Guns and football: Xbox One’s launch plan sharpens Microsoft’s focus on the mainstream

Microsoft’s mercifully concise media presentation at Gamescom this morning displayed plenty of the attitude that has defined the console’s public outings to date, no matter how much the platform holder has changed its mind since May 21.

It remains a mainstream entertainment box, and aligning itself so closely with videogame colossi FIFA and Call Of Duty is Microsoft’s smartest move yet in a pre-launch campaign fraught with blunders.

In terms of mainstream player power, it’s difficult to imagine a better one-two punch. The news that every European Xbox One pre-order will now come with a free copy of FIFA 14 is sensational, and the Call Of Duty: Ghosts bundle – allied with a string of timed, exclusive content drops – cements the Xbox brand’s close affiliation with the industry’s biggest shooter.

This was Microsoft playing to the average joe, who couldn’t care less about independent development, DRM or who ‘won’ E3 – they just want to play CoD or FIFA, and they’ll buy the console best for doing that. A new current-gen FIFA bundle, offering the game and an Xbox 360 for £199, was also confirmed in a press release that followed the conference this morning – a proposition that will cannily sweep up anyone outside the existing player base that hasn’t got a box to play FIFA on yet and might be tempted by a £200 splurge.

An Xbox One-exclusive iteration of EA Sports’ lucrative Ultimate Team mode will tick another box, and though surely a large fee was involved, it says much about Ultimate Team’s earning power that EA is prepared to give away FIFA 14 for free.

Microsoft did cater for industry watchers, though. Information on ID@Xbox – its indie self-publishing initiative – was given to the press in advance of the Gamescom event this morning, and shows a welcome, if belated commitment to indie studios. Mojang’s Cobalt was also confirmed for release on Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Elsewhere, Lionhead’s Fable Legends made its debut, an expected move online for the series with a focus on cooperative adventuring, though it can be played alone. The Division, Massive Entertainment’s open-world RPG-shooter will be home to exclusive content on Xbox One, and some will consider the biggest news of the day to revolve around Peggle 2 and Plants Vs Zombies Garden Warfare; both will debut on Microsoft’s next console, though they seem a little at-odds with their host platform. Within the now-traditional ‘oh, and don’t forget about Kinect’ section, Ubisoft unveiled a new Xbox One launch title Fighter Within, and there was a little extra detail on Rare’s Kinect Sports Rivals and how it uses Kinect to scan players and place them in the game.

But the day belonged to that FIFA 14 coup. Xbox One just took a giant step forwards in Europe, but Microsoft will know that its US heartland might now be awaiting similar treatment.

sssss