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Why Microsoft should (and will) go big at Gamescom 2014

Xbox One is gaining momentum. While Sony has a significant headstart in this generation, thanks to a comparatively low price and a consistent PR campaign, people are starting to flock back to Microsoft’s console. Titanfall, the removal of Kinect, and some hefty price-cuts have seen Xbox regaining ground. Now, with Gamescom becoming an increasingly significant date in the gaming calendar, Microsoft is poised to win lapsed fans back once and for all.

Well, that’s certainly what should be happening.

Microsoft has worked hard to recover from the car-crash that was 2013. While the new Xbox hasn’t sold poorly, there’s no denying that PS4 is seen as the new-gen console of choice. The deepest wound--the fact that 360 devotees switched allegiances, en masse, to Sony in this latest generation--is starting to heal. And that makes the timing of this year’s Gamescom so delicious for console gamers.

While E3 was used as a blunt instrument to hammer home Microsoft’s message that ‘we’re all about the games’, Gamescom is where the company needs to both reiterate this sentiment AND show us what else it has. I wrote an editorial during E3 that praised Xbox One’s focus on games, but raised concerns about the short-sighted strategy that seemed to imply. Some of you agreed, others didn’t.

I’ll say it again: yes, loads of games will win over the hardcore crowd, and bring lapsed 360 owners back into the fold, but Microsoft needs more than this. It needs to show potential buyers that One has an exciting future. It needs to demonstrate that this new Xbox will evolve in fresh, exciting ways just like the 360 did. And Gamescom is the perfect platform to do that from.

So, what do I expect to see from Microsoft at their Showcase next week? Plenty of playable games: Halo: Master Chief Collection, Forza Horizon 2, Sunset Overdrive, as a bare minimum. New games? Well, maybe. Expect some indie announcements and exclusive DLC bits for sure. Trailers? Better believe it. Halo 5 should be there in some capacity, along with a bunch of other games for 2015.

More than this, though, Microsoft needs to bring on ideas that differentiate the One from PS4. A price cut would be great, but can Microsoft realistically shave more money off the console? They’ve already chopped £80 in a year. The Spanish version of Xbox.com has already either leaked or falsely reported on a price-cut (Microsoft denies it), which could see another €50 / £30 slashed from the price. £320 for an Xbox One? Now that’s tempting.

Apps and wider features need to play a bigger role too. Stuff like Snap and Skype are excellent features, but neither feels essential. Every device known to man can now run Netflix, so what else is in the bag? Proper sports and movie deals for Europe via Sky and BT? How about a streaming service that makes Sony’s PS Now look greedy and outdated? That’d certainly be a massive counter-punch for Xbox. With the PS Now Beta drawing criticism over its pricing, Microsoft needs to come in with an amazing, low-price streaming service. Will it do that? History says ‘No’, but circumstances say ‘Why the hell not?’.

Of course, wheeling in a great streaming service and saying ‘Hey, we’re going to give you these games for peanuts’ isn’t an easy thing to do. It requires planning and forethought. If Microsoft has really been listening to gamers, and it genuinely wants to recover lost ground against PS4, then it needs a big announcement like this. It needs to demonstrate that it’s no longer furiously back-peddling; it’s moving forward, and becoming an industry leader again.

I genuinely think that Microsoft has learned a big lesson with Xbox One. It’s the same issue Sony faced after the awful launch of PS3 back in 2006/7 where hubris sent millions of once loyal fans scurrying to a new gaming home. Microsoft has certainly addressed concerns much faster than Sony did, and will be keen to push forward again. But what if it doesn’t?

Well, the Xbox One is by no means a sales failure--it’s doing very well. However, you have a finite amount of time to capture certain sections of the gaming audience. There’s a limited number (but we’re talking tens-of-millions here) of hardcore gamers who will pay premium prices for consoles, and Microsoft needs more of them. Sure, some will buy two machines, but this is something that often occurs after several price cuts, and expensive exclusives. And with the ever diminishing number of exclusives (along with increasingly compelling competition from PCs), there are fewer and fewer reasons to have two boxes under your TV. No, Microsoft needs to bag those gamers still clinging on to last-gen machines.

With the Autumn / Winter silly season just around the corner, Gamescom is where the hearts and minds of many will be made up. You can bet good money that Sony is keen to remind everyone that it’s still in charge, so Microsoft needs to step up now. If it does, this could be one of the most exciting Gamescoms in years. I know Microsoft should be aiming to make that happen… and I strongly suspect it will.

Topics

2014 Gamescom

6 comments

  • rxb - August 7, 2014 8:21 a.m.

    Good predictions Andy, cant wait to see how it turns out.
  • _--_ - August 5, 2014 12:57 p.m.

    --p4 sells WELL WELL over 100,000 units a week --for the last 5 weeks wiiU has outsold xb1(by just a few thousand units~both coming in around 60,000 units) --ps4 has sold 8.9 million units --wiiU 6.8 --xb1 5.0 --also --each week in the top ten game sales --its always 3ds~wiiU~ps4 and ps3 games --every since about the 4week mark of titanfall(xb1 has barely seen the light of the top ten game spot) --like you said xb1 is far from a 'failure' --but... --IDK --unless XB gets out some 'real' exclusives(like ps is doing) --i dont see xb1 sales picking up(to the point where the system is considered a winner) --i own a xb1(since launch) --and i had to put it up(after beating all the exclusives) --true im not really playing my ps4 at the moment either --but my ps4 is out --and my xb1 is boxed up and in the closet --and --i have NO plans of 'bringing it out' anytime soon
  • d0x - August 6, 2014 8:21 a.m.

    first off i need to say reading your post was probably the most annoying thing ive ever done in my life. Whats with all the damn dashes? Second this generation is a bit early to be trying to call anything. neither system has alot of games. So far for me the xbox has more. I hadnt played anything on my ps4 in months really until last week when last of us came out. People need to let go of the nonsense that was coming from MS last year. There is a new guy in charge and unlike the last moron Phil Spencer not only enjoys gaming but he respects gamers. We praised sony last gen for their change in attitude yet this gen with MS doing the same thing people are bashing them. flip this flop that. Whatever...lets just play some damn games already. Today my gaming agenda includes some Last of us, wing commander 4 dvd edition, doom 3 bfg, and dead rising 3.
  • Pruman - August 5, 2014 12:33 p.m.

    They're definitely making an effort, I'll give them that. However, after what they tried to pull with the XBONE as originally envisioned, it's going to take at least another full hardware generation after this one (e.g., XBOX Three) before I even consider Microsoft hardware. Then again, I'm not a real big Sony fan either. My decision to get the Wii U and stick to the PC for serious gaming is looking pretty good right now.
  • ZionLion - August 5, 2014 9:57 a.m.

    Nice article. I think Microsoft has made great strides in improving the Xbox1 with regard to software updates and marketing, adding a streaming service would be amazing, but i truly doubt it will actually be announced at Gamescon, more of an E3 announcement. I think they should continue to push the games games games strategy, as the PS4 cannot compete with the content lineup xbox has for fall and winter. The PS4 just does not have any exclusives to look forward to with the exception of driveclub, which will not be a unit mover. Another impressive showing of the games library should motivate on the fence customers to pick up the XB1. Good gameplay showings of MCC, Quantum Break, Forza 2, Sunset Overdrive and some more trailers for 2015 games -Halo 5, Scalebound, Phantom Dust, Crackdown 3 etc...to solidify - they should then announce another new IP or a sequal to a new IP such as Ryse 2
  • Wisdomcube2000 - August 5, 2014 10:49 a.m.

    Ryse 2 got canceled by Crytek amidst the on going financial issues there. Shame, I actually kinda wanted to see where they could take that game after they laid out all the basic mechanics in the first one. That said, I agree with most of what you said there.

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