Even though recent reports indicate that the Xbox One is the more desirable console in 22 out of the 50 states in the U.S., of A, the sales aren’t really reflecting what some of the polls are saying.
In fact, sales would tell us a completely different story about the performance of Microsoft’s third-generation home console for the eighth generation of console gaming. It tell us a story of potential failure and a lot of bumpy roads up ahead. Microsoft has yet to update the install base numbers for the Xbox One outside of mentioning they shipped 5 million units (not sold) back in April, as reported by Ars Technica, and they have completely abandoned commenting on May’s recent NPD report, as noted by Venture Beat.
But why is the Xbox One perceived to be failing in the way that it is? And why is it having such a hard time moving off store shelves, even with plenty of bundles, discounts and controversial accessories being removed from the package? Well, it all boils down to the perceived message that came with the original announcement of the Xbox One on May 21st, and the roll-out of highly undesirable features that caused quite a stir.
Despite a lot of “180s” that Microsoft put into effect following the E3 2013 event, things almost seemed to be turned around for the company. Pre-orders were no longer a blight on the company’s forecast for the fiscal year, and there were actual talks by gaming media about the Xbox One potentially being a huge sales threat to the PS4.
However, analytical perception and market forecasts are very different from the hardcore gaming reality. The reality is that a lot of gamers saw the Xbox One’s DRM scheme as an intrusive way for Microsoft to control the market like an enterprise software monopoly, and they felt that the company was putting into place a sort of monarchical system that would only benefit them in the long run. Questions about game life-spans came into play, along with what would happen if you were banned while trying to access your games through a 24-hour check-in measure?
While die-hard fanboys bought into Microsoft’s sales pitch and gave it a good, fast start out of the gate, shortly after the holiday season things slowed down and then things nearly crawled to a halt. Why? Well, only gamers can say for sure, but the general talk around the gaming block is that a lot of gamers just don’t trust Microsoft. They feel as if the DRM could still be turned back on at some point.
Even more than that, gamers feel as if they were betrayed when Microsoft put forward policies that would have completely disrupted the used game space (amongst other things).
Given that some gamers have committed to saying that they would buy an Xbox One if it didn’t come with Kinect, others feel that Microsoft needs to earn back the trust of the community.
So what can Microsoft do to earn back that trust? Well, Phil Spencer has actually already started moving in a positive and proper direction, talking up a good bit about additional software support, better features and some noteworthy exclusives. Free app access without requiring an Xbox Live Gold subscription was proper; reaching out to more indies is a must, and they’re at least putting some waivers on the parity clause with games like Outlast. Additionally, giving games away for free via Xbox Live’s Games With Gold program is putting them in the right stance to compete with PS Plus.
But how does Microsoft raise the profile of earning back that trust beyond having Phil Spencer pull 180s on everything Don Mattrick said and did last year? Well, a lot of it is in how the company comes across to their audience. Gamers feel Microsoft, right now, is still a big bad corporation just looking to take money out of their wallets, even though every major corporation is that way. But again, perception is key and gamers perceiving Microsoft in a better light than how they have been is a perfect way to get gamers talking positively about the company and their products, and in turn, buying Xbox One units.
For now, Sony is doing everything right in terms of how the gaming community perceives them, so in turn it’s easy for people to feel as if they’re supporting the right company. I mean, the PS4’s power advantage has been a huge marketing benefit; tons of indie support makes gamers feel as if Sony is thinking beyond and outside the box, and a good price-point has seen Sony taking a long and well-deserved lead in eighth-gen.
Microsoft, alternatively, is still playing catch-up. Unfortunately, it looks like the company will keep playing catch-up until the bad taste of DRM, reversals, the NSA and inferior hardware are finally washed out of the minds of gamers. Maybe we’ll start to see that take place once Halo: The Master Chief Collection launches this fall? Until then, it’s going to be a slow, painful climb back up to the top for the Xbox brand.