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Microsoft ads imply Xbox is losing to PS4 ... but at least they're still fighting

The first Rocky film introduced us to a fighter who no one thought could succeed. It's the ultimate underdog story, and it's interesting how many people forget that Rocky lost in the first film.

The point was that he took his boxing career much further than anyone expected, and through force of will and an incredible work ethic was able to stand toe to toe with a boxer who was expected to wipe him out.

So it's kind of a weird character to pull from when you're trying to sell a video game console.

The speech comes from the 2006 Rocky film, Rocky Balboa, where the character speaks to his son about an upcoming fight with a younger, most likely stronger boxer. It's about going against opponents no one thinks you can beat. Which, once again, makes it an odd choice for an ad. Microsoft is more or less telling you that they know Sony is winning, and that they have to fight harder to win.

This is the latest ad in the series, featuring Billy Bob Thornton. The audio is taken from the film version of Friday Night Lights.

It's a great speech, and makes sense in the context of multiplayer, but these are console-specific ads. This is a weird message. Is Microsoft doing everything it can to win? They've finally ditched the Kinect and lowered the price. The once-interesting digital vision that was supposed to launch with the console was jettisoned after a disastrous attempt to explain it to the press and players. Xbox Entertainment Studios, which was supposed to create original programming, has been shuttered. Sony is roundly beating the console in terms of unit sales and in performance of its software.

You find individuals like Crytek CEO Cevat Yerli talking about holding off on games until the units are in more homes.

"We have a good relationship with Microsoft. We are constantly looking at what we can do together," Yerli stated in an interview. "We are not 100 percent happy with Xbox One sales right now. So we want to wait till the current gen and next gen catches up. For Ryse 2, we aren't saying it's canceled. It's our IP. It just has to wait for the right timing. And the right timing means higher installed base across next-gen."

The announcement that Ryse is coming to the PC seems to include a backhanded reference to the relative power of the Xbox One. "4K gaming is another leap in graphics quality for PC gamers and Ryse is the perfect showcase for what's now possible in high-end PC games," the company said in a statement. "We've given our team the opportunity to show what CryEngine can really achieve, without compromising quality, thanks to the incredible hardware available now to PC gamers."

Microsoft isn't happy with Xbox One sales right now, either.

It's clear that Microsoft isn't happy with Xbox One sales right now, either. Never before has the industry seen a console change so many aspects of its strategy so quickly to react to a competitor. That's why Thornton's speech is such a fascinating choice for an ad: "Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn't let them down because you told them the truth. And that truth is, you did everything you could. There wasn't one more thing you could've done."

Right now, Microsoft is doing everything it can. If there's a part of the system that's not working, it's gone. If there's a strategy that isn't paying off, they're losing it. Want the price to come down? Sure, here's a price drop. I can't remember the last time a company the size of Microsoft has pointed to a competitor and admitted that a rival product was doing a better job, before looking at themselves in the mirror and making a very public pledge to do better.

The first ad is about how hard Sony has hit Microsoft, and Microsoft saying it can get hit and keep fighting. Fair enough. The second ad is about how you have to do everything you can to win, and that's true. It's interesting that Microsoft is willing to more or less state that it's in the No. 2 spot, but that it's going to keep fighting. If the PlayStation 4 is champion and the Xbox One has been put on the ropes, this is Microsoft telling us to buckle up for round two.

Keep in mind that in Friday Night Lights, the team makes it to the finals ... where they lose against the heavily favored Dallas Carter High School. In the 2006 Rocky film, at least ... well, Rocky loses in a split decision. So Microsoft may know it's going to lose, but it wants you to know it's going to fight really hard before it does.

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