So Black Friday has been and gone, and to be honest, everyone seems a bit knackered. Cyber Monday's been a bit of a damp squib next to the deals frenzy and console bundle warfare of just a couple of days ago. The sales figures are in, and it looks as though Microsoft just about stole the day in terms of console sales. The Xbox One has been leading the PS4 here in the UK for several weeks, largely thanks to Microsoft's hugely aggressive price slashing and some very attractive bundles and, as hypothesised, that stood the Xbox One in good stead.
Across the pond, it's reported that the Xbox One stormed to a 53% market share on Black Friday, with the PS4 coming in second at a 31% share. With the technically-weaker console finally undercutting the PS4 in terms of price, and with the variety of Xbox One bundles generally proving to offer more value from an objectively numerical standpoint, this is unsurprising. Credit where credit is due.
Microsoft were no doubt helped in this endeavour by close ties to Call of Duty and FIFA. The bundles made all the difference, and it's clear that they had a big impact on this week's charts. The UK charts, for instance, paints a picture of a market dominated by Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, FIFA 15, and GTA V -- although it must be noted, that in the case of COD, a whopping 67% of the week's sales came on last-gen platforms thanks to some massive price reductions on the PS3 and Xbox One versions. Even so, with outlets slashing prices on the Call of Duty: Limited Edition Xbox One console bundles, not to mention the basic FIFA 15 bundle as well, that surely helped the Xbox One sail off of shelves.
One thing that was also clear from the Black Friday rush, was that Ubisoft were determined to give away Assassin's Creed: Unity any way that they could.
And it worked.
Unity moved up a place into fifth on the charts, and Black Flag sneaked its way back into the top ten, helped along by the sub-£30o Xbox One bundle that included both games. Indeed, it was hard to find a discounted console bundle for under £300 that didn't include Unity.
In terms of exclusives, a look at the charts reveals differing fortunes for Sony and Microsoft when it came to exclusives. Driveclub, for example, did massively well in Black Friday week, climbing from #33 to #8. LittleBigPlanet 3 made a solid, if slightly unspectacular entry at #18. The Xbox One's flagship titles fared a little worse, however, with Halo: MCC tumbling seventeen places down to #27, joining Forza Horizon 2 and Sunset Overdrive in the low twenties.
It's important to put those positions in context, though. The bottom line is that Microsoft got a whole load more Xbox Ones into homes and greatly increased their install base, and did so by offering choice in terms of entry options. Driveclub was helped enormously by simply being the most ubiquitous PS4 bundle out there, slashed down to £289, and there weren't exactly plentiful alternatives. Nearly all of the discounted, sub-£300 PS4 bundles were Driveclub bundles, with the exception of Amazon's cracking LBP 3 package and the brief appearance of the GTA V pack-in.
Again, the figures show two companies in two different positions, with differing strategies. Perhaps ironically, it was Microsoft leveraging third-party connections to produce emphatic bundles at seriously competitive prices. Xbox console have occasionally been disparagingly termed COD and FIFA boxes, such is the close association between Microsoft's console and those two leading third-party brands. But Microsoft are fine with that. Perception is everything, and closely associating FIFA and Call of Duty with Xbox is something they'd like to keep fostering. It's also important to recognise that Microsoft's own flagship bundle, not to mention the numerous others offered by retail partners, was one that gave consumer the choice between several triple-A titles, spreading the console SKU victory amongst a number of different pack-in games.
But the failings of the Halo: Master Chief Collection will have surely hurt MS. It fell to an astonishingly low price point, available for under £25 on Black Friday, and in good supply too, and yet it still couldn't hold its ground. Part of that has to do with Microsoft not really pushing a Halo: MCC as aggressively as they could have done, but that's also tied into the game's instability at the worst possible time of year. There's still time, of course, and the same goes for LittleBigPlanet 3 as well. It'll be important for both Microsoft and Sony to up their promotions for both of their flagship exclusives in the weeks leading up to winter.
For the moment, though, it's nice to see Microsoft build on the momentum they've generated under Phil Spencer and hit Black Friday with force. From a consumer perspective, the industry is at its best with both Microsoft and Sony firing on all cylinders, and we've certainly seen that in the console pricing wars this winter so far. It's going to be a cracking Christmas season, game on!