Will Microsoft pick itself up after its E3 debacle?
This year’s E3 had the perfect set up — both Sony and Microsoft had equally vague unveilings of their respective next-gen consoles. There weren’t enough games on show, not much was said about each console’s features and in one particularly glaring case, a console’s physical appearance was not revealed. If each of those press conferences were the appetisers, E3 was to be the main course — a wholesome meal of gameplay and nerd-talk that was to satisfy the biggest of appetites. Would both Sony and Microsoft go in for the kill? Would they showcase equally powerful systems with games catalogues that were wildly different? Would they put profitability before their consumers or vice versa? All these questions were to be answered. But nobody expected the final results.
Let’s be honest. There’s just one console that’s probably going to be snugly placed in your AV cabinet later this year — the Sony Playstation 4. This is particularly disappointing given that the reasons will have nothing to do with games catalogue or hardware. Bad PR, a price point that is $100 too much, and a whole world of hate from gamers have left Microsoft’s Xbox One in second place, which in this particular case is the same as last place. It would be unreasonable to not give credit where credit’s due, however. Sony saw the particularly uncomfortable coffin Microsoft found itself in at E3 and promptly nailed it shut. Even the presentation slide that did the deed looked more reactionary rather than prepared. It basically told you something you already knew: if you owned a disc based game, you could trade it at retail, sell it to another person, lend it to a friend or keep it forever. Microsoft tried to tell you something else entirely, with no clear picture on how used games would function, what kind of digital rights management tools would be used, or even if you could simply pop in a disc and play a game you paid $60 for. This counter-attack was incredibly well received; so well received that the hoots and cheers drowned out the bit about paid multiplayer. This wasn’t just going to be a temporary reaction, because a quick look at online retailers (Amazon.com, Best Buy, and GameStop, for instance) shows the $400-priced PS4 universally topping pre-order charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Is it too late for Microsoft to bounce back?
The short answer is yes, it is too late — not even with it back-tracking on used games, DRM and all those other things that gamers are so passionate about. The set-top-box positioning angle, in my opinion, will also prove to be detrimental to the console over its life cycle — there will be too much pressure on producing interesting content that will probably not pay off. Moreover, the Xbox One already has a launch plan — one that doesn’t include a market with tremendous potential in the form of Asia (including Japan, China and India). Has it conceded defeat in this market, or is it a case of burned fingers? In the end, it won’t matter, because for Microsoft, this battle has been lost.