Heading into the eighth console generation, no one could have predicted the lopsided battlefield that we’ve seen with the PS4 and Xbox One.
The seventh generation had seen the Xbox 360 get out to what seemed like an insurmountable lead, only for the PS3 to slowly but surely claw its way back.
That late-generation surge pointed to a heated tussle for market share, but few saw it being as one-sided as it’s been. For many of us, the new generation presented an exciting transition into a new era with unknown potential.
It seemed like the surest thing: both Sony and Microsoft would be coming off two very successful consoles, with established install bases and online communities that would — seemingly — make for an easy transition to the new consoles.
Yet shockingly, Microsoft lost the generation within only a few minutes of its Xbox One unveiling.
It hadn’t created a console: it had created an “entertainment” device, one that promised to change the way we accessed media in our homes.
That wouldn’t have been as bad a strategy had Microsoft not completely changed its approach to gaming and online communities. Gaming consoles doubling as entertainment units was nothing new at the time, but the company’s unintentional anti-gamer rhetoric made the Xbox One a strangely unappealing option for gamers.
A bizarre approach to used games, forced online connectivity, and a bundled-in Kinect that nobody wanted. As they say: three strikes and you’re out!
Microsoft completely fluffed the launch of the Xbox One. Well, the pre-launch, to be exact. The company scrambled to change its approach to used games, ditched online requirements, and eventually dumped Kinect.
I know what you’re thinking: this is nothing new. It’s been well established that Microsoft has only itself to blame for the Xbox One’s poor performance next to the PS4. As great a console as Sony’s beast is, it should never have gotten the lead that it did. That so many Xbox gamers actively boycotted the new console and shifted to PlayStation is further proof that Microsoft stuffed this one up, big time.
Aside from Microsoft’s 180 and subtle changes to the ways in which we interact with and use the Xbox One, there’s been little in the way of direct reflection of the console’s pre-launch intentions.
Xbox boss, Phil Spencer, has been vocal in wanting to make the console more gamer friendly, and in most regards he’s certainly done that. Backwards compatibility, Xbox One S, Games with Gold, and Scorpio are all decisively pro-gamer offerings that would have appeared at odds with the direction Xbox was taking under Don Mattrick.
Today, however, we have something by way of an admission from Xbox HQ.
Speaking on his Linkedin profile, Microsoft Corporate Vice President for Windows and Devices, Yusuf Mehdi, admitted that Microsoft had made the ultimate of mistakes ahead of releasing the Xbox One: not listening to gamers.
Again, that’s nothing new. However, Mehdi’s confession offers insight into a distinctive culture shift at Microsoft more broadly, and how the aggressive and angry response to the Xbox One’s initial design inspired a “fan-centric culture” at the tech giant.
“With our initial announcement of Xbox One and our desire to deliver breakthroughs in gaming and entertainment, the team made a few key decisions regarding connectivity requirements and how games would be purchased that didn’t land well with fans,” Mehdi said. “While the intent was good — we imagined a new set of benefits such as easier roaming, family sharing and new ways to try and buy games — we didn’t deliver what our fans wanted.”
Mehdi went on to explain how changing the Xbox One “required great technical work”, simply to allow the console to work “the same way as Xbox 360” when it came to playing, sharing, lending, and reselling games.
“This experience was such a powerful reminder that we must always do the right thing for our customers, and since we’ve made that commitment to our Xbox fans, we’ve never looked back.”
It’s no secret that the Xbox One has struggled for market share next to the PS4. While sales for Microsoft’s console remain steady, it lost a considerable share to the PS4 when gamers jumped ship following the reveal.
Xbox Scorpio stands to be an important time for Microsoft, however, and it could kickstart a new era that may reignite interest in the brand. Look out for more information out of E3.