Microsoft has chosen to focus on services over exclusives for the Xbox One- but how viable a strategy is that?
Microsoft has a problem with exclusives- I’m actually beginning to get tired of harping on it, and those of you who have been following my articles probably already know my take on that. In my opinion, Microsoft has repeatedly and consistently failed to deliver great exclusives on the Xbox One.
Exclusives matter, as this year has shown us- the PS4 and the Nintendo Switch are both outselling the Xbox One worldwide on the back of their lineup of exclusive games. But even as the Xbox One finds itself assuaged on two fronts at once, I think there is a case to be made that Microsoft increasingly sees Xbox Live, and the suite of services that it represents, as the Xbox One’s primary differentiator and appeal in the market.
In a sense, this is not a misguided direction to take- players who invest in your ecosystem of services become entrenched in it, and are less likely to jump over to the competition. After all, if you are assured that your Xbox Live Gamertag, friends, Achievements, and even games, will carry forward to the next Xbox- why wouldn’t your first choice be Xbox over PlayStation when the next cycle rolls around?
"Microsoft increasingly sees Xbox Live, and the suite of services that it represents, as the Xbox One’s primary differentiator and appeal in the market."
There is also little denying that as of right now, the Xbox One’s primary appeal on the market is its suite of services. It certainly is not the games, of which the PS4 has more and better. It isn’t third party support, and it is not hardware prowess (though the latter at least will change once the Xbox One X launches later this year). Indeed, the Xbox One’s true advantage over the PS4 right now – the only advantage – is in the suite of services it offers, such as Backward Compatibility, Play Anywhere, Cross Play, refunds, gifting, as well as the suite of smaller features and functionality on Xbox Live that are cumulatively beyond what PSN can muster.
Indeed, Microsoft’s wins over Sony in the last few years have all largely been on the services front, too- look at the good PR they generated over Sony for Backward Compatibility, cross platform play, the availability of mods on their system, or for allowing services like EA Access. These are all wins scored in the services focused arena. That is not an accident.
In a situation like this, Xbox begins to gain a sort of appeal for customers even while lacking exclusives- if you are only interested in online games, then the Xbox is undoubtedly better for you. If your console is as much a social hub for you and your friends as it is a way for you to play games, then again, the Xbox One is better. If you want the security of your purchases, digital and physical, Xbox is better. If you are a PC gamer as well, Xbox is better. If your interest is in none, or few, PlayStation exclusives, or if you owned an Xbox 360, then the Xbox One becomes a viable, and maybe even an alluring proposition in such a scenario.
Of course, there are so many qualifiers necessary to achieve that situation – one who owned an Xbox 360, has no interest in exclusives, or only plays a few online games a year, among others – that the pool of customers the Xbox One is appealing to by focusing on services over exclusives and games is quite low. But there is a pool- and we can at least understand Microsoft’s strategy, even if we don’t agree with it.
"The Nintendo Switch, with its middling hardware and frankly horrific state of services (the two areas that Microsoft has chosen to focus on) stands testament to the fact that ultimate, games are what sell a gaming system"
And there are a lot of reasons to not agree with their strategy at all- indeed, the Nintendo Switch, with its middling hardware and frankly horrific state of services (the two areas that Microsoft has chosen to focus on) stands testament to the fact that ultimate, games are what sell a gaming system. Services, while valuable, are a value addition to the games. They exist to complement your games and enhance them- not replace them. Without viable great games that people have to buy an Xbox One for, the console’s fortunes in the market are not going to change- it will continue to be dominated by Sony, and steadily lose its second place to Nintendo as well.
Microsoft’s focus on services is not misguided- in the future, services will matter a lot, and Microsoft is trying to get us there now. That’s good and admirable, and indeed, their services have already enhanced the Xbox experience in multiple ways in the here and now. Now, only if they can up their investements for awesome new IPs for the console.
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.