Despite the PR spin that Microsoft has attempting to put on the situation, the Xbox One video game console has not been a massive success for the corporation. Of course, we will never hear the software giant admit this publicly, but sales figures relating to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One make this absolutely clear.
Xbox One travails
Whereas the Xbox 360 took an early lead in sales in the last console generation, and proceeded to compete very strongly throughout its entire lifespan, the Xbox One is lagging well behind Sony’s PlayStation 4 release in virtually every territory on the planet.
While Microsoft may adopt a positive tone in public, it is certain that the company is deeply assessing the failings of its strategy with relation to the Xbox One ahead of the release of the Xbox Two. There is still a debate as to when we can expect the Xbox Two to be released, but the general expectation is that Microsoft’s next generation console will hit the stores sometime in 2020.
Early Xbox Two release
So the first question that Microsoft will have to answer is whether it could benefit from releasing the Xbox Two earlier than predicted. This strategy was indeed a major success with the Xbox 360, which appeared in the public domain roughly a year before the PlayStation 3 was finally released. While the Sony console was marginally technically superior to the Xbox 360, it also suffered from being rather bloated, and this left the Sony machine trailing behind the Xbox 360 in the early days of that particular console generation.
Thus, it is not inconceivable that Microsoft could attempt a similar strategy with the Xbox Two, with the intention of establishing an early headstart over Sony. However, the competitiveness of the console marketplace has accelerated since then, as video games become ever bigger business. So it is unlikely that Microsoft will be able to achieve such an easy advantage with the Xbox Two, as Sony will already be monitoring the development of this console extremely closely, while working on its own PlayStation 5 sequel.
The second aspect of the Xbox Two, though, that Microsoft must address is the way that the console is marketed. The original unveiling of the Xbox One was little short of a complete PR disaster, and arguably Microsoft has never fully recovered from it. It seems an incredibly misguided strategy to target a games console at casual television viewers, and a move that unquestionably completely alienated its target audience.
Bizarre uncertainties around second-hand games and whether the console needed to be connected to the Internet constantly also massively harmed the Xbox One, and similar PR blunders simply cannot be repeated with the Xbox Two if it is to be a success.
Another massive aspect of PR that has been problematical for Microsoft with the Xbox One is the lesser capabilities of the console compared to its PlayStation 4 rival. Microsoft has worked closely with software companies in order to encourage them not to emphasize the inferior capabilities of its console, but it has still be made public on numerous occasions that Microsoft versions of games run in inferior screen resolution to their PlayStation 4 counterparts. While Microsoft has attempted to diminish the significance of this, gamers are hardly likely to look favorably on a console that isn’t even able to run some games in full HD. So Microsoft must deliver a console that stands up to Sony’s offering next time round, particularly as 4K resolution is set to be an important part of video gaming by then.
Microsoft will almost certainly place a significant emphasis on its Hololens technology when the Xbox Two is released, so the corporation will hope for a successful debut for this system in the meantime. Virtual reality gaming is expected to become important in the next couple of years, and by the end of the decade the technology involved in it should have matured somewhat.
The importance of virtual reality could also help delay both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two, as Microsoft and Sony assess which of the new virtual reality headsets have achieved success.
Complex gaming model
Finally, the biggest challenge for Microsoft will be releasing a console into a video gaming climate that is considerably more complex and diverse. Mobile gaming, the potential for systems to be contained within virtual reality helmets, a prevalence of streaming services, and a gaming model that may increasingly veer towards subscription rather than ownership, all suggest that the Xbox Two could be significantly different from any previously released console.
Getting the balance right between these new, potentially exciting, but complex and disparate elements of future gaming, will be central to the success of the system.