Reaction: Xbox One Release Date
Posted by Ken Barnes
Microsoft, you sly boots.
The Xbox One finally has a fixed release date, and it’ll be landing right in the middle of Sony’s worldwide media circus. The PlayStation 4 is receiving a confusingly staggered release, hitting the US on the 15th of November, with the Xbox One launching worldwide on the 22nd, and then the PS4 finally reaching Europe on the 29th.
There are some great reasons that Microsoft chose the date that they did. Everyone appears to be claiming that production levels are to blame for the perceived “lateness” of the Xbox One launch. Production numbers do of course play a large part, but when you’re releasing a console worldwide and production is already in full flow some 10 weeks before the fact, a week here or there isn’t generally going to be a deal breaker. So realistically, Microsoft could have tried to spoil Sony’s party even more by launching on the same day as them either in the US or in Europe. But it wouldn’t have been in their best interests to do so.
By launching on the 22nd - slap bang in between the two major PS4 launches - they’ll be taking advantage of some key points, as well as disrupting the worldwide media circus that Sony is sure to wish to build. Taking current-generation console sales into account, the Xbox 360 has a huge lead over the PS3 in North America. Rough figures indicate sales of some 44.5 million in the US, with the PS3 hanging back on a shade over 27 million. That means that Microsoft can give up the “first mover” advantage by a week and probably not lose a great deal of momentum in a region where they’re absolutely dominant. So, onto Europe, where the Xbox One has a week’s head start.
The Xbox 360 has a European installed base of around 24.5 million units, with the PS3 ahead on 31.5 million. With that historical ground to make up and with a whole bunch of European countries missing out on a 2013 launch, there’s good reason to try and strike first ahead of what is sure to be a strong launch for the PS4 in this region. Microsoft knows that they’re behind in the brand wars in Europe, and that they’ll probably be behind well into 2014 simply based on the fact that they aren’t launching in as many territories, if nothing else. They will run into that wave of PS4 advertising too, but it’s a calculated risk that’s based on the fact that they’ve very little to lose. Of course, it would be silly to believe that the current generation’s numbers will have any bearing on those of the next generation, but they’re generally at least a decent guide to brand perception.
But who will Microsoft target? Those who have already decided to buy an Xbox One will more than likely do so. Those who have decided to buy a PS4 will of course do so. Microsoft sees that a lot of them are clearly enjoying their PS3s so much that they’ve got enough time to spend half of their days running onto every Xbox-related social media channel to post about how much the Xbox One sucks. Therefore, the Redmond giant knows that there’s no point in trying to communicate with those people.
So, Microsoft – sensibly - aren’t even attempting to go after the PlayStation hardcore. Rather, they’re trying to convince the more undecided gamers in the European crowd that with an arguably stronger and definitely more extensive launch lineup, that they should take the plunge early. This is a bit of a double play for Microsoft too, as the majority of currently undecided gamers that do indeed pick up an Xbox One on the 22nd will more than likely not be able to (or not be willing to) splash out on a PS4 on the 29th. Most people understandably can’t justify spending £780 on games consoles and then a bunch more money on games, controllers, and other extras in the space of eight days.
By releasing the Xbox One right in the middle of Sony’s PR onslaught, Microsoft have all but ensured a head-and-head battle for mindshare in the European territories that are receiving both consoles in November - in the advertising stakes at least. After the repeated about turns from the company and the persisting negative feeling about Kinect’s worth, this seems like a desperation move. But in actual fact, there’s some good sense to going up against the market leader in a territory when you’re not all that far behind, especially when you have a comparable product with some relatively unique advantages.
No matter what the reasons for choosing the 22nd, being able to say that your offering is £80 more expensive, but comes with one of two £50 games and a camera device that would cost £55 for your competition’s console is a definite boon when you’re trying to put together advertising to try and tempt the undecided gamers and parents just five weeks before Christmas. You might not love Kinect, but you'd be a fool to assume that parents feel the same way.
Whether or not the advertising that Microsoft does indeed come up with will go right for the jugular in that sense and reflect the positive points with a little bit of spin, or whether they’ll go with some abstract marketing nonsense involving ducks or crying babies is yet to be seen. No matter what happens, November is going to be something of an interesting month. Bring it on, we say!