It’s no secret that Microsoft is currently last in the pecking order of major console developers. Their strategy for the Series X has to be sound. There needs to be a message that will not only energize the current fan base but will entice individuals who are currently straddling the fence as it relates to the Xbox brand. What consumers are hearing from the various Xbox executives is anything but that, although it is obvious that the emphasis will be on the creation of an Xbox ecosystem to ensure that everyone can play regardless of the platform.
While this strategy is commendable and consumer friendly, the issue lies in the fact that this particular decision just so happens to be the central message regarding the Series X launch. It has been confirmed in multiple interviews that there will be no true exclusive for the console for at least a year, which indicates that every title that launches with the Series X will be available for all Xbox platforms Xbox One, and PC. This begs the question: What is the point of owning a Series X at launch?
Other than having the most powerful console, I can’t think of a reason to purchase the Series X because every launch title will be available via Game Pass. If you happen to own a capable PC or an Xbox One, you aren’t missing out on anything because you won’t be pressured to purchase Microsoft’s newest product. Exclusives, whether Phil Spencer or any Xbox executives want to admit, act as powerful incentives to influence consumer purchasing decisions. Only the most die-hard fans are expected to buy the Series X at launch and depending on when the first true exclusive arrives for the console, they may already be lagging behind Sony in regards to sales and consumer attachment.
The July 23rd digital presentation for Xbox is going to be the brand’s most important conference to date. There have been a number of studio acquisitions the past few years and it imperative that they show their work. Halo Infinite is more than likely going to receive the most attention and there will more than likely be some third-party surprises, but the first-party IP’s is what will carry the Series X moving forward. As long as the presentation for those new titles are strong, it should lay a solid foundation for the brand.
There is no doubt however, that the Game Pass will play a large role in the presentation. It’s going to be fascinating as to how much time the service will be emphasized knowing that the Game Pass is not going to be what sells the Series X even though it will be a major contributor. When it comes to new product introduction, differentiation is a required, there always needs to be something that sets the new product apart from all its previous iterations. Stating that the Series X is the most powerful console is a message that was first seen with Xbox One X, which as of this writing currently stands as the most powerful console on the market. If you’re asking yourself what the Xbox One X did for the brand, the answer is practically nothing.
The Xbox One X, whether you own the console or not, was a missed opportunity in a long line of missed opportunities. It’s obvious that Microsoft is looking to reestablish itself as a serious competitor in the industry as they are aware that Sony and Nintendo currently own a large share of the market, so to succeed, they will have to play the long game. The Game Pass is going to be central to that strategy moving forward and it currently represents one of the best value in gaming. But like other services, it does have its limitations because major publishers, like Ubisoft, EA, and CD Project Red, are not going to put upcoming titles on this service knowing that they it will result in lost profits, meaning that the value of the game pass is diminished when it comes to major third-party titles such as Cyberpunk 2077 and Assassins Creed Valhalla.
First-party titles are one thing, they will be well-represented and hopefully what’s shown on July 23rd will help boost the overall interest in the Series X, but once again, this might not be enough to entice consumers to purchase the Series X at launch, because the titles available are ultimately going to show up on Game Pass. Are consumers willing to spend upwards of 500 dollars so that they can experience titles that will show up on their Xbox One or PC? An informed consumer is not going buy a new console because there is no incentive to do so. Sure you may not be receiving the best version of the game, but you are saving a lot of money by not buying the console and its accompanying peripherals.
It feels as if Microsoft’s heart is in the right place as it relates to the consumer. But this strategy feels counter-intuitive, as if its coming at the expense of the Series X. Honestly, tt feels like they are releasing a console in early access and its going to be fascinating to see the consumer response. Sony will be releasing the PS5 with console exclusives, with their strategy being simple, emphasize what’s new and work to continue the success they saw this generation. While they still need to detail the features of the PS5, especially as it relates backwards compatibility and game upgrades, Sony has kept consistent when it comes to their intentions.
Personally, I am looking forward to seeing what Microsoft has in store for the future. I want to see new IP’s and to see if they will return to older franchises with a fresh perspective. Fable should definitely be one of those franchises at the top of their list and I believe that they will have some surprises in store for their reveal. Microsoft would absolutely crush it if they were to show any footage of Elden Ring, the highly anticipated title from FromSoftware. Imagine if that title was a Series X exclusive, that alone would be guaranteed to move console units.
I don’t believe that there has ever been a console launch that marked the beginning of a new generation, in which the console does not have any true exclusives. What Microsoft is doing is bold and depending on the outcome may determine their future as a console developer. When the Game Pass was first introduced, it was heavily speculated that Microsoft was moving toward becoming a third-party publisher, but instead they were creating an Xbox ecosystem. Whatever happens with the Series X launche will be analyzed, scrutinized, and will definitely fuel the fire of its fandom and competition. Here’s hoping it pays off as the industry is better when all three console publishers are firing on all cylinders.