Microsoft's Xbox One: How Not To Win A Console War

Xbox_one_system2 When you think about it, the console war is a strange anomaly within the world of electronics. In no other sector is there such intense competition between manufacturers. Consoles are in essence simplified PCs, but the console war cannot be compared to the Mac vs. PC scenario because Macs and PCs compete at different price points. Within the games industry we have two manufacturers directly after each other€™s markets who, since they are effectively working with the same technology, are competing simply according to what features they bring to the table and which partnerships they are able to develop. In the last generation, I would argue that the main weapon of battle was exclusivity; the PS3 had a shaky start because its launch line up was weaker than Microsoft€™s. However, our introduction to the next generation, this year€™s E3 shows that all it takes is one company to screw up, and the other can come out on top without even trying. The Xbox One€™s journey has been rough since the beginning. Even before its announcement it was plagued with rumours about always-online requirements and an anti-used games system. Reactions to this were understandably negative, but rumours are rarely reliable. The fact is we would know nothing until Microsoft told us officially. The first announcement was their new console€™s name: the Xbox One, a name everybody sneered at. Why would you name it the Xbox One when it€™s actually the third in the Xbox family? Still, look at how much everyone laughed at the Wii, a console which sounds like a childish word for urinating. No one€™s laughing now that it became one of the best-selling consoles of its generation. So clearly a name isn€™t everything. Their announcement wasn€™t great; there was barely any focus on games, and too much on TV features. Then again, Sony€™s was pretty poor itself. It seemed to be all about the social features that many people don€™t want or need. Collective disappointment on both sides, then. For Microsoft, the negative rumours started again, except this time they weren€™t rumours, they were official statements from Microsoft employees. And they were vague and evasive. News headlines came up like €œMicrosoft hints at preowned fee for used games€. €œHints?€ Why were they hinting? If there€™s one thing people hate it€™s lack of transparency, and people will automatically consider the worst. Eventually Microsoft addressed people€™s concerns, if by €œaddressed€ you mean €œcreated even more€. It turned out that those early rumours were actually pretty spot-on. Sure, it wasn€™t always online, but it would be once you were past your twenty-four hour limit. And then there was their terrifying used games system. Suddenly €œpurchasing€ games became €œlicensing€ them, and with this license would come limitations- you could share them, but only with friends on your friends list and only those who had been on for thirty days. These restrictions brought out the anger in the community and this was completely understandable; it didn€™t matter how Microsoft spun it, none of these new systems appeared to be for the customer€™s benefit. Meanwhile everything was quiet in the Sony camp; there were no concerns to address, no vague statements to elaborate on. Clearly Microsoft would be facing an uphill struggle if they were to convince people to go with them. As evidenced by the last few days€™ proceedings, they totally blew it. The conference addressed none of these new systems, seemed to consist of mostly CGI trailers which tell you absolutely nothing about the game and the occasional suit proclaiming the occasional game to be their €œfavourite€ in the most unconvincing thing since, well, Microsoft€™s addressing of people€™s concerns. On top of this the retail price was pretty high. As also evidenced by that night€™s proceedings, Sony were watching like a hawk. It seems that Microsoft€™s strategy was to focus entirely on what gamers want: the games. Presumably they thought Sony would do the same. This was their fatal mistake. Sony went straight for the jugular, gladly announcing their system would have no used games restrictions and no online requirements. The lower price sealed the deal. I don€™t think Sony knew what price Microsoft€™s console was going to sell for before we did. They certainly knew about the restrictions though, because the Internet was awash with backlash towards the idea. So all they had to do was listen. That€™s why they came out on top; because they offered what the customers wanted, instead of trying to sell them features they didn€™t. Of course, with nothing on the market yet, it is the sales figures which will ultimately decide who wins the next generation, but even with that in mind, I firmly believe that Microsoft€™s incompetence has given Sony at the very least a promising head start.
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An avid film watcher, drummer and gamer. Currently studying English Literature at the University of Winchester.