.

It's there. Believe me. I've seen it. Tongue

Sure, a shop wouldn't invest in loads of titles as they know that they only sell a few before the game is cracked.. but is that different today?

There were about 5 million MSX users. 3 to 4 million in Japan. Still, I read in a Microcabin interview that each XAK game would sell only about 3000 copies. Even though some Xbox games are doing even worse today, I think this are pretty bad figures.

You can't demand from a 13yr old brat to simple BUY everything.

Not all MSX users were 13yr old brats you know.

That's the typical discussion between the record industry and the kazaa-freaks.

If only all kazaa freaks were 13yr old brats. Tongue

By jalu

Master (158)

jalu's picture

12-09-2003, 09:47

I think in the early years, the ideas of J-Wars are quite correct: as a gaming platform, MSX never reached the same level of success as the NES.

But in the "dying" years of MSX (late 80's, early 90's) it was the heavy competition on the Personal Computer market that marked the end of the MSX era, and for about almost all other alternative (i.e. non-x86) computersystems. Iirc, MSX View was developed as an alternative/competitor for the, especially in Japan, blooming sells of the Apple Macintosh during the early nineties. And even though the Macs of the time were hardly more powerfull than an MSX turbo R (8 MHz Motorola 68000, 512K RAM and no harddrive in those early Macintoshes, only caveat: MSX View was not a shadow of the Macintosh System), it was, indeed, too little, too late, not having any chance at all anymore at impressing those customers that did not want to buy an IBM-PC compatible. It seems that in MSX-homecountry Japan even in 1990 Apple had already established too much marketshare next to IBM to allow realistic chances for any other computer system, especially a system based on an outdated homecomputer... Only one look at the numbers of the different systems being sold/offered on Yahoo Auctions Japan(http://list3.auctions.yahoo.co.jp/jp/2084039759-category.html?alocale=0jp) shows that MSX did probably have quite a market share, probably more than x68000 and FM-Towns(!) but that it was not nearly enough to threaten the two major players in the market, the x86 PC and the Mac. Again: too little, too late...

As were the developments from other companies, the Sharp x68000 in Japan, the Amiga and Atari in E.U. and U.S., all other machines suffered the same ultimate fait. Which is kind of peculiar, since each and every alternative computer system offered better functionality than the IBM-PC compatible of those days... The name "WordPerfect" comes to mind... On a system which could mainly produce some green letters on a black background and prints of those letters on matrixprinters.

So MSX was killed by the same that killed all other systems except for the Macintosh, it was killed by the beginning of the hegemony of the IBM-PC(nowadays referred to as x86) and Microsoft operating systems.

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