Talking Point: So What's The Deal With The Xbox One Release Date?
Posted by Ken Barnes
The tension is killing us.
At the time of writing, you have to feel that the big Gamescom 2013 announcements have been and gone. Sony shot first, and confirmed that it will launch the PlayStation 4 on November 15th in the US, and November 29th in Europe. Unless Microsoft plan on closing the show with a surprise news announcement, we’re not set to hear anything just yet.
That’s a good thing, for the greater part. At E3, Microsoft went first in the pricing war, and ended up being burnt. We don’t know for sure if their announcement had any impact on the final PS4 hardware price, but rumour has it that it did. You can bet your bottom dollar that if Microsoft had announced a release date before Sony, the Japanese giant would have rejiggered things to ensure that their console was on the shelves first.
So where does this leave us?
Well, all we can do is make a series of informed guesses about what’s going to happen, so let’s do that.
As it stands, Microsoft has announced a strategic partnership of sorts with Activision, with regards to what will either the best or second-best (GTA V, remember) selling game of the year, Call of Duty: Ghosts. The game will be available in a bundle package with the Xbox One console, complete with all manner of DLC and maps and extra things for the game. Ghosts is set to launch on November 5th, worldwide. Production issues aside, we don’t see that Microsoft would pass up the chance to release their machine on what will undoubtedly be one of the busiest days of the year for gaming retail. The gamers will be in stores, waiting to buy Ghosts, and even though it will be quite an upselling achievement to turn a £40 sale into a £420+ sale, Microsoft won’t get the chance to say “Hey, you know you were buying that game for the 360? Well how about a shiny new Xbox One instead?” on any other day, and get as much chance of hitting the target as they will on November 5th.
Of course, a November 5th launch in all the applicable territories would also give them a clear 10-day head start over Sony, and the fact that the dates are in two different weeks is important with regards to PR generated by sales charts. For one week at least, Microsoft will be able to load out the all formats sales charts, putting their games front-and-center in many retail outlets that feature chart sections, which will in turn give them the chance to take a good run at keeping their titles in the top 10 in the following week. Going first also prevents embarrassment on this front if the unthinkable happens, and Xbox One titles just don’t sell. By being first to market, Microsoft takes away Sony’s opportunity to say “Well, your console came out, and the top 10 is still made up of PS4 titles. That has to hurt!” should it all end in tears.
But when will we know?
There are a number of options. We could see an announcement at the Eurogamer Expo (which kicks off on September 26th at Earls Court, in London). We know Microsoft will have several stands at that show, as they usually do. It isn’t usually a “news” sort of event though, with the focus being on getting attendees to play games so that those titles are in their heads in time for the busy holiday season.
We could just see a standard press release, dropped via email to media outlets around the world. It wouldn’t be the first time this has happened. As we recall, the Kinect launch date was announced this way. On a wet and windy afternoon at the end of the summer, we just got an email right out of the blue that told us the price and date.
Some sort of Microsoft event between now and the Eurogamer Expo (which kicks off on September 26th), that’s designed solely to announce the launch date could be on the cards. Sony went big and strong with their PS4 reveal, sponsoring Champions League soccer matches in the early part of the year in order to raise awareness for their show. Microsoft could do the same with their launch date announcement. Maybe a TV special, like 2005’s MTV Presents Xbox: The Next Generation Revealed. Probably not starring Elijah Wood this time around, though. Streamed over Xbox Live and via Xbox.com, we think this is the likeliest of the scenarios.
We’ll nail our colours to the mast and say that we think that on November 5th, it won't just be Guy Fawkes that's responsible for the fireworks, it'll be Microsoft (in conjunction with Activision, of course.) We’d say that we'll probably have it confirmed one way or another by the end of the week before the Eurogamer Expo, so September 20th at the latest.
What do YOU reckon? Are we way off? Let us know your thoughts in the comments...