The Xbox One isn’t dead; it’s far from it, despite the silly web chatter. Those screaming of its downfall are clearly blind, or stupid — I haven’t decided yet. Despite the wailing naysayers, the Xbox One is, in fact, one of the fastest selling consoles to date. However, the issue isn’t whether it’s successful, or even whether its success will hold against the PlayStation 4’s increasingly impressive numbers. Hint: It wont. The problem is that, despite fan outcry and some good ol’ fashioned resistance, Microsoft has set its sights on the casual, couch-potato market.
“With great television, come millions of viewers,” said some Microsoft executive during a board meeting, presumably a year or two into the development of the Xbox One. Those probably weren’t his exact words, but it’s also unlikely that he sounded like Sean Connery and referred to the console as “the box” as he does in my dreams. The point is, someone at Microsoft thought a console/cable box combo was a swell idea. And it kinda was.
There is, of course, a method to Microsoft’s madness. Regardless of promises too far in the “cloud” to come to fruition, Microsoft intended on revolutionizing the living room experience by going where few consoles have ventured. They had plans to nest comfortably at the center of every modern household — possibly beneath a six-pack of Mountain Dew and enough microwave burrito wrappers to conceal the pudding stained rugs — and for the most part, they succeeded; albeit with a slight caveat.
Recent European sales figures suggest that the PlayStation 4 is outselling the Xbox One 3-1. Normally, these numbers wouldn’t be very worrying, as European people are often too busy smoking cigarettes, drinking unpronounceable liquors and bedding beautiful socialites to play video games. I know this, of course, because I once visited Europe. I admit that there’s the possibility that I’ve been watching too much Downton Abbey, but the fact remains: Microsoft’s target market was, and always will be, North America.
What does this mean? A lot of things. Too many things. More things than I’d like to type about. I will, however, type about one such thing: Microsoft’s ad campaign. When your first commercial revolves entirely around football, including watching football, tinkering with Xbox One menus with football streaming in the background, and sitting with a group of friends who, unsurprisingly, are also staring at the screen on which football is being displayed, you’re making a bold stance in the world of video games.
Here’s a secret: some gamer’s don’t give a s*** about sports. I know, it’s surprising considering how fit and healthy most gamer’s are. One of the reasons I was hesitant to buy an Xbox One on launch day was because the advertisement campaign wasn’t indicative of a gaming console, but rather a fancy TiVo with gaming capabilities. Microsoft spent a better half of their launch campaign alienating a significant portion of their supporters, which as sales suggest, switched sides at the first sign of trouble.
Indeed, the commercial was for an exclusively North American spot. It wasn’t intended for the market of fancy cheeses and folks who consider football a thing of feet and shorts. Nevertheless, the internet exists, and it’s not long before word spreads. So while the sliver of sports fanatics roared cheerfully at their televisions, an entire continent, as well as a nice chunk of North America, were left in the dark. While new commercials, game announcements, and interesting gimmicks have emerged since then, it’s hard to forget a first impression.
Rather than please the 80 million or so fans they’ve amassed over years of offering superior third-party titles, Microsoft decided to take a turn for the casual-zone. And while it’s true that television isn’t going anywhere fast, it’s not something your average gamer associates with their living room experience — at least not traditionally. There’s Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, PornHub (a PlayStation Favorite), and various other on demand equivalents that are easily accessible. Yes, some people want TV, but nobody really needs it on their gaming console — not with an abundance of alternatives.
As interesting as the premise is, and as much as I can’t wait to see if that Halo series lives up to the title, I can’t help but wonder: should these “services” have been the focus of the consoles potential? Would the money have been better invested in additional first party studios, or dare I say, an expansion of the existing few? I understand the direction they’ve taken, and I appreciate it. I just don’t particularly care for it, and I think it has damaged both present and future sales of the console; especially in European territories.
So why is North America killing the Xbox One? They’ve assembled a device that breaths ‘Merica, appeals to a range of folk that rarely exist outside of the States, and their attempt at remedying the issue by offering the Titanfall bundle in Europe is more of an insult toward those who dished out full price for the console than anything. There’s no telling where this console generation will go, but the head-start that Microsoft has allowed Sony isn’t good for business — at least not in the short run. Whether this means a permanently wide divide will exist is unknown, but boy is speculation fun.