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Microsoft's Xbox One might have to struggle to find an audience here

Published on Mar 19, 2014 6:01 PM
 
Four months after the Xbox One went on sale in the United States last November, and three months after main rival Sony launched the PlayStation 4 game console here, Microsoft has finally revealed when it will start selling its Xbox One game console locally. -- FILE PHOTO: MICROSOFT

Four months after the Xbox One went on sale in the United States last November, and three months after main rival Sony launched the PlayStation 4 game console here, Microsoft has finally revealed when it will start selling its Xbox One game console locally.

If you are excited to find out when, the answer will not make you happy. The Xbox One will go on sale here this September. This is six months from now, and almost a full year after it went on sale in the US.

In fact, one might even give props to Microsoft, because it did announce last June that Asia will only see the launch of its game console at the end of 2014. Bringing it in by September actually means Microsoft is slightly ahead of schedule. *slow clap*

While I was not at the May 2013 Microsoft event that announced the Xbox One, I was at the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) press event in Los Angeles last June when the company revealed more details about the machine, and I walked away unimpressed. Microsoft had placed too many restrictions on the machine.

A few days later, the company reversed many of the restrictions. Upon closer look, I also started to see features, like its integration with US cable TV networks, as something that would only apply to users in North America. Without features that would work locally, the Xbox One was no different from the PlayStation 4 console, in that both are mere game machines.

But one thing that could sway me was Titanfall, a game so massive and good that it was touted as a game changer, and one good reason for hardcore gamers to buy the Xbox One. In fact, my colleague Oo Gin Lee could not wait and had a console shipped from the US, in anticipation of this multiplayer game.

Titanfall for the Xbox One went on sale on March 11. (It is also available on the PC and the Xbox 360 version will hit shelves on March 25). Gin Lee reviewed it for Digital Life and gave it a less than stellar rating of 7 (out of 10). He was unimpressed and I went back to playing inFamous: Second Son, a newly-released Sony PlayStation 4 exclusive game on my nearly four-month-old PlayStation 4.

It is not that I think the PlayStation 4 is vastly superior to the Xbox One, as both consoles need more games to lure new buyers. I will buy the Xbox One eventually and I suspect that when Microsoft launches the console here in September, it will be cheaper than if I were to buy it online now.

So far, Sony has said that it has sold 6 million consoles as of March 2. The last figure provided by Microsoft on January 23 was 3.9 million consoles sold. One reason why PlayStation 4 consoles are outselling Xbox One machines is because Sony is charging US$100 (S$126) less than Microsoft.

In fact, Microsoft cut the price of the Xbox One in the UK in late February, before the launch of Titanfall, to bring its new £399 price tag down to closer match that of the £349 PlayStation 4. And the hook? It threw in a free copy of Titanfall along with the repriced console.

I found it absurd that Microsoft would cut prices just weeks before the launch of what was to be a benchmark game meant to boost sales. And the fact that it also saw fit to toss in the hit game itself signalled that Microsoft was desperate.

And by September, I doubt it can continue to maintain a price lead here, even though it may be forced to. Chances are, Sony will be able to cut its current $639 PlayStation 4 price tag by then. If Microsoft Singapore takes the unpopular route of pricing its Xbox One more than $639, it has to convince local gamers why they have to pay a premium on a year-old machine.

If it can match the $639 price, all Sony will have to do is cut its price to make the Xbox One seem more expensive, and the same question will arise.

It is not like gamers have any other choice but to wait six months, but by then, their reward could be more than just a free copy of Titanfall.

 

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