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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Next Generation Console War Predictions: Microsoft's Xbox One

Andy Gause |
November 22, 2013 | 2:16 a.m. PST

The Xbox One Controller from E3 (Roger Aguirre/ Neon Tommy)
The Xbox One Controller from E3 (Roger Aguirre/ Neon Tommy)
This week I'll take a look at Microsoft's polarizing console, the Xbox One.  The sleek, black behemoth launched at midnight on Friday November 22nd, only a week after Sony's PS4 and at a price of five hundred dollars.  

It has been a tumultuous ride for Microsoft.  When they first announced the machine in May, it was met with harsh skepticism from gamers.  At press event, the company discussed the unique multi-media features, including switching to the television mid-game and their exclusive deal with the NFL network, but ignored the games.  A month later at E3, they elaborated on their controversial used game and DRM policies and announced a price that was one hundred dollars higher than Sony's.

Gamers took to the internet in sworn (do they take to the internet in any other way?).   Many in the industry thought Microsoft was finished.  Eight days later, they reversed their detested policies and people began to see the console in a new light.  At this point Microsoft seems poised to comfortably take the number two spot in the upcoming console war. But what can Microsoft do to change the tides and lead this console generation?

The biggest obstacle for Microsoft is clear: the price.  Five hundred dollars will scare away most families and casual gamers and make it tough to compete against the three hundred dollar Wii U and four hundred dollar PS4.

The company claims that the reasoning behind its console's high price tag is the new Kinect model bundled in each box.  It's clear from the company's demonstrations the new Kinect has been improved from its unresponsive first iteration.  However, many gamers simply don't want Kinect, no matter how advanced it is.  Many see it as a hinderance and distraction from the one thing that matters: games.  To them, the the Kinect won't serve any function beyond its multi-media integration.  Most games at launch don't utilize the device and those that do use it as voice commands that can be easily ignored.   Microsoft has not done a sufficient job convincing people they need Kinect and, more importantly, that the extra hundred dollar investment is worth it.

SEE ALSO: Next Generation Console War Predictions: Sony's PS4 

As I mentioned in my earlier article on the PS4, I think the Xbox One has the more interesting launch line-up.   But there's a fear among hardcore gamers that Microsoft will pull the rug out from under them.  They will entice them in with early exclusives like Forza 5, Killer Instinct, and the eight hundred pound guerrilla Titanfall.  Later on, the exclusives could disappear as the company concentrates its enegery to Kinect and online functionality, as they did in the later half of last generation.  Sure, Microsoft has the next Halo, Quantic Break, and timed, exclusive DLC for future Call of Duty's.  

Beyond that?  Unlike Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft doesn't have a large catalogue of franchises to pull from and with companies like Epic, Bioware, and Bungie making their future games multi-platform, where will the Xbox One's AAA exclusives come from?

This is why Microsoft needs to take risks on original properties from smaller third party developers.  In 1999, they gambled on a small PC company.  That company was Bungie and their game, Halo: Combat Evolved, has spawned six games and become a cultural phenomenon for Microsoft.  Admittedly, this strategy will produce more failures than successes (anyone remember Azurik: Rise of Perathia which launched alongside Halo: Combat Evolved?), but Microsoft needs more than just Forza and Halo to keep gamers interested. They need new and original franchises.

The Xbox One and Kinect on display (wikimedia/creative commons)
The Xbox One and Kinect on display (wikimedia/creative commons)
I suggest they invest in beloved cult developers like Double Fine Productions. Double Fine would love the funding if Microsoft allows a long creative lease. The two companies already have a history together.  Double Fine's excellent platformer Psychonauts (on a personal note, I love this hilarious game, go play it now if you haven't) was originally going to be an Xbox exclusive published by Microsoft.   Also, Double Fine's downloadable Kinect Party was one of the few games worth experiencing for the original Kinect.   If anyone can convince the world the Kinect is worth it, it's Double Fine.  

Microsoft has already started down this road by publishing games from indie darlings Twisted Pixel (Splosion Man, The Maw) and Capybara (Below, Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP).  They need these lesser known companies to gain the hardcore gamer's acceptance.  Sony has made a strong bid for indie developers and with big budget console exclusives becoming less financially fisable, Microsoft would be smart to do the same.

SEE ALSO:  Rain Or Shine, Microsoft's Xbox One Is Ready For Launch

I think Microsoft will do fine in the first months of this generation. The PS4 will sell a couple more units this holiday and spring season, but Microsoft will be content with the Xbox One's returns. The question is: will Sony's early lead be enough to convince Microsoft to drop the price?  I believe so.  At next year's E3, Microsoft will cut the price, if only by fifty dollars.  

Microsoft isn't dumb, they know this console generation a two horse race between Sony and them.   They don't want a repeat of two generations ago when the PS2 mopped the floor with the original Xbox.  They have invested too much into Xbox to be a distant second place, and with new management in their restructured games department, they probably can't afford a distant second place finish.  


Reach contributor Andy Gause at here.  Follow him on Twitter here



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