Microsoft goes into the Holiday season armed with nothing but Forza- is that enough?
Microsoft is primed for the future, coming off of this E3. They announced the next Xbox is already in the works, they announced the acquisition of five new studios, and they announced multiple first party projects for the future. It’s great, if you want to consider the Xbox One’s long term prospects- especially going into next generation, Xbox should be better prepared to fight against the PS5 on an even footing.
But as rosy as the long term future for the Xbox looks, its immediate future is in a bit more of a tangle right now- and that wasn’t helped by the E3 showing Microsoft had last month, for all of its other merits. Xbox One continues to be outsold by the PS4 and Nintendo Switch on a monthly basis worldwide, and both consoles also continue to get high rated quality exclusive content, something which the Xbox One has especially struggled with this year.
But it is when you consider the situation going into the Holiday season this year that things begin to look a bit more dire- for the entire year, Microsoft only has one major release planned for the Xbox One, Forza Horizon 4. Forza Horizon 3 was a fantastic game, the highest rated title Microsoft has put out this generation, and also the highest selling one, and there’s no reason to suspect that Forza Horizon 4 will be any lesser of a game. But even with that- it’s just one game, and Forza cannot compare to Spider-Man or Pokemon and Smash, which are the exclusive offerings being put forth for the 2018 Holiday season by Sony and Nintendo respectively.
"Forza cannot compare to Spider-Man or Pokemon and Smash, which are the exclusive offerings being put forth for the 2018 Holiday season by Sony and Nintendo respectively."
That said, the biggest releases of the year will probably be multiplatform- especially, for example, Red Dead Redemption 2, right? Xbox One will have that game, and even play it better than the competition on Xbox One X. So that should be good, right?
Not really. See, Sony has smartly gone ahead and sewn up the marketing and branding rights for most major multiplatform game releases this year. This includes, yes, Red Dead Redemption 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII, and Destiny 2: Forsaken. So, sure, Xbox One X may play Red Dead better, but a) does that matter when the larger public, the ones who buy these games in the millions, won’t even know about that thanks to Rockstar’s marketing deal with Sony (let’s not pretend they will read Digital Foundry or GamingBolt for tech analyses- they don’t care enough to), and b) the Xbox One X will still be more expensive than the PS4?
And that, right there, is the devil of it. Sony has the better exclusives (remember, Spider-Man is the most popular superhero in the world, which is saying something), and has marketing deals for the biggest games of the year. Nintendo has Smash and Pokemon, which likely will be among the highest selling titles this Holiday season. Forza is great, but it can’t compete- and while Microsoft has marketing deals with some games coming this year, such as Fallout 76 and Battlefield 5, that can’t possibly hope to go against the combined might of Spider-Man and Red Dead, or Pokemon and Smash Bros.
"Sony has smartly gone ahead and sewn up the marketing and branding rights for most major multiplatform game releases this year. This includes, yes, Red Dead Redemption 2."
So, what avenues are left to Microsoft if they are to perform well this Holiday season? The easiest option, of course, might be simply to drop the price of their machines. The Xbox One S routinely goes for $200, but get it down to $150, and $200 with a game bundled – only for the Holiday season, if a long term price drop to that level is not tenable – and all of a sudden, you have a very appealing package on hand. $150 for a current generation console is impulse buy territory- if someone walks into the store and sees the Xbox One being sold at that price, it would become very hard for them to resist the temptation to pick one up for themselves (I am speaking from personal experience here…).
Microsoft could also get aggressive with the bundling- yes, they won’t be allowed to have official Red Dead Redemption or Destiny bundles, but they could easily have promotions, where buying an Xbox One console will get you $50 in store credit to spend on any game you want- which, well, what game do you think most people picking up an Xbox or a PlayStation this Holiday season would want? It would be a very tidy way of sidestepping the co-marketing problem that they face.
This price drop could also extend itself to the Xbox One X. Since the console has first gone on sale, it has remained steadfast at its $500 price point (though there was a brief price drop for it ahead of E3 this year). This Holiday, Microsoft could offer it for, say, $400, or $450 with a game included, maybe Forza– and the customer who wants the best possible bang for their buck might be likelier to pick it up. $400 would mean it’s the same price as the PS4 Pro, and the Xbox One X is a far better machine than Sony’s console- something Microsoft has made a point to hammer home, too. While Xbox One X, even with a price cut, is not likely to get a huge portion of Xbox One’s total sales (the mass mover for the Xbox line remains the Xbox One S), a price cut would still help Microsoft sell more of them than they otherwise would have- and every little bit counts here.
"I think Microsoft would do very well if they implemented these measures this Holiday, and that they would have a great year end season. Does it matter if Sony or Nintendo managed to do even better? In fact, that would be the ultimate vindication for the health of the industry- so why does it matter who managed to tower above the others, when all three are giants anyway?"
The question is, would this be enough? Would Microsoft be able to “win” the Holiday season on the back of this?
My question, which serves as a response to that question, then, is, does it matter? I think Microsoft would do very well if they implemented these measures this Holiday, and that they would have a great year end season. Does it matter if Sony or Nintendo managed to do even better? In fact, that would be the ultimate vindication for the health of the industry- so why does it matter who managed to tower above the others, when all three are giants anyway? Especially since we already know that long term, the Xbox brand is healthy, and here to stay. It’d be great for Microsoft, I am sure, if they manage to sell the most this Holiday- but even if they’re dead last, I don’t think they’ll complain as long as they do well on their own terms anyway.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.