Microsoft stepped up its efforts to outdo Sony’s PS4 today by slicing £30 off the UK price and announcing a Titanfall bundle, offering Respawn’s debut shooter for free with the console for a limited time.
It’s a timely shot in the arm for the platform, Microsoft apparently acknowledging that it has some work to do in order to keep the gap between Xbox One and PS4 from becoming too great. It announced last month that Xbox One had sold 3.9 million to date, a figure outstripped by PS4s 5.3 million global sales; Xbox UK marketing director Harvey Eagle told us earlier today that Microsoft is confident that it can overhaul its rival in the longterm.
“I would say that we’re at the start of our journey, meaning we’re in 13 markets,” he told us. “Sony is in 49 markets with the recent launch in Japan. We are very happy with where we are at the moment with Xbox One, it’s been our most successful console launch ever and both consoles have been tremendously successful – that’s great for the industry. We see this as a marathon, something that plays out over many years and we’re absolutely in it for the long haul.”
More immediate concerns might surround those who bought an Xbox One before today, having paid £30 more. There are no plans to compensate those who bought the console at the higher price, says Eagle. “We’re very appreciative of those that have bought a console since launch, and many of those consoles in the run-up to launch did come with the inclusion of a game – you’ll remember at the time we had the choice of FIFA or Forza. This latest offer is timed to celebrate the launch of Titanfall. Unfortunately we can’t offer anything retroactively.”
The ‘while stocks last’ nature of the Titanfall bundle has injected a little extra urgency to Microsoft’s pitch, and the offer will last “weeks rather than days,” says Eagle. But the UK price cut and generous Titanfall bundle doesn’t reflect any sense of disappointment around Xbox One’s launch – the platform holder prefers to think of this news as confirmation of “a commitment to offer the best value we can,” says Eagle. “This very special game is about to come out and we know there’s tons of interest around the game – we want to get the most people playing it as we can.”
It is a well-timed move, certainly. Anticipation could hardly be any higher for Titanfall, the game’s open beta whipping up excitement among Xbox One players by offering them a tantalising pre-release glimpse of the final game for free. It was a smart move, and Microsoft is open to offering more of these platform-wide beta programs in the future, says Eagle. “Obviously it gives people the chance to play in advance of launch, shout about it and tell their friends,” he tells us. “I think moving forward on future betas, it’s really up to the developer on how they want to manage their beta programs. I think Titanfall has been a very successful example and it is something other developers will look at doing.”
Respawn’s muscular, confident shooter is the very definition of a hardcore players’ game, but there’s one part of that hardware bundle which feels oddly out of step with giant mechs, loadouts and deathmatches. Kinect remains an unwanted and unloved accessory for many, and sitting within a Titanfall bundle it feels even more conspicuous. Has Microsoft ever considered removing it to enable an even lower pricepoint? “Kinect is something that we’ve said from the very beginning is integral to the Xbox One experience,” says Eagle, firmly. “Nothing has changed since then. [Removing] it is not part of our plan at any point. I think £399 for an Xbox One in the UK including Titanfall and including Kinect is a really strong deal. And there’s obviously more to come from Kinect, you’ve got Kinect Sports Rivals and Project Spark, which is a very very interesting game. As with 360, we’ll evolve the platform and make improvements to the value of Kinect – that’s what we’ll be doing, not taking it out of the box.”
Microsoft has other weapons in its arsenal to deploy yet. Xbox One must surely expand its reach beyond a small band of launch territories soon if it is to claw back market share from PS4, but apparently Microsoft won’t be hurried. “We haven’t announced the availability of Xbox One outside the original 13 launch markets and I don’t have any new news to share with you today,” says Eagle. Announcements will be made as soon as possible, he added, but it’s a similar story with the ID@Xbox scheme, which invites indies to self-publish on Xbox One. More news on that is promised, but not until the summer: “Expect to hear a lot more about that at E3,” says Eagle. “I think what you’re seeing at the moment is a lot of developers working in the background bringing games to the platform, and it takes a little time for these games to land.”
So judging by today’s announcements and the relaxed, confident demeanour of its UK marketing director, Xbox isn’t about to panic and slash £100 off the price of its new box, as it once did. Though Sony still has the upper hand in terms of global reach and developer support, with Titanfall in its corner and a slightly lower price here in the UK, Xbox One is becoming an ever more enticing prospect. The fight continues.