Who is the Xbox One X Aimed at?
As I watched Microsoft's 2017 E3 Press Conference, I had to wonder two things: where are the big exclusives (Forza 7 being the only big blockbuster) and who is the Xbox One X (formerly the Scorpio) aimed at? The first issue was something that has plagued the Xbox One during it's life cycle, as even Halo and Gears of War are selling less and less with each iteration, but the second question poses a new challenge to Microsoft that they need to find answers to before November 7th.
Any console article needs some background by its author so you know where they are coming from. I am an owner of both major systems and probably play my Xbox more simply because that's the system I play with my family on. But I am traditionally a PlayStation gamer. The thing is though, I want both companies to succeed and do well because if they do, it only benefits me. Microsoft completely bungled the Xbox One at the start, but have done an admirable job in recovering. They are still being outsold at about a two-to-one ratio, but that margin would have been far worse had they gone down the path they were originally planning to.
As the rumors started about the Xbox One X, two things became clear: it was going to be more powerful than the PlayStation 4 Pro (and it is) and it might not come cheap. Even months ago, we heard about the likelihood of a price tag well above $400. Even then, I wondered who was going to buy the machine, but I held off real judgement since I didn't know what they were planning. That was until last night.
The Xbox One X was unveiled to a rather muted applause at E3. The biggest storyline of the show was unveiled at the start of Microsoft's press conference, showing off a game best suited for such an unveiling, Forza 7. But as we heard about teraflops and memory, one thing was absent: the price. Oh, it came, but it was nearly at the end of the show. Phil Spencer's voice notably went down a level as he almost whispered, $499. It was so subtle that it was easy to miss, as evidenced by the chat screen next to the live feed I was watching. Even after the show, people kept saying the price wasn't announced.
Was I expecting a lower price? Not for that power I wasn't. But one couldn't help but think back to when the PlayStation 3 was announced for $599 or the Xbox One was announced for $499. Those announcements were not met with thunderous applause and yesterday's announcement was no different. I do think that with everyone expecting a $499 price point, if Microsoft came in at even $449, they could have swung some sentiment in their favor.
So the question now comes, who buys it?
It's not just the price that may keep people away from the Xbox One X, however, as there are several other issues that may see bleaker sales of the device than Microsoft would like. The first issue is of course, a lack of big titles. Sure, Forza looks great, but after that? State of Decay 2 looks really good and is a huge graphical upgrade from the first one, but won't see release until next year. Same with Sea of Thieves. And Crackdown 3? I'm sorry, but when they showed that game, I thought it was Agents of Mayhem. If you want me to shell out $499 for an upgraded system, you need to give me reasons to do so besides the fact that my games will look better. Give me a game to sink my teeth into that will take advantage of the system, not just graphically upgrading games I've already played.
Another roadblock on the way to purchase is simply brand confusion. Remember when the Wii U came out and Nintendo blamed a lack of sales on the fact that parents didn't know if it was an upgrade or a new system? That's what's going to happen this fall to Microsoft. Hardcore gamers know what's going on, but casual gamers and the parents who may be asked to buy these machines are going to be confused when they go to their local store and see an Xbox One, an Xbox One S, and an Xbox One X side-by-side on the shelves. What's the difference? Why is one of them twice as much as the others? And when the clerk comes over and explains, "Oh, the Xbox One X is more powerful and has better graphics," guess which system isn't going into the cart for that extra $250. We all want to tease Microsoft for not knowing how to name their consoles, but it's no longer a joke. Naming these systems in this way just begs for confusion.
Now, I want to look at potential customers and see why people may not want to buy this system. The first customer I'm going to look at is someone like myself. I own an Xbox One, so should I upgrade? Well, the thing is, I want to. Part of me would really love the better graphics, but that's an upgrade that I'm not going to spend probably $400 on. Since my Xbox One is an original model, I'd be lucky to get $100 for it, which would not really do anything to help subsidize the cost of the new console. My answer becomes, maybe down the line when they are under $300. Not everyone is like me of course, but I believe that a good majority would come to the same conclusion I have.
But what about someone who loves technology and really doesn't mind spending the money for the best graphics. The answer to that is simple: many gamers who fall under this category are PC gamers. One of the worst things Microsoft ever did was make their exclusives available for PC because instead of getting someone to buy a system to play Halo, they simply could just buy it on PC. You hear many PC gamers admit to having a PlayStation 4 because they had to play The Last of Us or Horizon: Zero Dawn. A PlayStation 4 is the only way they can do that, so if they wanted to play the exclusives bad enough, they bought a system.
And Lastly, what about the gamer who doesn't have an Xbox One yet? Surely Microsoft will get some of these people to buy the system, but realistically speaking, how many? Most people who don't have an Xbox One either don't want it or have been waiting for it to be cheaper. So if someone has held off on buying an Xbox One when it can be had for $250 with a game, why would they suddenly change course and buy an upgraded $500 version? Most of these people will either buy the older Xbox Ones or continue to wait.
The Xbox One X will sell some units come November 7th. I've seen enough people excited about the system to see that, but after that initial wave the sales will slide. The problem is, Microsoft is not aiming for any one group of people and ultimately giving us something that we all would like, but certainly don't need, especially for the cost. The PlayStation 4 Pro was successful because it was an incremental upgrade for a price not much higher than the normal unit, but Microsoft, tired of being told their system isn't as powerful, made something on a grander scale and likely priced themselves out of success, especially since there is no way that they can offer any sort of Black Friday bargain on the machine like Sony can do with the Pro. The biggest question is, if sales stagnate, will Microsoft turn back on their word and start releasing Xbox One X exclusive games? If they get desperate, I can see it happening say, next fall.
Again, I want Microsoft to succeed. They have some great things about their system and have much better sales and free games each month than PlayStation, but they also seem unable to have a good console unveiling. I think it was telling that last night, the biggest cheers of the night went to the news that original Xbox games were going to be backward compatible soon. That's right. People were more excited about getting to play fifteen year old games than the Xbox One X. Not a good sign.