Just over 12 hours ago, the PS4 launched in Japan on the iconic date of 22/2. Now, there’s already tons of news out there covering the PS4 Japan launch; but what’s interesting to note, is that while the PS4 launched in Japan more than three months after the PS4’s North American release date on Nov. 15; till date it has constantly outdone the Xbox One in sales. Just before it’s Japan launch, the PS4 had already crossed over 5 million units in sales globally. Now, the Xbox One isn’t far behind, sitting at about 3.5 million units. All these numbers are, if not already, a clear indication of the dire straits the Xbox One is in AND just before the Japan launch as well. Again, it’s not to say the Xbox One will never catch up to the PS4, but you cannot ignore the signs at this point.
Not to mention that the PS4 doubled the Xbox One sales numbers in the month of Jan 2014. As any good fanboy worth their salt will tell you, it’s far too early to read too much into these results. Still, there’s numerous obvious lessons here that still somehow haven’t penetrated the somewhat thick, public perception shell known to ensconce the Redmond giant.
With the PS4 launching in it’s home turf, is it the knockout blow from Sony? Probably not…There’s still hope. One cannot think even for a second that Microsoft is not already making changes to the way the product is positioned. Keep in mind, that there’s also Titanfall coming in a few months time, that should certainly bolster the Xbox One sales. But our key takeaway from all of this is that Microsoft NEEDS to start giving gamers what they want. Several ways they can do this:
1. Start providing significant value to the Kinect
The Kinect is a great piece of technology, unfortunately, it does very very little to add to the gaming experience. When the Wii launched, the whole concept of motion gaming seemed like the greatest thing since sliced bread; and it probably was and it probably will be, but we’re still some ways away from actually having games that provide the same sense and exhilaration that a controller based game can. Flame all you want at this point, but you know apart from a few sports games and maybe a few AAA titles, the Xbox Kinect has done little to enhance any sort of gaming experience. Sure, you can argue about it – but think of playing Assassin’s Creed, with the Kinect? or Forza? Seems rather far fetched. Not that it won’t happen eventually, but we’re just not there yet. We may go so far as to say that probably the Kinect, was a little premature to launch, or to satisfy fanboy rage, it was probably ahead of its time.
2. Drop the Kinect from it’s bundle
That’s a clean $100 price drop. Not sure how much that will finally translate to Indian Rupees, but at this point, the Xbox One hasn’t even launched in India. God knows, what a pain it was importing our console. I’ll go so far as to say that India, is a PlayStation country. Period. Coming back to the rest of the world; un-bundling the Kinect will easily bolster Xbox One sales and mitigate any lead that the PS4 has had over these last few months. Not immediately, but at least over the next 2 quarters. This is addition to the awesome games that are coming up, there’s no doubt the Xbox One could catch up significantly.
3. Stop half-assing the whole TV angle
Fine, I get that Xbox One is positioned differently, if not, very slightly differently from the PS4 in terms of the unified television experience it hopes to create. But with such a fractured experience, it’s makes it less than reliable than your existing cable or set top boxes. If Microsoft intends to continue pushing forth on this front, it NEEDS to go all out. Make it the best DAMN TV experience that users can hope for. They probably will do this over the next few months/years, but for now, it’s just an angle they need to stop pitching till it gets better.
While Sony has certainly taken the right steps forward, it’s not entirely at flawless as well. Lack of DLNA, MP3 playback, the PlayStation camera is still quite and possibly will continue to, let’s say be less than useful; but at least they’re not shoving it down your throat. Having said that, Sony is planning a PS4 variant of it’s VR headset. The hope is to combat the Xbox One’s Kinect. So either Sony see’s the potential the Kinect has and Microsoft doesn’t or it’s just something that Sony’s doing to ride the wave.
Either way, the bottom line is that with the Japan launch, it has certainly put Sony on a strong road ahead. The question now and probably for the next few years, is no longer, which is the more powerful console; that’s been done to death. It’s a question of what are we going to get as gamers from these consoles. The content strategy, both push and pull, have to be significantly stronger and in the long run will ensure the console’s success. Sure, there’s going to tons of updates over the next decade which will aim to improve all of these; but from here on…the content war has begun, and the Xbox One is on notice.