The Xbox One, the first really new offering for the franchise in eight years, has been released and it is clear that Microsoft needs to improve considerably in order to make the system more marketable for the long term. Rushing the system to market in order to capture the Christmas sales was smart in that it will put the platform into a whole lot of living rooms, and make the prospect of waiting around for the upgrades and exclusive games unavoidable.
This new system, leveraging the “Kinect” technology released a couple of years ago, reinvented largely as a speech recognition tool, is Microsoft’s attempt to create a “one-stop” platform for entertainment in the home. Able to be connected to a family television, the improved voice recognition feature will allow for remote control of everything from changing channels to selecting games or movies. While the primary function of the Xbox One is gaming, Microsoft is hoping that they have hit upon a platform that will be the center of in-home entertainment for years to come. That may not be what the market was asking for, however.
With the Playstation 4 also being released, there is competition for the Xbox One with some real teeth in these same holiday shopping waters. Microsoft is hoping that a lower price point on the PS 4 will be overcome by the ability to integrate with cable TV, and several exclusive games for the XBox one will turn potential “window shoppers” into buyers. That may not be the case, however. They have yet to provide enough proprietary titles to entice buyers willing to wait and see until after Christmas which of the systems being released will actually provide the better value and overall experience. They are promoting these games and have solicited advance reviews in the hopes of generating a demand that will help to drive sales for the platform. One of the exclusive games being released is a Microsoft/Capcom game called Dead Rising 3 that caters to the current craze for apocalyptic zombie themes. Reviews are very positive, though it remains to be seen whether or not gamers will rush to purchase a new Xbox solely for the opportunity to play these few exclusive games.
Some gaming experts, in fact, have questioned Microsoft’s direction with the release of this platform. The most common criticism of the new Xbox is not its functionality, but rather its location. With many experts predicting that the trend in gaming is toward mobile devices and platforms, the introduction of another gaming system centered on the living room television appears to be a little less forward-thinking than some had hoped. There is an increased tension between platform owners and game designers, with many game designers citing constraints on their creations posed by the requirements inherent in creating for those platforms. With mobile technology improving exponentially, and the public inclined to embrace a less tethered existence, it is possible that Microsoft may be playing post-release “catch-up” right out of the gate. The Xbox One will need to improve quickly in terms of trying to make the system more marketable by addressing the serious software deficiencies.
Though new features like “snap,” which allows the user to use two apps at once, are welcome advances for the perpetual multi-tasker, it may not be enough to sustain the platform for another 8 years between systems. More likely is that Microsoft will be scrambling to implement solutions to improve mobile functionality for the Xbox One. For a while, this platform looks to be a great new way for families to get all of their in-home entertainment in one place. On the horizon, however, Microsoft will lose their audience if they do not improve and figure out how to make the system marketable in an environment where those families are more and more interested in taking their entertainment needs to go.
By Jim Malone