Xbox One Price Drop:
Great Move, But a Missed Opportunity
By Daniel Hickey
Microsoft has taken a pounding from all sides since E3 2013. DRM and Always Online nearly sent the Xbox One into Wii U territory. I, myself, a 360 owner with many friends on Xbox Live, came really close to giving all that up for a PS4 (I actually had one pre-ordered). After changing course hard and fast, and after Don "It's called Xbox 360" Mattrick QUOTE-UNQUOTE """VOLUNTARILY""" left for Zynga, every move they have made has been just enough to keep them within a manageable distance of PS4 in terms of sales numbers. From focusing on games to naming Phil Spencer as Head of Xbox to the Titanfall bundle, every move has been solid, if not spectacular, in my opinion. All that is except one: That $499 price point. It has been the anchor weighing them down. All Sony has had to do is throw out a celebratory sales announcement every now and then. Microsoft has been busy putting Xbox One on the forefront of people's minds and it just felt like they were in quicksand. All of that changed on May 13th.
The easiest move: Remove the paywall from streaming services. I feel the reason this was in place was to compel people to subscribe to Xbox Live instead of enticing them. As we learned last year at E3, people don't respond well to compulsion. Microsoft was reaping no benefit from this policy, and with Sony taking the more common sense route, Microsoft finally made the move. Why they didn't make it sooner, I will never know.
The price drop was an inevitability. You just can't compete with a graphically superior console at $100 more, even with Kinect and a better user interface and, arguably, a better set of exclusive games. $399 is an attractive price point for Xbox One, but I feel they could have taken a bit of a financial hit and still include the Kinect at that price. This would have envigorated buyers and encouraged developers to use an advancing technology to produce even more superior games on Xbox One. However, this proves to me Microsoft is serious when they say it's all about games to them. They have rid themselves of any public conversation regarding the direction that should be taken with the hardware. They have rid themselves of the obligation to spend any E3 time talking hardware at all and given themselves total freedom to discuss games. with software sales as soft as they are for both platforms, they have a chance to be the first of the two major console manufacturers to have a strong games vision. Which brings me to Games with Gold...
They had to get Games with Gold started on Xbox One. They are starting with two titles a month on Xbox One, whereas Sony has one. It wasn't that hard to one-up Playstation Plus (on next-gen anyways) and they did just that. But, I really feel they missed an opportunity to really drive the games focus home all the way with folks. By not leading with a AAA title, they leave Sony room to make that move first. I wrote in a previous article that I thought Halo 2 Anniversary would have been a good start. Any AAA would have been a homerun in my opinion, but they clearly were thinking of their financial health in this instance, and I suppose that's to be expected. They did one-up Sony in the free premium games category, though, and they just seem content to play this out like the marathon it is.
As an owner of both the PS4 and Xbox One, I am glad to see that both consoles are in parity with one another at last. I am sad for what could have been had the Kinect remained bundled with every Xbox One, but I am always happy when the market wins out because the people the fans ultimately end up winning in that scenario. Sony has created a large hill for Microsoft to climb, and Microsoft won't be closing the gap any time soon, but they're listening to fans, and if for no other reason than that, they have ensured this race will be a competitive one right to the finish.