Microsoft came out swinging with the first press conference at Gamescom, and the news certainly showed some interesting insight into the company's latest Xbox One strategy.
We've talked about how Microsoft has basically admitted that the competition has put it on the ropes, and this is what it looks like when they begin to fight back. Let's get started.
Kinect is dead
Microsoft has finally removed the Kinect as a mandatory bundle and dropped the price of the hardware, which has already had a positive impact on the hardware's sales. At Gamescom Microsoft announced three new bundles, complete with games. And of course not a single one comes with the Kinect.
It's time to admit that the peripheral is dead. PR will hem and haw about how it's still an important part of Xbox's strategy, and a few games that were already in production will be released in the next year or so, but that's it. There's no value proposition for picking it up on its own, and there's no reason to develop for it when the potential audience will likely stay static.
The Kinect hardware has been on the way out for some time, but this is the death knell.
Pre-loading is coming
Thank the frickin' maker. This is a big deal, as pre-loading gives you the ability to buy a game digitally, download it and be ready to play the second the game has been released. No more "driving to the store" like some kind of last-generation scrub to walk out with a physical copy so you're not stuck downloading huge files on the first evening of release. Those of us who prefer digital will be able to buy and play at the same time as everyone else.
Of course, it's likely that retail won't allow most publishers to offer their games through this service, and right now Microsoft has only confirmed that two games will be available for pre-load. Digital pre-orders, complete with pre-loading, will only become a huge deal when the service is universal, but at least there's a crack in the dam. This is another step towards a more digital-friendly future, and I couldn't be happier.
Microsoft's wallet is open
Sony is winning the sales battle in terms of both hardware and software, and games on the PlayStation 4 almost always look better than their counter-parts on the Xbox One. So what does one do? You open your wallet and pay for exclusives.
It's not a new strategy for Microsoft, but the fact that Rise of the Tomb Raider will be exclusive to the Xbox One, at least for a limited amount of time, is a big deal. Square Enix was unhappy with the sales of the first game on last-generation consoles, and it has since been ported to the current systems. This gives them a way to know for a fact how much money the sequel will bring in.
It's a smart move, changing possible PS4 sales into a for-sure check from Microsoft, but it's left fans upset and it's unclear whether it will lead to more Xbox One sales. Microsoft is also publishing the upcoming Sunset Overdrive, so it's clear that Microsoft is ready and willing to lay down some cash to lock down games for its platforms.
Don't expect this to be the last exclusive that frustrates you if you don't own both consoles, in other words.
To sum it up
You can check out all of our Microsoft Gamescom coverage to see the stories and trailers that haven't been discussed in this piece, and there's some neat stuff. The Master Chief Collection is a crazy value for Halo fans, or people looking to finally get started on the series if they've just purchased an Xbox One. Sunset Overdrive also looks great. More media options that people will actually use is likewise a step in the right direction. We'll see a Halo 5 beta in December.
The lessons here are many. The digital strategy that Microsoft envisioned for the Xbox One is toast. The Kinect is in the rearview mirror. Games are the way forward, and Microsoft is willing to pay for them, and hopefully make them easier to purchase digitally. The company, and console, are moving in the right direction.
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