With the price difference out of the way, Microsoft wants to remind everyone that it’s about the games.
More change is coming to Xbox One. Microsoft is dropping the packed-in camera to make the system the same price as its main competition. The $399 Xbox One will hit stores and start shipping to customers June 9, which is the day before the Electronic Entertainment Expo tradeshow. That’s when the company plans to start introducing all of its future releases. For now, Microsoft is ready to trade some punches with Sony again, and it is starting by pointing out that consumers can forget about the price and start focusing on the software.
“If we take the SKU where the pricing is similar, what it really comes down to then is overall value,” Xbox marketing boss Yusuf Mehdi told GamesBeat. “First, I believe we have the better games lineup. Most game fans would acknowledge that, and I believe that during the second holiday — after you see our E3 show — I think we stand a very good chance of being in the same position. In terms of games, we’ll continue to have the best lineup.”
The Xbox One has major exclusives like Forza Motorsport 5 and Dead Rising 3, which debuted alongside the system in November. In March, publisher Electronic Arts released the sci-fi shooter Titanfall, which is on PC and Xbox One but not PS4. Sony’s device has its own exclusives in releases like the shooter Killzone: Shadow Fall and the open-world action game Infamous: Second Son.
While the quality of these lineups is up for interpretation, it didn’t really matter as much if gamers thought the Xbox One had better games when they had to then also pay $100 more to get the box. With that difference no longer a consideration, Mehdi and Microsoft are happily out today highlighting the system’s best features while no longer feeling like they have to justify the extra Benjamin.
“Second, where is the best multiplayer experience? We have a long history of providing that with Xbox Live Gold, and we’re doing that again in this generation,” Mehdi said about Microsoft’s $10-a-month premium online service. “But we’re also adding all kinds of new value with the free Games with Gold and the discounts.”
The Games with Gold promotion will start offering free games to Xbox One owners who subscribe to Xbox Live Gold in June. Microsoft is changing the way the service works so that it can potentially offer more-recent releases from third-party publishers. Gold subscribers will also get the occasional deep discount on older games.
Mehdi told GamesBeat that the company wanted to get out in front of customers with this information now so that it could focus on the games at E3. Going into that show, everyone will know that the systems are the same price, so it’ll really come down to which company can show off the better games.
The marketing chief told us that Microsoft’s June 9 press conference will reveal how the company plans to start getting proactive in leading the market again rather than constantly reacting to what fans are clamoring for.
“I think we’re always going to be fan focused,” said Mehdi. “It’s served us well over the last year, and frankly we get a lot of energy when we hear from our fans– that has been core for us with Xbox One. With that said, I think E3 is going to be a surprise-and-delight show in terms of the games we’re going to bring. I think if you’re a gaming fan, you’re going to love to watch our show as we unveil the new games and properties.”
Of course, with Microsoft introducing a Kinect-less Xbox One option, the company is stepping back from marketing and language that it has used since the introduction of the system. Xbox executives have routinely informed customers about the need for the Kinect, but Mehdi claims that the Xbox delivers on its original promise.
“The original vision of Xbox One holds,” he said. “We are a games and entertainment device. The combination of the two. We still have the only gaming device that works as input 1. We’re the only device that can give you instant switching between games and applications. You can still do the snap mode to do two things at once. All of these things are still available in the $399 model, so head-to-head, we really like the value proposition.”
Microsoft will also start selling a standalone Kinect for anyone who wants to upgrade. It did not provide pricing or a release date for the peripheral.
Today’s adjustments to the positioning of the Xbox One follows several months where the PlayStation 4 has outsold Microsoft’s system. The aforementioned price difference was likely a big factor in that. Even the top-selling sci-fi shooter Titanfall couldn’t help Xbox One outpace the PS4 in March.
The Xbox division also recently got a new boss in longtime Microsoft Studios head Phil Spencer. He promised when he took over in March that he would put “gamers first.” Today’s changes are some of his first big policy maneuvers, and they reflect his original promise.