Xbox looks set to have a great Holiday season- but can it fend off the PS4 and Nintendo Switch?
The Holiday season is the biggest spending season of the year for the biggest market for video game software and hardware in the world—it’s a time of the year when things are bought in such volumes that even hardware as vapid as the Wii U and PS Vita can end up putting respectable sales.
For the last few years, the Holidays have become predictable to anyone interested in following the larger trends in the gaming industry–the PS4 will always dominate, some multiplatform games will do well, along with a Nintendo exclusive, typically that year’s Pokemon title. The thrill of trying to see competitive platforms go head to head and barely edge each other out – the mark of a thriving, successful industry, that is – has long been missing.
But this year’s Holiday season promises to be the first interesting one we have had since at least 2014. For the first time in a very long time, we will have three competitive platforms on the market, each with an equally viable chance at ending in first place (with a resurgent 3DS rounding out a hopefully very healthy showing). We have Sony with the dominant PS4, that has shown absolutely no sign whatsoever of slowing down four years into its life; we have Nintendo with the Switch, a system that has become a veritable phenomenon just seven months into its life, and which will get its strongest release yet going into the Holiday shopping season. And finally, we have Microsoft’s comeback gambit with the Xbox One X, a superlatively well designed piece of hardware designed to address common complaints people had with then Xbox One.
"This year’s Holiday season promises to be the first interesting one we have had since at least 2014. For the first time in a very long time, we will have three competitive platforms on the market, each with an equally viable chance at ending in first place."
Given the relative positions of strength that Sony and Nintendo will be going into the year end from, I find the Xbox One’s market potential for the Holiday season to be the most fascinating. I feel like, in spite of common refrains and complaints, Microsoft has positioned itself to do well this year.
The Xbox One X will have the hype that surrounds new hardware, with Microsoft’s clever positioning of it as something ‘new’ presumably getting some disengaged hardware enthusiasts to buy into it, alongside their own dedicated Xbox fan base. Even though the Xbox One X is $500, it should do well over the Holiday—after all, new hardware always sells out at launch, expensive things manage to do well during the Holidays, and appealing products manage to do well for themselves- and the Xbox One X will have the benefit of all three of those factors going its way.
Of course, the Xbox One X will also not be able to sell to a larger mass market because of its prohibitively high price, as well as the fact that supply for it is anticipated to be fairly limited. Microsoft’s mass market gambit, then, is the Xbox One S—a system that admittedly has so far failed to gain much traction in the market next to the PS4 and Nintendo Switch. And that’s where things interesting.
For the Xbox One X, Microsoft is smartly going to be bundling it with some of the most high profile games of the season. Shadow of War and Assassin’s Creed Origins will both get Xbox One S bundles, and at the absurdly cheap prices that the Xbox One S is usually available for, a bundle with either of these games should help Microsoft shift some units. The larger problem is that the most high profile games of the season – your Destiny 2, Star Wars Battlefront 2, Call of Duty: World War 2 – are all going to have PlayStation exclusive branding and bundles. Given that they are likely to be the highest movers on the software front this November and December, Microsoft will be missing out on appealing to the segment of the mass market picking up a console for or with one of those games, because getting a PS4 bundle with those titles will be simply cheaper.
"The most high profile games of the season – your Destiny 2, Star Wars Battlefront 2, Call of Duty: World War 2 – are all going to have PlayStation exclusive branding and bundles."
The end result, then, is that while I expect the Xbox One X to do really well for itself – I expect it to sell out, I expect it to outsell the PS4 Pro, I expect it to have a far more effective debut than the PS4 Pro did – I don’t expect it to break into the larger mainstream market looking for cheaper deals (and cheaper deals is what the holiday shopping season is about: just look at Black Friday and Cyber Monday), and I don’t expect that the Xbox One S will be able to compensate for that, owing to Sony’s superior bundling partnerships. What I expect is that the Xbox One X will do well, and in a vacuum, so will the Xbox One S—but next to the PS4 family and Nintendo Switch, I feel like the Xbox One family will fall behind.
This is not to say that the Xbox One will not do well, because I legitimately and truly feel like it will. I feel like the Xbox One will have its best Holiday since 2014, I feel like it will see some healthy game sales, I feel like hardware sales will be strong, buoyed by the Xbox One X, I feel like the Xbox One X will perform incredibly strongly. I just feel like its two rivals are better positioned going into the Holiday season. While Microsoft’s exclusives lineup, paltry as it is, is better than Sony’s, who only have Gran Turismo Sport and nothing else, Sony have the benefit of a larger pool of exclusives from this year feeding into the Holiday lineup, as well as partnerships with bigger games and brands. Call of Duty, Destiny, Star Wars, FIFA, all games that will be the biggest movers of the Holiday, all aligned with PlayStation.
Meanwhile, the Switch continues to sell independently of what its rivals do, breaking records in the process, and it is due to get its most hyped and anticipated game yet for the Holiday- a new 3D Mario game in the vein of Super Mario 64. Combine this with the general hype and word of mouth around the console, as well as its cheaper price than the Xbox One X, and it, too, is positioned to do strongly for itself.
Does this mean that Xbox will do poorly this Holiday? No, of course not. If the Xbox One family manages to sell 2 million units over November and December, then by any and all measurements, Microsoft has done splendidly. At that point, does it matter if the Switch and PS4 sold more?
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.