Why Going Last Was The Wrong Move For Microsoft And Xbox Scorpio – Forbes
We have now seen the second launch of the three major pieces of video game hardware being released this year with the arrival of the Nintendo Switch last week. Before that was Sony’s PS4 Pro in the fall, which has helped run up the total of PS4s sold to well over 50 million at this point.
Still to come is Microsoft’s Xbox Scorpio, a project without a finalized name, which will probably get one at E3 or right before it. Microsoft has been extolling the system as the most powerful home console ever made, and their plan is to release it in time for holiday 2017.
The continued success of PS4 with the addition of the Pro, and now Nintendo’s newfound success with at least very strong up-front Switch sales is starting to make me a little bit worried for Microsoft here. Sometimes, there are advantages to going last, as you may end up with the most refined, or in this case, powerful product. But the problem is that if everyone has liked what your competition has put out before, unless you really make an impact, too many ships may have already sailed.
Granted, we do not know that much about the Scorpio at this point, only a rough estimation of its power, and all the superlatives Microsoft is assigning it. Suffice to say the Scorpio:
- Will be the most powerful console on the market by some margin.
- Will not be powerful enough to be considered a full “leap” to a new generation, leaving Xbox One behind.
So with those two considerations in place, here’s why I’m worried about the strategy of waiting this long to release the Scoprio, and having it go last among these three new pieces of hardware.
- It is going to take a hell of a lot of work to pry PS4 owners away from their systems at this point. Some have already doubled down on the console with a $400 “upgrade” to PS4 Pro, others who didn’t have the system before this holiday may have ended up with a Slim or a Pro by now. Also at this point, PS4 has built up an incredibly strong line-up of must-play exclusives from Bloodborne to Uncharted 4 to Nioh to Horizon Zero Dawn, with anticipated titles like The Last of Us 2 and God of War still to come. If someone is already in a Sony mindset, it will be very difficult to get them out of it.
- The Switch’s future is less certain, but it’s clear that the system has attracted a lot of buyers during this initial launch window, and the appeal of the handheld/home console combined with the appeal of Zelda will sell a lot of units for a while. And by the time the holiday rolls around, the system may very well have some combination of Zelda, Splatoon, Mario Kart, Mario Odyssey and Xenogears. A hell of a line-up and possibly worth a $300 purchase, which is money that could be instead going toward a Scorpio.
- I know that there are die-hard Microsoft/Xbox fans who will show up on day one and buy the Scorpio no matter what. I do not know how sprawling that group is, however, and I think there’s another, less vocal group of Xbox players that feel let down by this generation in one form or another, at first by Microsoft’s insistence that Kinect (and the resulting higher price) were essential to the Xbox One experience. And now? Microsoft has failed to cultivate a line-up of exclusive games to compete with Sony or Nintendo, and I have heard forlorn Xbox owners wishing that wasn’t the case. I know at least some have switched over to a PS4 Slim or PS4 Pro lately, and by the time Scorpio rolls around, it may be too late to get them back.
Like my colleague Ollie Barder has said in the past, I do wonder if focusing on power was the best way forward here. The problem is that if you choose to go down that road, you have to do something really impressive with it, and at this point, we’re mostly living in a land of incremental upgrades. The problems with the Scorpio’s pitch are that:
- It focuses on being “true 4K,” more so than Sony, but 4K TV adoption is still not as widespread as Sony and Microsoft wish it to be, so that’s only a selling point to a limited group.
- It’s going to make a big fuss about running higher quality VR during a time when VR enthusiasm seems to be starting to wane pretty noticeably.
- It may play third party games the “best” because of its power edge, but without some truly fantastic first party games, that alone is not attractive enough for most players getting the goods on PS4 or Switch. Maybe Sea of Thieves and Crackdown 3 can be those games, but Microsoft’s ultra-franchises, Halo and Gears, have already released new installments relatively recently, and those series aren’t exactly what they once were either. Again, Microsoft is failing to invest in must-have, original new games, or retain the studios that made their old hits.
Obviously I could be wrong and Microsoft could reveal to the Scorpio this year and show that it really is a generational leap forward in power, or that it has all these cool features we don’t know about, or Microsoft has a bunch of great unannounced games in the pipeline. But from the information we have right now, and from how its competitors are performing, I am worried about the core appeal of “the most powerful console ever made” once it arrives.