The Xbox One X represents a sort of homecoming for the Xbox brand- but where to from here?
The Xbox One X has had, by all accounts, a successful launch. Though we do not have any exact numbers – and thanks to Microsoft’s policy of not sharing any, we are unlikely to have them any time soon either – the chatter around the system and its launch seems to indicate that it has done better than expected, and is Microsoft’s strongest performance in a while. Especially considering that the Xbox One X is $500, that is really impressive.
And that brings me to my next, most important point- the Xbox One X being successful at $500 – which, again, early evidence indicates it is – seems to illustrate that there is life left yet in the Xbox brand. This is extremely important for Microsoft, and for any long term plans for future recovery of Xbox that they may have- and indeed, this might be the most important takeaway they have from the One X’s early performance.
That the PlayStation brand’s value and power has never been in doubt- even the worst performing PlayStation console, the PS3, sold over 80 million units worldwide, and it had an incredibly terrible launch, thanks to Sony’s arrogance, a paucity of games, worse running multiplats, and a shockingly high price of $600- among other things. PlayStation has global brand appeal and recognition- a generation of gamers around the world grew up playing Sony’s consoles, and for them, PlayStation is equivalent with gaming. It enjoys the kind of global brand appeal that neither Xbox nor Nintendo do.
On the other hand, Nintendo has the most valuable brand in gaming- thanks to the composite value of its incredible IP. Nintendo has a legacy going back 30 years, and the most recognizable brands in the gaming world, from Mario, Zelda, Pokemon, Donkey Kong, Mario Kart, Smash Bros., and more. For many people around the world, ‘game console’ and Nintendo are literally interchangeable synonyms. Nintendo’s brand value is, again, indisputable- after all, to go from the Wii U to the Switch like they did would otherwise be impossible if they did not have cachet among gamers.
"Though it is early to make too conclusive a statement, the Xbox One X’s early success indicates that the Xbox brand does have value, cachet, and nostalgia among gamers, who were only waiting for Microsoft to put out a desirable product again before flocking to it."
It has been Xbox, where the question of its brand appeal has come up often in the last few years, following the dismal launch of the Xbox One, and its poor performance not just in Europe and Japan- territories where the brand has historically been weak, but where the weakness became more pronounced- but also in its previously strong territories of the US and UK, where it began to steadily cede ground to the PS4, and later on, the Switch. Did the Xbox brand truly have no cachet for gamers? After all, it is the newest console brand, with a shorter history than the other two, and fewer exclusives to have built up recognition over the years- although Halo and Gears have had a monumental impact on gaming, obviously.
We have our answer now- though it is early to make too conclusive a statement, the Xbox One X’s early success indicates that the Xbox brand does have value, cachet, and nostalgia among gamers, who were only waiting for Microsoft to put out a desirable product again before flocking to it. The Xbox One X may in fact lack strong compelling exclusives right now, but as a piece of hardware engineering, it is marvellous and beyond anything else on the market. For Xbox, a brand that has predicated its history on delivering powerful hardware to the console gaming market, the Xbox One X represents a return to form after the misstep of the Xbox One- it’s a return to the console brand’s roots. And Xbox fans are taking to it, as its core message is resonating with them.
This, then, is heartening- it indicates that the Xbox brand has a legacy. It means that while things for Xbox may have been extremely dire this year, and the year before, Microsoft can pull back to a position of strength from where they are right now, if they set their mind to it. A position of strength doesn’t even have to mean them beating Sony or Nintendo- it just means their brand being far more exciting, and demanding far more respect and attention from the gaming market, than the Xbox One has managed over the last couple of years.
This will need extreme dedication from Microsoft, of course- Sony threw everything they had, staking the health of the entire larger company, into turning around the PS3 when it was struggling, which is what led to their remarkable comeback, and the momentum that carried over into the PS4 launch. And Nintendo dove headfirst into the challenge of reviving their brand and turning their fortunes in the market around with the Switch, lining up an unprecedented lineup of games for its first nine months on the market, working to ensure third parties would be able to support the system without problems, creating appealing and desirable hardware that they wouldn’t have to sell at a loss, and marketing the hell out of it with remarkable clarity.
Microsoft has achieved a lot of elements that are needed for a comeback- they have started to garner goodwill thanks to their initiatives like refunds and cross platform play, they have desirable hardware, their marketing is keeping them in the conversation- now they just need to ensure that they can keep at it, relentlessly, over the next few years, on a global scale, while also- an this is the most important element necessary for success- working on putting out the kinds of exciting games the Xbox brand was once known for. Halo defined a generation of shooters. Gears of War practically invented a genre. Forza became the golden standard of sim racing. Fable was a charming action adventure series unlike anything else on the market.
"This will need extreme dedication from Microsoft, of course- Sony threw everything they had, staking the health of the entire larger company, into turning around the PS3 when it was struggling, which is what led to their remarkable comeback, and the momentum that carried over into the PS4 launch. And Nintendo dove headfirst into the challenge of reviving their brand and turning their fortunes in the market around with the Switch."
That’s the kind of stuff they need again- but new IP, exciting and unpredictable stuff, that captures imaginations like nothing else can. New games, exclusive to Xbox, that can be played nowhere else- that you have to buy an Xbox to play, but that’s alright, because Xbox has exciting hardware, and is generating buzz again. Microsoft is so close- but without the games, they will fall short again, like they did with the Xbox One S last year, when it looked like they were on the verge of recovery.
I am glad PlayStation is doing well. I am glad Nintendo backed back. Now I just want Xbox to be healthy and exciting again, like it once was. A console market with two successful systems is great- but one with three successful systems is even better. Don’t you agree?
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.