Who or what 'killed' the MSX?

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By MrRudi

Hero (523)

MrRudi's picture

06-11-2003, 23:48

>>But consider those many computer systems that were produced AFTER the 'death' of MSX. SFC, GBA, DC, PSX, PS2, N64, GC, Xbox...<<
Everything you name are game console systems. None of them are 'open' like MSX is. It can't be compared.

It can be compared in the light of "there is a lot of piracy going on", which he did. The platform itself may not be comparible, some circumstances that have been pointed out as being a/the reason for the demise of MSX as a commercially available and exploited system can be compared.

By the way, I do subscribe to the point of view that piracy was a factor, not the only one, not THE reason MSX was 'killed' but it helped.

By snout

Ascended (15184)

snout's picture

06-11-2003, 23:58

keep in mind the 'game software market' was a lot smaller by then. Still, costs to distribute a game (imagine the amount of people working on a game, the costs of publishing the game and getting the product in as many shops as possible. As for the last point, there need to be several copies of your product in all relevant shops in the region where you want to sell a game if you want to have a chance at success. Imagine Metal Gear Solid only being available in Amsterdam. It would not be very succesful in the Netherlands...)... bottomline: you need to sell an absolute minimum of games to even the costs you made. In a software market where you can sell thousands of games that already is a problem, in a market where you can sell a few hundreds every single person who copies your game is a severe risk to the future of your company.

So, even if piracy has increased the last years (looking at percentages, and I'm not even quite convinced that it actually did increase), it was a lot harder in 'those days' to reach a break-even point.

By Haohmaru

Paladin (773)

Haohmaru's picture

07-11-2003, 01:33

I got very busy adding another string (and a long one) of thoughts to this topic, but it turned out to more of a column.

So I refrained from posting it and will make the entire file available someday on my site.

But I will add this:

I only mentioned console because most people know about them

Is MSX an 'open' system? What does 'open' mean? please explain.
If you mean: poeple are (to some extend) allowed to make their own software for it then consider this:

ATARI Jaguar - Full allowance from the owners, check the decent Jag sites.

SEGA Dreamcast - SEGA tolerate(s)(d) the homebrew community, something which I think SONY should have done with their PlayStation a long time ago. Remember that fiasco that was 'Yaroze'?

If you mean: nobody cares about it so we are free to do what we bloody well like, then:

I think Microsoft still cares about their ownership of MSX-BASIC. I beleive you don't want to be facing them if the MSX system were to come into the big picture again and you were still producing/selling software/hardware for MSX.

So the 'game software market' grew since then. It's now 'easier' to market software. There's still piracy and people are still complaining about losing money from piracy.

And boy, did we copy! Did we fuck! Did every MSX user play his first game of Snatcher using a original version? No. Only a handful of us did. Somewhere halfway through the 1990's, there were only 3 original Snatchers in the whole of Europe (check DISK diskmagazine, some early PD issue). This means, only 3 people should be able to tell how to play the game. I won't go too far into this, because I'm getting tired, and have plans for tomorrow, but I will end with:

Q 'If you think piracy is bad, what are you using an emulator for?'
A 'Because of my fond memories of the games I used to play when I was a kid'

Q 'Why not buy the game now? You're older and must have a decent job now?'
A '...'

Q 'And you didn't answer my question: please try a bit harder'
A 'Because it's easy'

Q 'No it isn't! You need a beefy computer to run an emulator and you have all that configuration to go through. And you need pirated software to run it'
A 'I am not into piracy! I emulate!'

Q 'So you don't have disk- or ROM-images worth millions of dollars on your harddisk?'
A 'Dunno what you're on about, but I do have almost all the games for my ***-emulator'.

Q 'Almost all?'
A 'Yes, do you happen to know how I can get *** to run properly?'

Q '...'
A 'I have been to this fair, see, and someone told me I should play it'

Q 'Don't bother, you're better off with the *** version'
A 'Really? Don't have an emulator for that...'

Q 'Because I'm lying, you sod! One last chance: WHY?'
A 'Nostalgia! Retro! Free! And therefore: COOL!'

Q 'I hate those words, this interview is over!'
A 'But... Please tell me how I can make the pigs fly in ***'

...and so on


Have fun with your life,


By sjoerd

Hero (602)

sjoerd's picture

07-11-2003, 01:35

>>But consider those many computer systems that were produced AFTER the 'death' of MSX. SFC, GBA, DC, PSX, PS2, N64, GC, Xbox...<<
Everything you name are game console systems. None of them are 'open' like MSX is. It can't be compared.
That even more proves the point that piracy didn't kill msx.

By snout

Ascended (15184)

snout's picture

07-11-2003, 02:40

So the 'game software market' grew since then. It's now 'easier' to market software. There's still piracy and people are still complaining about losing money from piracy.

Yup, but selling 600 copies in stead of 1000 is something different than selling 600.000 copies in stead of 1.000.000 copies. At a point, a certain market just gets too small to be commercially interesting. And that's what happened with MSX (and other computer/non-computer markets for that matter).


Supporter (14)

MDX's picture

07-11-2003, 05:26

What killed the MSX?

Well how about the MSX killed the MSX.

The MSX standard was an open one so any manufactor could make an MSX as long as they paid their fees to ASCII (do remember at the time ASCII were basically Microsoft Japan... Bill Gates was happy in what Kay Nishi did as Microsoft Japan was making a lot of money, the partnership disolved in 1986 for more details read Bill Gate biography, has a huge chapter on Kay Nishi), which seems like a good idea, unfortunatly there are problems with this...

If for example Sharp sell 50 X1s and 100 MSXs get sold then it looks like the MSX is doing well, unfortunatly given that if there are 10 different manufactors making the MSX then one may sell 30 units and another may sell one. Sharp are laughing...

So a few get poor sales and drop it, hence the 40 odd makers of the MSX-1 and the drop to about what 20 for the MSX2 standard, then a bigger drop to 3 for the MSX 2+.

People whinge about Microsoft not supporting the machine in the US, but sales of the Commodore 64, Apple 2 and IBM PC were going to put most manufactors from even attempting a decent MSX release. Yamaha tried, but sold it as a MIDI machine... nice...

In Europe, Philips were really the only Manufactor to really take the MSX on but software developers were more interested in the Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC...

In Japan the MSXs main rivals were Nintendo, Sharp and NEC. Nintendo Famicom on the game side, Sharp X1 and X68000 for the home computer side and NEC with the PC-88/98 series also in the home and business end. Sony and Matshushita got decent sales on the MSX hardware but they were still playing second fiddle to NEC and even Sharp were outselling them.

Nintendo had got most of the major developers with the exception of Konami sewn up, the MSX did have other developers but ask a non msx user to name a developer apart from Konami who made MSX games...

The MSX 2 standard improved the MSX a lot, but rather then use a Z80B which would have added a little bit to the cost but would have given the MSX a much needed speed boost they stuck with the Z80A which at times struggles to shift data fast enough.

In between the MSX 2 and the MSX 2+, Sharp at this time had already released the X68000. Lots of companies including Konami and Capcom happily developed software for this machine that really was better then the Amiga when it came to game developement. Hudson had move over to their baby the PC Engine and Sega were hard at work on the Megadrive. Nintendo were still outselling everyone in the games field...

The MSX 2+, given the MSX 2 was selling okay and although Microsoft had taken the running of Microsoft Japan over, ASCII, Sony, Matsushita and Yamaha should have upgraded the MSX 2 to a backwards compatable MSX 3, but no they added a few minor features and called it the MSX2+ and left it at that... Zilog introduced the Z280 in 1987, this was a 16 Bit chip that was Z80 compatable and was comparable in cost to the 68000 and could be interaced to the existing hardware with minor changes, this would have given the MSX a much needed power boost and enter the heady world of 16 Bit computing whilst still retaining backwards compatability...

Sony decided that enough was enough and left to look at the PC and see what Nintendo was doing...

Sony leaving, left Matsushita on their own, they used the Toshiba R800 was a RISC version of the Z80 it ran code quicker as things did take as many T States and could run Z80 code by chopping the clock speed down and adding wait states (Toshiba still sell it now under the 900 Family...). It was a lot like the Z280 but somewhat sleeker (and completely different...), the R800 corrected some undocumented instructions and added a lot more instructions. >_<

By this time the Turbo R looked like a reheated MSX, to use the R800 properly you had to code for it otherwise it was nothing more then a zippy Z80 but with Panasonic being the only player the amount of Turbo R software could be counted on one hand... technology had moved on and the Turbo R although very nice was fairly weak next to say the X68000, PC-9801 and the FM Towns.

So there you have it the MSX killed itself in the longest suicide note in history. Smile

Discuss. Shocked! Evil Sad Crazy Tongue

By anonymous

incognito ergo sum (116)

anonymous's picture

07-11-2003, 12:49

It's simple.

Point 1: For all the gameconsoles, an actual copy device had to be bought. The MSX is its own copy device.

I am willing to bet the percentage of piracy among MSX users was MANY MANY more than with any of the console systems.

Point 2: MSX is an open system, I was asked to explain this. With MSX, any small company can create a game and release it themselves. This makes them vulnerable, because they are small and rely heavily on the quality of their product and the sales directly.

In all the closed platform consoles, a company first needs $$$ to become officially licensed to create software for it, then $$$ to buy a Nintendo/Sony development kit, then contact a publisher (huge companies with $$$^2) who will pay them for 15.000-50.000 sold items, even if the number isn't reached. So these are all big companies. And Nintendo/Sony will sponsor companies and/or buy their game ideas if it's needed. None of that happens on the open system MSX is.

In short, console gaming is BIG BUSINESS, MSX was small business. Piracy in small business hurts bigtime, piracy in big business doesn't as much.

(WHY OH WHY do people allways insist on comparing MSX with consoles?! Crying )

By sjoerd

Hero (602)

sjoerd's picture

07-11-2003, 13:56

One of the benefits of msx was that you could program it yourself. So what killed msx?
1. there came computers that were better/easier to program for.
2. people don't want programmable computers.
3. the programmers got better and msx didn't grow with them.
I think msx just wasn't good enough in comparison with the competition. Not only the hardware, but certainly also the way it was promoted.
(WHY OH WHY do people allways insist on comparing MSX with consoles?! Crying )Because they only play games on msx Smile I think it's better to compare msx with ibm 'compatible' pcs.

By dhau

Paragon (1570)

dhau's picture

10-11-2003, 21:30

Folks, MSX is only something special for us, MSX freaks, who was exposed to this platform in late 80s or very early 90s. For everyone else it's just another minor blip in the home computer history. Trust me, folks who used 8-bit Atari or 8-bit C=64 are just as nostalgic as we are and are just as sure that their nostalgia platform of choice was an absolute perfection, killed by unfair commercial world and brutal stupid pirating users.

But the magic is in numbers Smile

MSX1 was a very decend home computer and a kind-of acceptable game system for 1983-1985. MSX2 was ok for 1985-1987. However it wasn't a console (you can't easily put it under TV, since you often need access to keyboard), yet it wasn't such a great computer (Apple 2 in the beginning and PC since late 80s offered tonns of applications, for any taste, legal or pirated).

So in the end it's all about numbers. In the example above, people bitch around about piracy. Let's say if all people who pirated games, would buy them. Still it would be under 10'000. No market. Period. NES? 1'000'000 easy, if you use smart (and not necessarely expensive) marketing campain. I think only Konami made profits on MSX games, and only between 1983 and 1987. They had a lot of expertise on MSX, so they didn't quit the platform up until 1991. But if they wouldn't produce for ALL (successfull and failed) system, I think Konami would disappear long time ago.

In Russia all MSX software was always pirated. I.e. free like in beer. However it didn't made system popular beyond classrooms. Why? Because no one was able to afford it at home ( unless if you go and steel it from your school Smile ). At the same time cost of making own Spectrum 48K clone was below 10US$ (mostly for Z80 and DRAM, stolen from military factories). System was very popular, in fact it's still used by hundreeds, may be thousands of enthusiasts (it fades slowly too, as the fan base ages). And russian hackers produced probably ten times more original content for Spectrum (in addition to all kinds of cracks/hacks and mods) then MSX ever had.

So in the end, MSX as a platform failed to stay up to date with technology from the technical point of view. And because of this it didn't attracted critical mass of users, which create a healfy self-sustaining software market for it.

I think ASCII should've jumped to 68K with Z80 as a copro in 1985 for their MSX2, update it to 68020 w/ MMU in 1988, and jump to ARM or MIPS 32-bit CPU in 1991-1992 with 68K2 as a copro (and Z80 as a mini-copro).

This combined with good marketing could've made them "Apple" of today - a small, but healthy and innovative alternative computing platform for creative people.

Yeah, something like this. Cheerz, don't take it too serious Smile It's just a useless blah-blah discussion

By Haohmaru

Paladin (773)

Haohmaru's picture

11-11-2003, 22:07

Generally speaking, computers are killed by consumers.

Consumers want the latest (fastest, best-looking, etc) system.

People in the computer industry make consumers think that way.

So consumers kill computers?

Yes, if only no-one bought a 'newer' (home)computer than MSX, the MSX would be what the PC is today. Or maybe not, I do not know much about the policies of the companies concerned with MSX.

So everyone out there who doesn't want their system to die, do not buy the next machine?

No. It's not that simple.

The aforementioned computer industry makes their moolah with either hardware or software (preferrably BOTH). What better than to make software that only runs on the latest computer, not longer making software for the 'older' system and making sure consumers WANT that new software.

That's how (IMHO) the computer industry works, and there's little a few nutters like us can do to change that (let's keep a realistic view of things, please).

So, another opinion, another chapter added.

'Don't Panic'


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