The results are in. And Microsoft’s recently released financials give an even clearer picture. It’s pretty simple; the PlayStation 4 has sold over 7 million units. The Xbox One has sold just over 4 million.
That doesn’t mean that the Xbox One isn’t selling; it’s selling incredibly well. It’s selling well past its predecessor at this point. But you have to look at the competition. The PlayStation 4 is destroying it, and although it would take a miracle for it to stay this way, it’s behind the Wii U’s lifetime sales at this point, making it in last place of the current generation of consoles.
Microsoft and retailers tried virtually everything imaginable to boost the Xbox One’s sales in March. They had a huge marketing push, bundled the console with the supposed mega hit Titanfall (which to be fair, was the number one selling game in March) and even dropped the price $50 on the bundle. Did that help? Not nearly enough, obviously. I can only imagine what sales would’ve been like if Titanfall either was on the PS4 or didn’t exist at all.
The gap is only set to widen at this point, with no big exclusives due out for the Xbox One anytime soon. Sure, the PS4 has no really big exclusive titles coming soon either, but it’s selling incredibly well without a particularly strong library. I can only guess that a big release like The Order: 1886 will push system sales even more whenever those titles start to hit.
So what’s the answer? Games? The Xbox One has them. I’d argue the launch lineup was stronger and more varied with games like Dead Rising 3, Ryse and Forza compared to the extremely underwhelming Killzone and Knack. The Xbox One has more cool exclusives on the way with games like Project Spark, Halo, Quantum Break, Sunset Overdrive and a new Gears of War in development. We don’t really know what exclusives Sony has beyond Uncharted sometime this decade and the previously mentioned The Order: 1886, but at the rate PlayStation 4 is selling it doesn’t seem to matter that much.
Phil Spencer has promised E3 will be all about jaw-dropping games. But it’s hard to imagine something that will really get gamers motivated to start picking up those Xbox Ones at a pace to catch up to the PS4 because, of course, it will have to outpace the sales of Sony’s console for a pretty significant time in order to just catch up, much less have a chance of passing it.
A lot are pointing to Kinect as the answer. Either drop Kinect and drop the price or keep Kinect and drop the price anyway, eating whatever loss that would entail. Neither of these solutions is particularly viable, in my opinion. Microsoft can’t easily drop the Kinect. Not only is it a huge cornerstone of their business plan, the Xbox One is built around it. The interface is actually quite a pain to navigate just using the controller; it just isn’t optimized for that. It would take a hell of a lot of work to make it optimized for controller use. And then you have two vastly different user interfaces floating around out there, and nobody is going to deal with that headache.
So then do you drop the price and just eat the cost? The problem with that is there’s a movement within Microsoft for it to become a software and services company only. They make tons of money on software like Windows, and to date their hardware efforts have pretty much been a disaster. Nobody bought a Zune. Nobody is buying a Windows phone or a Surface tablet. The Xbox division has cost them at least a billion in losses due to the Red Ring of Death alone, and lord only knows how much the total loss is when you add things like R&D and marketing. If the Xbox One is sold at a significant loss that isn’t made up with something else, that may be all that’s needed for Microsoft to say, “To hell with hardware,” and there won’t be a Xbox Two or whatever they would want to call it.
This is not to say they can’t turn it around. After all, if we were to look at the PS3 six months in, it was certainly in a far worse position both in terms of comparing it to the 360 sales and just in terms of sales on its own merits. But the PS3 managed even with its incredibly rocky start to pretty much pull even with the 360 by the end, and will probably end up passing the 360 as there are still some really solid exclusives coming out for it.
But much like for PS3, it’s not just cutting the price, dropping the Kinect or having awesome games. There’s no one easy solution and if Microsoft doesn’t want to be fighting with Nintendo over a distant second place, they need to figure out whatever combination of measures will keep them in the competition before it really does become too late.
What do you think, GameSided readers? What can Microsoft do to really galvanize gamers and move Xbox Ones? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
The views expressed in this article explicitly belong to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of, nor should be attributed to, GameSided as an organization.