The Xbox One has been crushing it this Christmas. Phil Spencer's plan was brilliantly simple -- release some great games, cut the price and the gamers will come -- and seems to be working like a charm. Retailers fought tooth and nail to offer the best bundles over Black Friday and beyond, while only today we posted about an insane Xbox One bundle deal with 6 AAA games (thanks again to preparationiskey @ HUKD!). It's great to see a big company move so quickly and even better to see them moving in the right direction too.
And yet, according to plenty of folks out there in internet land, this is somehow a bad thing.
Microsoft are desperate. Microsoft are losing money. Microsoft have gone mad. Microsoft are pathetic.
No. Let's get some perspective here.
First off, it's always worth remembering that retailers have final cut when it comes to bundles and voucher codes, especially here in the UK. So... yeah. However, Microsoft's decision to slash the RRP, decouple Kinect and cut down their own margins is what directly led to this fantastic price war -- so the buck ultimately stops with them.
Was it a desperate move? Maybe, at least when you consider the months beforehand. In fairness I've described Microsoft as "desperate" a couple of times myself over the last few weeks, but only because they were put in a horrible bind by a certain Mister Mattrick and his old guard. The Xbox One started this generation as a ridiculously overpriced and bloated entertainment centre, meaning that Spencer had to put in a shift and make some incredibly tough decisions to cut out the dead wood and save what he could.
Despite the Xbox brand almost being poisoned beyond redemption, removing Kinect, relaxing Gold restrictions on entertainment and pushing out great games has turned it around. Though it was a desperate year, it was just a job that needed doing. A job done, perhaps, at least in the short term.
But when it comes to the slew of recent Xbox One bundle deals, some of which have been officially organised and publicised by Microsoft UK, they know exactly what they're doing.
Partly they're making up for lost time. Putting the Xbox One back on track took several months; months that could have been spent selling and building up a strong install base if only their philosophy, price and message had been on-point from the get-go. Microsoft had to wait until they were in a position to turn it around, and the slew of great Christmas exclusives along with the reduced RRP proved to be the tipping point. Since the incredibly expensive Kinect sensor is no longer mandatory, the Xbox One's margins are presumably much higher than before and granted them the freedom to be more creative with exclusive bundles, discounts and a price that rightly weighs in at less than the PS4; a more powerful machine.
Plus, as we all know, console manufacturers make their money from software and services, not from the hardware.
There's nothing desperate about it. Microsoft just had to wait for the right time to hit it hard, which also conveniently happened to coincide with Black Friday.
However, they also saw an opportunity and grasped it with both hands.
See, while the PS4 is an utterly fantastic machine with some great multiplatform games, its exclusives have been small in number and undeniably underwhelming so far. Sony's decision to support the PS3 so well left the big first-party PS4 titles deep in development, meaning that this Christmas we basically have DriveClub and LittleBigPlanet 3 to pick up all of the slack.
Meanwhile, Microsoft had Sunset Overdrive, Forza Horizon 2, Halo: The Master Chief Collection and all of the same multiplats. You'd be mad not to try to take full advantage by pushing the console as hard as possible and get it into as many homes as possible, using both the games and the price to devastating effect. That's exactly what they did. It's not desperate, it's just good business.
Will it become business as usual? Though the Xbox One overtook the PS4 and Wii U in terms of November sales, the long game is all about momentum. Momentum that certainly favours Sony as far as the first half of 2015 is concerned, but for now, Microsoft have managed to shift an impressive number of consoles and turn a flop into a comeback. Competition keeps console manufactures (relatively) honest, and we can't wait to see what happens when the most anticipated new-generation games release next year.