Microsoft challenges Sony with powerful new Xbox One X

The new  Xbox One X is introduced at the Xbox E3 2017 Press Conference in Los Angeles on June 11, 2017
The new Xbox One X is introduced at the Xbox E3 2017 Press Conference in Los Angeles on June 11, 2017PHOTO: EPA

LOS ANGELES (AFP, BLOOMBERG) - Microsoft on Sunday (June 11) unveiled the Xbox One X - billing it as the most powerful video console ever made, and escalating a battle with market king PlayStation.

The US$499 product was built with the muscle for seamless play on ultra-high definition 4K televisions and will be available worldwide on Nov 7, according to Xbox team leader Phil Spencer. The new console will also be compatible with older Xbox games and accessories.

In Singapore, the Xbox One X will sell for S$699.

Mr Spencer introduced the much anticipated Xbox One X, called Scorpio during development, at a Microsoft event ahead of the official opening of the major Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles.

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Microsoft and rival Sony are trying to update their video-game machines more frequently to phase out the notion of upgrading once every seven years or so - the rate at which companies traditionally have released a new generation of consoles.

Microsoft's latest machine is designed for the high-end gamer who wants the best features and performance and who owns a TV capable of displaying the most advanced graphics. "They are trying to attract people who want to be able to use the advanced features of TV sets they've invested in," said Gartner analyst Brian Blau. "Not everyone will want that if they can get a good experience on the less-expensive console."

 
 
 

Microsoft has previously stumbled by pricing an older Xbox too high. Initial sales for the Xbox One when it debuted in 2013 were hurt by the US$499 price tag, and only picked up after the cost was cut.

Sony faced similar issues in 2006 when it released the PlayStation 3, which cost US$500 to US$600.

Said Mr Mike Vorhaus, president of consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates: "Price has played an important role in the launch success. The guy with the less expensive box has done very well. I expect that will continue, absent some amazing paradigm shift."

While console makers have failed to demonstrate demand for a machine that requires an investment of more than US$400, Microsoft is hoping the strategy will appeal to the most dedicated gamers.

That focus marks a continued shift back to its core gaming demographic, after the Redmond, Washington-based company was faulted by some for targeting the initial Xbox One at more of a general entertainment audience.

Aiming at the hearts of gamers, Microsoft also showed off at its event 42 coming games, with 22 titles being tailored for exclusive play on Xbox One consoles.

Independent publishers tend to make blockbuster titles available for play on Xbox, PlayStation and personal computer hardware in an effort to sell creations to as broad an audience as possible.

Keenly-anticipated new games shown off here include a new instalment of Assassin's Creed from France-based Ubisoft, intended to reboot the long-running franchise by taking players back to the "origins" of the storyline in ancient Egypt.

Game play on 4K screens, whether they be televisions or personal computer monitors, is expected to be among themes at E3 this week. Enabling ultra-rich visuals also tunes into the budding trend toward virtual reality games.

SWITCH SUPPLIES TIGHT

Sony PlayStation 4 (PS4) has dominated the latest generation of consoles, outselling Xbox One by two-to-one, according to industry trackers.

PS4 consoles from the outset could power virtual reality, and Sony sells head gear for those experiences.

PlayStation has also become the prime driver of revenue and profit at Japan-based entertainment giant Sony, according to executives.

"We are selling every single one we can make," Sony Interactive Entertainment worldwide studios chairman Shawn Layden said of PS4.

Nintendo's recently-launched Switch has been a winner, with fans snapping up the console and a Legend Of Zelda game that has become a must-play title for fans.

Demand for Switch consoles has been so intense since its launch early this year that the consoles are tough to find in stores and Nintendo has reportedly doubled production.

Switch launched at the start of March and some 2.74 million were sold by the end of that month, according to Nintendo.

Hot Switch sales also boosted shares of the Japanese company, which ran into a tough patch after it failed to build on the popularity of the first generation of Wii consoles.

PS4 and Xbox One are both performing better in the market than their respective predecessors, and Nintendo "is back in a big way" with Switch, according to NPD analyst Mat Piscatella.

Sony has sold close to 60 million PS4 consoles and will reveal its latest innovations and offerings at a press event on Monday, according to executives.

"We are in the 4K world already," Layden told AFP. "That is what the future of gaming is going to look like."

OLD GAMES MADE NEW

Microsoft is also courting players by working to make more popular games from earlier Xbox console versions playable on its latest hardware.

Microsoft also just launched a subscription service for Xbox, letting players pay a monthly fee for access to a video games library for its console.

Sony makes a library of video games available as part of a subscription service for PlayStation consoles.