The software giant’s strategy to roll out two new versions of its gaming console isn’t going to displace Sony at the top.
So, what is Microsoft trying to do with its new strategy? With the two-pronged device offering, the company is hoping it can gain share by attracting hard-core gamers — who crave the best performance — with the Xbox Series X, while also accommodating the casual, price-sensitive customers with the cheaper Xbox Series S. Microsoft also plans to emphasize its Game Pass service, which gives its subscribers affordable access to a library of more than 100 games for a $10 monthly fee.
Microsoft’s plan may seem to make sense on paper, but it has several big flaws. First, the naming convention is a confusing mess. One can imagine the poor store sales clerk, who has to explain the differences between the Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and the prior generation’s Xbox One S to the average consumer. In contrast, Sony’s proposition of PlayStation 5 as being much more powerful than the PlayStation 4 is a more concise message. Second, and more importantly, success in the video-game industry has always been about which company can offer the best, exclusive gaming experiences.
Unfortunately for Microsoft, its new hardware strategy doesn’t fix this deficiency, where it lags far behind its Japanese competitor. Simply, the Sony PlayStation’s lineup of exclusive franchises is unparalleled. This year, the game maker has already generated record-breaking sales numbers for its original games such as Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima, presaging further strong results for those franchises. And Sony has already announced upcoming PlayStation 5 titles in key series such as Horizon, Gran Turismo and Spiderman. Microsoft’s lineup doesn’t have the same cachet. To add insult to injury, the company’s anchor title for its next-generation console launch, Halo Infinite, was recently delayed to next year on the back of development complications.
The existence of a cheaper Xbox console may be a critical problem in itself. Earlier this year, a Sony executive said his company believes “in generations.” What he meant was that by launching games specifically designed for the high-performance PlayStation 5, Sony could attract gamers with releases that take full advantage of the advanced technical capabilities and features of the new console. Therein lies the negative consequence of releasing the under-powered Xbox Series S console, which has one-third the graphics performance of the Series X. The inexpensive console’s anemic horsepower will force developers to dumb down their games to work on the lowest-common denominator device. That means Sony’s games will likely have better visuals and more immersive gaming worlds versus the Xbox counterparts.