It's practically Xbox One Eve--yet behind the scenes, the well-established console brand seems to be going through some transition pains. CVG News reports that, in his final shareholder address as Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer had to defend the Xbox as a valuable arm of the tech giant. Ballmer called the Xbox brand a "reflection of what is possible when a company, our company, is unified under a common vision." But wait--who's saying that the Xbox should be cut loose, just as it's hitting its next-gen stride? Why, none other than ex-Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, the forerunner to be Ballmer's replacement at the head of Microsoft.
Even though the Xbox 360 is one of the most widely popular consoles ever, and even though people are clamoring to pick up their Xbox One this Friday, Elop might see the brand as little more than an unprofitable department. According to Bloomberg's inside sources, Elop "would also consider selling healthy businesses such as the Xbox game console if he determined they weren’t critical to the company’s strategy." And Elop isn't wrong: Market analysts like Rick Sherlund claim that Microsoft's entertainment branches, Xbox included, are losing billions. But amputating the Xbox limb now seems incredibly short-sighted.
To gamers, Microsoft sits alongside Sony and Nintendo as part of the almighty Big Three, the giant corporations who determine the macro-level future of our favorite industry. And even though the Xbox isn't exactly printing money for Microsoft, throwing the brand to the wind would squander so much of that built-up reputation. Companies would kill to gain the foothold that the Xbox has attained--just look at Valve, with its SteamOS push to get even a fraction of the living room space typically occupied by an Xbox.
With two generations of experience under its belt, Microsoft shouldn't give up on the Xbox brand--they should rally behind it. Microsoft isn't the monopoly it once was when it comes to computers; why not spend less time alienating people with Windows 8, and more time catering to your gigantic, relatively new audience of console gamers? Kinect's debut stumbled, but Kinect 2.0 (look away now, pessimists) could very well change the way we consume entertainment. Why kill a fledgling piece of visionary technology before it realizes its full potential?
The Xbox wouldn't flat-out die if it was sold off, but without a mega-corporation like Microsoft backing it, I'm not sure it would fare so well. Like tossing a crying baby off a cliff, it seems foolish to terminate something with so much potential just because it's currently annoying you with constant financial loss. Yes, companies ultimately make video game consoles to turn a profit--but it'd be like Nintendo or Sony giving up the ghost. It just wouldn't feel right.
Oh, and Elop, if you're reading this--you should go ahead and kill the Bing brand if you want. Absolutely no one will miss it.
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