Despite having a lower install base, Microsoft has a lot to gain with the release of Red Dead Redemption 2.
Red Dead Redemption 2 is, at last, here. The game, which has been wildly anticipated for years now, is finally out, and it is every bit the fantastic evolution of open worlds that Rockstar fans dreamed of and expected. It is also, if the insane success of Grand Theft Auto 5, which sold 100 million copies worldwide, is anything to go by, going to become the most successful game of the year by far. And in the end, it seems like its release is going to end up benefitting both, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, contrary to prior expectations.
To those of you who follow my weekly pieces, this may actually come as a bit of a shock—previously, when analyzing the possible performance at retail for each console in the Holiday season, I had basically dismissed the possibility of the Xbox One benefitting much from the launch of Red Dead Redemption 2. I had my reasons for doing so: Sony, after all, are the ones who are supposed to have an exclusive content and marketing and bundling deal with the game, and that kind of orchestrated set of circumstances would stand to benefit them far more than it would Xbox. We had already seen Sony pull something similar with Destiny There was no reason to suspect the same would not happen for Red Dead as well.
However, now that the game is out, we have more information to work with, and that makes it clear that Sony won’t have the clear benefit of Red Dead Redemption 2’s launch after all. There are multiple reasons for this, so let’s dig into them.
"For starters, there’s the exclusive content, which… isn’t much at all. PlayStation gets a weapon, an outfit and a horse first. That’s it. They’re not permanent exclusives, and they’re fairly inconsequantial. "
For starters, there’s the exclusive content, which… isn’t much at all. PlayStation gets a weapon, an outfit and a horse first. That’s it. They’re not permanent exclusives, and they’re fairly inconsequantial. Compared to the extent of the exclusive content Sony locked down for Destiny, where it outright has more Strikes available, often for more than a year at a time, this is paltry, and absolutely meaningless in the larger scheme of things. No one will buy Red Dead on PS4 over Xbox One for these reasons.
Then there’s the actual bundles. Sony has one PS4 Pro bundle with the game, and that’s it. It’s actually a bit surprising, given that I thought they would want to bundle the game with the PS4 Slim as well as the PS4 Pro, since the Slim, with its cheaper price, will likely be the mass market mover, especially with the expanded audience that a game like this one is likely to attract. But no, no such bundle exists.
Then there’s the fact that Microsoft has swiftly acted to counter this advantage, such as it is, too. With multiple retailers in the US, Microsoft has a promotion going where, if they buy Red Dead Redemption 2, customers will get $100 off of an Xbox One as well. This includes all models of the Xbox One, by the way—so the cheaper Xbox One S, which with this deal becomes sub-$100, as well as the Xbox One X, which, as it turns out, is the best version of the game.
"Then there’s the fact that Microsoft has swiftly acted to counter this advantage, such as it is, too. With multiple retailers in the US, Microsoft has a promotion going where, if they buy Red Dead Redemption 2, customers will get $100 off of an Xbox One as well."
Oh yes—that’s the reason that I think Xbox One will stand to benefit from Red Dead Redemption 2’s release so much. While Microsoft cannot advertise Red Dead Redemption 2 for Xbox One themselves, thanks to Rockstar’s deal with Sony, they don’t need to. We have technical analyses of the game across both PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, and we have confirmed what many probably always knew would happen—Red Dead Redemption 2 runs best on Xbox One X.
This, like I said, is something that most expected, but the degree by which the Xbox One X version is better may have taken many by surprise. On the Xbox One X, the game runs at a full native 4K. Given how already gorgeous it is, this is a huge win for Microsoft and Xbox. In today’s day and age, word of the relative performance of the game across both consoles has already spread, and you can bet that many who will want the best possible version of the game are now going to gravitate towards the Xbox One X version, and if they don’t own either a PS4 or an Xbox One, will look towards picking up an Xbox One X. Some exclusive stuff for is not going to make up for the fact that the Xbox One X version of Red Dead Redemption 2 runs circles around the PS4 and PS4 Pro versions of the game.
"Red Dead Redemption 2 on the PS4 may outsell the Xbox One version 2:1 but Microsoft still has a lot to gain here."
The best part is, Microsoft is ready for this—and that’s where their fantastic deal comes in. Even if you were unconvinced about getting an Xbox One X for Red Dead Redemption 2 thoroughly, simply being told in the store that you get $100 off of the console when you get Red Dead Redemption 2 with it is going to make an impression, and at least in the US, I can foresee the Xbox One getting a sales spike from the release of this game.
Earlier in the year, I thought the Holiday stakes would be a two man contest between the Switch and the PS4, and that the Xbox One would be sitting it out, getting a strong third place, but still third place. Red Dead Redemption 2 on the PS4 may outsell the Xbox One version 2:1 but Microsoft still has a lot to gain here. With this Red Dead Redemption 2 gambit, things are wide open again, and, once more, it is clear that Microsoft is playing to win thanks to its powerful hardware and fantastic deals
Let the games begin.
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