Microsoft lifted the lid off Xbox One X, the new/upgraded console it calls the most powerful ever created. It unveiled it amongst a flurry of “console launch exclusives” and impressive (albeit wordy) specs. For the duration of today’s press conference, the audience in attendance and the millions watching around the globe sat glued to Microsoft’s impressive and confident display of the console’s power, but one question remained until the end: how much will it cost?
Rumours were circulating in the hours leading up to the reveal, pointing to a $499 US price point at launch in November. As expected, that generated a mixed response: some approved, noting the Xbox One’s launch price back in 2013, and the sheer value and power the Xbox One X will offer come November 2017. Others bemoaned the price, with a consistent theme across social media being it’s uncompetitive price next to Sony’s cheaper — and less powerful — PS4 Pro.
Microsoft diehards countered aggressively, pointing to the Xbox One X’s power and features: a 1TB HDD, “true” 4K gaming, liquid vapour cooling, 4K UHD Blu-Ray playback, and a sleek, tiny design, the smallest in Xbox console history. That back and forth bickering continued once the lights came on at the Galen Centre and the price was confirmed. Few are surprised, and we all saw this coming. So then why is there such heated debate, and is this just a case of Microsoft being damned if it does, damned if doesn’t?
We expected a price point around the $450-$500 mark for months. No way was Microsoft going to unveil “the most powerful console ever created”, and then sell it for the price of current top-of-the-line console hardware. Microsoft could have thrown a curveball and settled on $400, but the middle ground seemed settled on that $499 entry point for some time. Leaving the Galen Centre, I heard some colleagues jeeringly suggest that Microsoft left the launch price until the end so as to avoid a mass walkout. I think the reality is that, unless the company intended to shock, the price was seen as a reasonable entry point for what is the Xbox equivalent of the PS4 Pro. Naturally a more powerful console is going to cost more, hence the $100 difference.
While that $499 launch price is unsurprising, it’s hard to ignore the obvious similarities at play here. Microsoft finds itself fighting an uphill battle to close the gap on PlayStation, which strengthened its market share with the launch of the PS4 Pro. Back in 2013 as the two brands went head-to-head within a matter of days, a $100 price gap — identical to the one between the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro — made it so Microsoft was battling not only negative coverage surrounding its at-the-time “anti-gamer” restrictions, but also a more affordable and accessible competitor.
The challenge here is slightly different, and the variables aren’t as aggressively in PlayStation’s favour, even if the rules have changed. Xbox has for the past 24 months been uncharacteristically branded as a console with no (new/exciting) exclusives, while PlayStation has played a consistent hand with a steady stream to satisfy a growing audience. In 2013 the decision came down to either spending $499 on a console with a bundled Kinect, from a company that was forcing online restrictions on gamers, or spending $399 on a console celebrating used game flexibility and online accessibility. In 2017, it’s about spending $399 on a less powerful console with a more established games library, or $499 on an impressively powerful piece of hardware with what is arguably an unproven (and still shallow) lineup of AAA exclusives.
XBOX ONE X Specs
- CPU: Eight-core 2.3GHz processor
- GPU: 40 compute units at 1172MHz
- RAM: 12GB GDDR5 (shared between system and GPU)
- Bandwidth: 326GB/s
- Storage: 1TB hard disk
- Disc: UHD Blu-ray player
That dilemma stands as a similarly risky one for gamers as the decision in 2013, but at least the message is clearer, cleaner, and welcoming with Xbox One X. If we look at this console as a new beginning for the hardware and brand, then the investment probably deserves to be considered without attachment to the current Xbox hardware lineup. If it’s seen as purely an upgrade — which in essence it is, at least at launch — then selling it as a “premium” product comes with a reasonable price tag. No one baulked at the price of the Xbox One Elite controller, which suggests Microsoft still has a committed, passionate audience that the company seemingly lost with its divisive Xbox One reveal at E3 2013. It might find itself in a tough tussle to fit into PS4 Pro-Switch duo households, making Xbox One X perhaps Microsoft’s biggest — and most important — challenge to date.
Xbox One X launches November 7 worldwide for $499 USD/ $649 AUD