Xbox One At E3: What Microsoft Can Do To Win The War

Not too long ago, I wrote a piece on how everything would be alright for Microsoft and the Xbox One in the long run. I stand by everything I said in that article, as with time, a price drop and a host of new markets to sell in will help the console just fine. However, due to the frankly incredible performance of Sony’s Playstation 4, fine will not be enough. If Microsoft aren’t careful, they could wind up in the very position Sony found themselves in during the last console generation: an inescapable and perpetual second place.

As of the last NPDs, the Xbox One had shipped 5 million units, whereas the Playstation 4 has sold 7 million units. The difference here of wording here is key. ‘Shipped’ means that 5 million Xbox’s have been sent to retailers to sell whereas ‘sold’ means exactly that: 7 million PS4s have been bought and taken to a new home. So, you can expect there to be 4-4.5 million Xbox Ones in people’s homes. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, but this isn’t great news. March saw the release of Titanfall. Titanfall was THE game, THE Trojan horse to get consoles into homes, and THE system seller. Hell, they even made the game free with the console and yet through it all the PS4 STILL sold more consoles than the Xbox throughout the month of March. This sent a clear message; Microsoft has some serious work to do.

I’d like to imagine that there’s a slight feeling of panic or anxiety hovering over Xbox HQ at this point because they are in a very dangerous position. If the next year does not go well for them, it’s pretty much game over. The war will be lost. It’ll be second place forever. The big question is: how do they turn it around? There are numerous things that can be done that could be extremely beneficial to the brand and hopefully improve the company’s image over the next year ending with things looking a lot more promising than they are now. Honestly, if you own an Xbox One, are you particularly optimistic about the system at this point? I’m losing faith by the week.

So here’s the deal, something has to give, and it has to give soon. Let’s say E3. Here’s a quick list of drastic measures than can be taken to create some buzz and hopefully cause a small spike in demand:

  1. Announce a price cut: Microsoft’s a big company. I’m pretty certain they could handle making a small loss on each unit made for a little while to ensure they sell more systems. Cut the price. We’ve already had one here in the UK, dropping to £399 from £429 but you can pick up a Titanfall system + 1 game bundle for £409 as my mate did yesterday. MAKE IT CHEAPER. It’s $499 right now as far as I know, and a PS4 is $399. That’s A LOT. Swallow your pride (that’ll be a running theme here) and make it $399. HELL, make it $395 or $389 just to say it’s cheaper. That creates headlines and helps drive demand. Have I made it clear yet? CUT THE PRICE.
  2. Take Kinect out of the box: I own an Xbox One. I have for a few months. I do not use the Kinect at all and I doubt you do either. ‘Xbox On’ is fun for the first few tries and after that it becomes abundantly clear that there’s no game support for this thing and it’s a glorified TV remote. Why does it need to be in the box? Once again, just eat your crow and make a console without the thing and slowly but surely reduce the number of systems made with Kinect until you can discontinue it altogether and save on manufacturing costs. Does it look bad? Yes. But, these are the consequences that come with bad business decisions and incorporating Kinect 2.0 into the box was a horrible business decision. I don’t need it, you don’t need it, no games need it, get rid of it.
  3. Get rid of the Parity Clause: SERIOUSLY WHO IS THIS HELPING?!?!?! In case you weren’t aware, the Parity Clause is a clause Microsoft has which prohibits an indie game being released on Xbox One if it has already been released on PC or PS4. Yep. What a great idea. Drive developers away and prevent your install base from enjoying experiences Playstation gamers are getting over a petty rivalry. Great idea. I literally cannot see how this is totally stupid. Hopefully the sarcasm was translated. This clause is a farce. There are a few examples of developers publicly asking for it to be removed. It deters developers and indirectly punishes your customers. It doesn’t benefit anyone, so get rid of it.
  4. Bring the focus back to games: You can dress these consoles up with all the extras, bells and whistles you want, but at the end of the day, they’re games consoles. Their main purpose is to play games. That’s what I buy them for and that’s what you buy them for. Anything else is a bonus. It’s a fact. The Xbox One got too far away from this last year during the launch and people were rightly frustrated. This year’s E3 conference should be about games, games and more games. Fortunately Phil Spencer, the new head of Xbox, feels the same way. Show us real gameplay of already announced games like Sunset Overdrive and Quantum Break and give us release dates, and announce some exciting, big budget exclusives that will excite people. If people come away from the Xbox conference talking about what games they’re excited for, and not about the Xbox itself, then it will have been a success. Get the focus on games.

All of these would be smart, sensible ideas to help fix the mess that is the state of Xbox One. If they announced a price cut, did away with the Parity Clause and had a great E3, then suddenly things would look considerably better.

The console war is far from over; it’s only just barely begun. However, we’re at a crucial point already. If something doesn’t change the Playstation 4 will continue to build a big lead, one that will eventually be beyond catching. If this happens then developers will favour Sony, the best games will appear there first or as an exclusive, and the Xbox One will fade into second place for good. Why wait until it’s too late to change things? If important issues are addressed before they become too much of a problem, then improvement can be accelerated. If things don’t improve by the end of E3, then it really will be time to panic. But hopefully it won’t come to that.

The next 12 months are bigger for Microsoft than the last 8 years put together. Time to knuckle down, bite down on the mouthpiece and embrace the fight before it’s too late.