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Opinion: Why Microsoft is positioning the Xbox One X (aka Scorpio) to fail

by on June 12, 2017

So yesterday afternoon, Sunday, June 11, Microsoft held its big keynote ahead of the week of E3. This was the platform on which they’d official unveil their newest console, previously known as Project Scorpio. As of now, we are to call Scorpio, The Xbox One X, because you know, S and X and One and all that crap, isn’t confusing as hell. The only time I’ve ever seen a codename or project name stick to a console, mainly because it sounded so awesome and every geek, nerd and video game fan loved it, was the original Xbox. Originally, and internally, the codename for The OG Xbox (2001) was the Direct X Box, seeing how it was going to run Microsoft’s Direct X platform for gaming. However, somewhere along the line, that got shortened to just X – Box, and finally Xbox, when it hit retail.

So one would think, when you have a very popular and cool sounding project name, that the “public” is crying to remain as the product name, you’d find some way to brand it and make it stick. Not so. Microsoft could have used this opportunity to create a new naming scheme, The Xbox Scorpio, then follow with something like The Xbox Taurus (i.e. the Zodiac signs, just using that as a point of reference). Point is, they could have done something cool with the name of their newest console, but instead we have the same stupid, Xbox One, which is after the Xbox 360 (which is a full spin around to the beginning) and after the Xbox 1 or the first Xbox. My friends who know me personally, know I work in marketing, advertising and design, so they would know this naming convention drives me up the wall, no, it drives me bonkers. It’s stupid, it’s weak and doesn’t sell the system any more than Scorpio, but sounds far less cool and more confusing. Ooooh, but it has an X in it, that’s cool? Right? NO, that cliche is dead and gone Microsoft, hire a ad firm that has the balls to point this out to you, instead of just agreeing with all your nonsense.

Enough about the name, let’s get onto why this system is a cluster fuck and could really backfire for Microsoft. First and foremost, I get it, Microsoft wants a piece of every pie, not just a console slice. Which is why Microsoft is making a heavy push to get their first party titles (ie. titles they publish and develop) on Windows 10, the latest version of their operating system that tries to unify the Xbox and Computer world. They’ve even gone so far as to create the “buy it for Xbox and get it on PC for free,” promotion. For the consumer, this is great, but when said consumer plays the game on their PC – and assuming their PC is decent or above – they may realize that the PC version is better, because it’s not locked down. The consumer can then go buy more RAM, a bigger a hard drive, a faster, more powerful GPU… then all of a sudden, they realize, “hey, I don’t need a Scorpio, I have a more powerful PC.” Assuming they want the best, possible version of those games. It’s sort of a confusing thing, Microsoft is pushing this “most powerful console ever” mentality, they are calling it a premium device. They need to be careful, is what they need. Looking at the games that Microsoft showed off at E3, almost nothing is exclusive, not to Scorpio, but to Xbox in general, with the exception of a few titles and even those, can be had on the PC. Games like Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2, Metro, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (timed exclusive), MineCraft with 4K, Forza 7 all of these games can be purchased on the PC, in better quality… do see my point, yet? If not, let me break it down further. If I have an Xbox One or Xbox One S, I have the latter, so I already have an Xbox that does HDR, outputs UHD 4K movies, plays backwards compatible games and will get every game I listed above, minus the 4K resolution. However, my 4K TV upscales my games in 4K, so Gears of War 4 on my Xbox One S, with HDR, already looks stunning. But I also have a brand new PC gaming rig, with 32GB of RAM, a brand new Intel i7 7700 Kaby Lake processor, a Nvidia Geforce GTX 1080 graphics card, liquid cooling and more… as do many other gamers (not all, I understand that), so where is my incentive to buy this new console? I can either get them on the One S and be happy with HDR and upscaling or get them on my PC and play them in native 4K on my 28″ 4K display and bypass the Xbox One X (Scorpio) altogether. On top of that, many, many third party games are now also showing up on PC as well. Games like the aforementioned PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, but games like Dirt 4, Doom and Doom VFR, the upcoming Wolfenstein II, Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, the new Dishonored, Bio’s upcoming Anthem, even fighting games like Tekken 7 are on PC now. It’s crazy, but I remember back in my college days, 1998-2002, where the PC market was dying and just couldn’t keep up with the console market. To the point when I worked at EB Games, that the PC section was removed entirely or relegated to the small 2ft section on an endcap. Now, it’s like a new golden age of PC games. It’s like how TV has somehow gotten better than the movie theater. The idea that a fighting games, which were always a staple for consoles, are now on PCs, is crazy.

Anyway, my point is this, unlike Sony, who has either locked down exclusive content, if they couldn’t get the game to be wholly exclusive, i.e. 30 day early content for COD, exclusive online content for Red Dead 2, exclusive content for Destiny 2, Microsoft doesn’t have it. Sony also has some amazing exclusive games already, like Horizon Zero Dawn, Persona 5, Nioh, Neir Automata, Gravity Rush 2, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, Yakuza 0, not to mention exclusives for later this year and early next year, like God of War 2, Days Gone, Uncharted: Lost Legacy, The Last of Us 2, Spider-Man, Death Stranding, Final Fantasy 7 remake, Detroit: Become Human, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Ace Combat 7, Wild, and more. I could keep going, but I think you get the point. Now here’s the thing, those exclusives that Sony has, are exclusive to them, not the PC. Meaning if you want to play those, you can go and just play on the PC you’ll need to buy a PS4 or PS4 Pro. If you have a 4K TV already, then you’re prime for a PS4 Pro or if you pick up a good 4K TV soon, why not save $100 and buy the PS4 Pro, instead of the Scorpio, both are 4K, one is $100 cheaper and has games that are “truly” exclusive.

My overall point here folks, is that if Microsoft is going to cater to the “premium” fan, they are missing out. Because premium fans have a PC that can already play their games and most of the exclusives already or they can simply buy a PC instead of a Scorpio and they can even upgrade the PC. Plus the PS4 Pro is as I mentioned, as of writing this, $100 less. If rumors are true, Sony could even cut the price to $350 and really punch Microsoft in the gut. 

Sure, the Scorpio or Xbox One X has some horsepower. But it’s not going to be night and day over the PS4 Pro like they want you to think. Plus that price hike is a bit high for the current market considering there are no real “must have” exclusive games for it. You know there’s a problem when Microsoft’s tagline for the One X could simply be “Xbox One X, where 3rd party games look a slightly better.” When you have to bank on third-party games to launch your console, because your own efforts suck and you can’t even lock down true exclusives and I don’t mean timed exclusives like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, but true exclusives, then you know you’re in a rocky place.

We have yet to see Sony’s announcements at E3 yet, but consider we will see games like God of War, Days Gone, more Playstation VR with a possible price cut, Uncharted Lost Legacy and more on The Last of Us 2, plus I’m sure we’ll get updates on Spider-Man and probably a few surprises. Me, personally, I’m hoping for a next gen Sly Cooper, maybe in VR. Either way, I’d be stoked.

All in all folks, there’s a lot more you could buy with $500, than a Scorpio (with no games) and we’ll tell you what on this week’s Podcast which records this weekend.