The Xbox One Scorpio looks to be a wonderful overhaul of Microsoft’s console, a reworking of all the internals that addresses the numerous perceived flaws that apparently held the original system back. However, no matter how great the Scorpio may be as a hardware, the truth of the matter is that anyone who expects it to change the tides of the console war, or sell in any significant degree, is ultimately being dishonest with themselves- the Scorpio, for all its merits as hardware, is not going to sell so much that it will impact the current console cycle competition. And this is something that Microsoft knows.
The primary reason for the Scorpio’s predicted lack of market appeal will be the lack of exclusives- there will be no killer game that anyone has to get a Scorpio to play. Your existing consoles, even your existing Xbox One console, will play any game hitting the Scorpio just fine. The Scorpio’s killer app so to say is its ability to play most Xbox One games in 4K natively with improved graphical effects- with this, Scorpio can boast of having the best versions of all multiplatform games. This, however, is unlikely to be enough to push the Scorpio’s sales.
A lot of people like to point at the PS4’s success in the first couple of years or so that it was on the market as proof that performance of multiplatform games is enough to make or break a console’s fate on the market. After all, the PS4’s lineup of exclusives was rather slim for the longest time, and it still sold. Why can the same not apply to the Scorpio, too?
"Scorpio can boast of having the best versions of all multiplatform games. This, however, is unlikely to be enough to push the Scorpio’s sales."
This argument ignores the biggest reason the PS4 sold as well as it did- it was a cheaper product marketed as superior (thanks to the better specs), with perfect marketing, laser focused messaging, and its competitor completely fumbling the ball in every regard. Most of these will not hold true for Scorpio- while it is definitely more powerful, and its marketing is likely to be better than the marketing the Xbox One got, it will definitely be more expensive (Phil Spencer has referenced it as a ‘premium’ offering multiple times), and the PS4, far from fumbling the ball, is currently having its best year ever, with multiple high quality exclusives having hit it just three months into the year. Add to this the fact that the Scorpio will also have to fight incumbency inertia – most people who are buying consoles now are buying the ones their friends already own, and more people own PS4 than Xbox One in any part of the world, leading to more sales for PS4 as a result – and you see why it has an uphill climb ahead of it.
Precedence has shown us multiple times that simply having better versions of multiplatform games seldom sells consoles- the PS2 had far worse versions of multiplatform titles than GameCube and Xbox, and it outsold both of them put together by almost a magnitude of multiple times. The PS4 Pro currently has the best versions of all multiplatform games on consoles, and sales for it have been lukewarm at best. PC routinely has the best looking, most flexible versions of multiplatform games- and yet the console market continues to exist, because performance alone does not matter. Pricing, messaging, marketing, and exclusive games matter too. While Scorpio has two of those down, it is unlikely to fare well on the other two fronts.
Having exclusives, or being a proper next generation system, would both have ensured that the Scorpio would have an easier time of things- not only would it have sidestepped competition with a console with an install base of almost 60 million units (since by then it would be perceived to be in its own category- possibly one of the reasons the Switch is doing as well as it is), but it would also have had some must have experiences that would have necessitated a purchase of the system. In that case, even a higher cost would not have been an impediment- people will spend money to play a compelling game. Look at how well the Nintendo Switch has done on the back of nothing but The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
"The Scorpio would have sidestepped this problem with a compelling exclusive- look at how well the Nintendo Switch has done on the back of nothing but The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild."
The truth of the matter is that even Microsoft recognizes that the Scorpio will not outsell the Xbox One – Xbox boss Phil Spencer has essentially said as much in statements before, noting that the Scorpio is expected to be targeted at a “premium” segment of the market, while the Xbox One S will remain Microsoft’s main mass market mover. This is something Spencer has already conceded to IGN before.
“I call it a premium console because I want people to be clear that the customer we’re building that for is the premium gaming customer,” he said. “The person who buys the majority of the games, the person who’s playing the most games, spending the most hours, spending the most dollars. It’s like our Elite controller. I call that a premium controller.
“I’m not trying to scare anybody on the price. We’re going to come out on a price that we think is fair for the product that we build and the customers will tell us as they always do. I call it premium because I don’t want people to get confused that somehow Scorpio is the thing that is going to take over the Xbox line. The majority of the consoles that we’re going to sell are the Xbox One S and I’m very proud of that,” Spencer said.
The Scorpio is going to be an excellent machine, and it will definitely be the most sophisticated console on the market when it releases later this year- but those expecting it to turn the tide for the Xbox One against the PS4 may be setting themselves for disappointment.
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.
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