In the next-gen, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over…
I believe in calling it like I see it, which has resulted in the ruffling of many Xbox fanboys feathers as of late. Anyone with an unbiased opinion should be able to look at the current trends in the market (and the worldwide sales data) and see that the PS4 is simply whipping the tail of the Xbox One right now. Granted, Microsoft’s console is considered to have a slightly stronger games library (an issue that Sony is working to resolve), but overall the pulse on the industry has the PS4 set on cruise control. They have a comfortable lead, and by all accounts, it’s going to take a big move by Microsoft to gain ground.
Not to say that it can’t be done. Microsoft can pull it off, as the Xbox One is still strong and in-demand.
If you were to walk into just about any big-box retailer right now, you’re likely to find an Xbox One sitting on the shelf (but nary a PS4 in sight). Some are still having trouble filling their pre-orders for Sony’s system. This is due to public demand simply being much higher on the PlayStation side of things than on the Xbox. However, Ed Fries (co-creator of the Xbox) revealed in a recent interview his thoughts on the next-gen standing, and how the Xbox One can still pull ahead of its competitor. “They need better exclusive games than PS4. They need to be more open to indie developers. They need to adopt free to play gaming more aggressively. They need to continue to move Xbox Live forward as the leading online service. They need to show people why they included the new Kinect on every machine by demonstrating a compelling use for it.” He said via Yabbly. Definitely a rapid fire to-do list for sure (none of which requires a “minor course correction”). As I’ve stated in the past, one of the key differences between the two rival companies is that Sony seems to be able to pivot on a dime, as to where Microsoft is more like an ocean liner; it takes much longer for her to bank hard to starboard or port.
But I do see merits in Mr. Fries assertions, as just adopting a few of these suggestions could mean all the difference to the #2 console.
Of the pool of ideas listed above, there are two that stick out in my mind as legit game changers. The first is the pushing of Xbox Live. While I’m impressed with what Sony has done on their console, I still see Xbox Live as the best online gaming platform available. Not only did Microsoft blaze a trail on the 360 by expanding the service into a true marketplace, but much of what you see done on the PSN today is patterned off what came before it. Whether or not they’re doing it better is another story. If Microsoft can somehow tout Live as the “be-all end-all” by providing content that is ONLY available on their system and not simulcast on the PS4, people could start seeing the Xbox One as their ONE portal to access the content they really want. The second point is resurrecting the idea of game exclusives. As I’m sure you know, the concept is not as prevalent as it used to be. Back in the day, one or two exclusives literally became the difference maker in what system a person chose to run with for the next decade. Now, outside of your Halos or Titanfalls, the Xbox doesn’t have any real advantages to pull people’s gaming dollars away from Sony. Frankly, exclusive gaming titles just aren’t enough to turn the tides anymore. If Microsoft could somehow lock down several huge deals at once (spending some money to strike contracts with several large movie, tv and game studios simultaneously) they could possibly make the Xbox One people’s only choice at the register. A strong arm tactic, but effective.
Looking back, I can remember a time when everyone was up in arms regarding all NFL games being handed off to EA. Most crucified the game developer without realizing one important fact: it wasn’t EA’s idea. It was the NFL. It was the latter who decided they wanted a one-stop-shop handling all their licenses, so how could you blame EA for jumping at the chance? If Microsoft hopes to somehow close the gap between themselves and their rival, they will need a move like that to do it. Only forcing people to see their product as a necessity will flip the script. Otherwise, the PS4 will remain firmly ahead.
My advice to Microsoft; you gotta’ spend money to make money. Buying up exclusives might cost you a bit upfront, but it will pay off BIG in the long run.