I must admit, I have so far been very underwhelmed by the selection of games that have been chosen for this program. Admittedly, it is a side perk that happened to be added on, and was graciously continued (the original plan was that it would end when the One launched), however, the selection and amount of titles falls far short of PSN Plus, which as you will recall was launched with this benefit. In February, PSN Plus gave gamers Outlast, the brand new PS4 horror game, Metro: Last Light, PayDay 2, and Remember Me. All of which are games that are very new and very well received. I actually want to play all of these games. For the Xbox, we got… Dead Island and Toy Soldiers: Cold War. These two titles bear the dubious distinction of being the only two GWG titles I have even opened. All the others have been very old titles I’ve already completed, or random XBLA hits.
I agree with Simon that the Games with Gold titles have been less than top of the line. If they are trying to provide a service that competes with PlayStation Plus' subscription benefits they certainly need to step things up and hopefully more direct supervision from an Xbox executive will help this to be true. However, I do agree with Phil Spencer that it is a different service to PlayStation Plus as you do get ownership of the title as opposed renting it for as long as you have the service like with PlayStation Plus. Despite this being the case they are going to need to be willing to offer more to sweeten the deal, because not having a free games program would almost look better than having a miserly one. Perhaps instead of having an actual game (despite its age) and an XBLA title every month, as has been the case, why not have a newer and an older game, perhaps with an XBLA title thrown in. Something needs to be done, and hopefully Mr. Spencer's words at SXSW mean it is coming.
My theory about sales so far is that the 10 or so million console sales so far have been to the fanboys, the spec junkies, and the most hardcore gamers who committed one way or another before last E3. Now, however, we are starting to sell through to the mainstream consumer. While the hardcore crowd was swayed more by the PS4’s GDDR5 vs. the One’s GDDR3 VRAM, this audience will be sensitive to the numbers after the dollar/pound/euro/etc. sign. The fact that the stock sold like hotcakes when given a price cut shows the pent-up and very real demand for the One that’s out there. Ditto with the tremendous buzz that surrounded the accidental $100 discount promo code on Microsoftstore.com that lasted for 30 minutes on Thursday.
Simon and I have said several times that for many people price will be a main concern. While I'd say the Xbox One is worth its current price, the PS4 selling for less throws any sort of objective "fair" price out the window, simply leaving a "costs more" sign. My hope is that Microsoft sees this and takes note. Even though its only six months into the new generation, a price cut needs to come soon because over the life of this console they will make far more on games and services than on the console itself. For them it will be far better to flood the market (or at least get some of its water in) while it is still technically wide open than to sit back and wait too long. Sony made that mistake last gen, and it took them several years to recover.
On a side note I was unfortunately not able to grab these discounted consoles. That'll teach me about going and playing soccer on a sunny day.
Besides the absolutely ridiculous name, the “Fun Box” actually is being developed by two companies that best know how. The9, which, in addition to running my favorite Chinese soccer team into the ground, is also the company that had the exclusive license to make WoW for the Chinese market, and still adapts Firefall. ZTE, meanwhile, is currently better known for making super cheap smartphones, although most that are in the US market aren’t branded as such. This domestic partnership will most likely take the lead; they have the market knowledge, the infrastructure, and the brand recognition that is so critical to the Chinese market.
This is a big deal for a lot of reasons. As the article mentioned the long time ban on foreign console in the Chinese market has recently been lifted, leading to Microsoft and others to rush in and try and partner up with Chinese companies like guys at a high school dance. As Simon said, local brand recognition and infrastructure is super important so having these local partners will be important for any foreign offerings to be successful. However, beating them to the punch is the fully Chinese partnership of ZTE and The9, and what effect this speed to market will have is still unknown. What Jackson touches on below, and what I have to agree in wondering, is who is going to develop for this game and how will the heavy censorship (The9 had to remove all blood and visible bones from WoW, amongst other things) in China effect foreign developers in their decision whether to develop for the Fun Box or not. Only time will tell, but there are a lot of gamers in China, so I feel a Developer Gold Rush brewing.
To say the very least, I am predicting a huge surge in game sales in Asia. It does not surprise me that the Chinese would choose to build their own console, seems like a move to prove they can do it as well or better than Sony or Microsoft. What I wonder about for the Fun Box is what the actual games for it will look like. Will the Fun Box be just another next gen console, a Chinese-exclusive version of a PS4, Xbox One, or Wii U? Or will it have its own games, made by either Chinese or third party developers? Difficult to say at this point, but since there has not been much variety in the market since Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft cleared away the competition it will be interesting to see how a new console fares in the highly stratified gamer world. While I agree with Mr. Wu that “Fun Box” is a ridiculous name, and we have no proof that ZTE and The9 are any good at manufacturing game consoles; I am willing and just amused enough to take them seriously and give them a chance. Although, “Fun Box” does have that offputtingly happy sense about it, maybe they figured calling the console “The Party’s Console” would have been too much of a giveaway.
The back and forth continues… although recently it’s just been more of a forth in the direction of the PS4, for reasons I’ve stated above. It’s incredibly ironic that Microsoft seems to be losing out on the mainstream consumers despite the fact that was their entire aim with this console, because, although you can tailor it to the mainstream crowd and try and convince them, nothing convinces them more than the price. So who is Titanfall moving? Well, it could be moving more price sensitive fans, who have just been waiting for a price drop, which this bundle provides, or those tech enthusiasts who don’t quite feel comfortable being on the cutting edge, and always wait for the first big update or revision. Titanfall was the direct impetus for the first few major Dashboard updates, and now that it’s all wrapped up in a bundle for free, this audience will bite.
Microsoft definitely lagged out of the gate. With Sony sneaking in their North American launch first and never looking back, the Xbox One has certainly had a harder time of it as far as sales go. I have a feeling that’s about to change. With these numbers all before Titanfall dropped, I believe that Microsoft being the first to drop a quality exclusive will certainly help narrow the already quickly shrinking gap. The fact that Titanfall is a multiplayer game and the PS4's first big excusive, inFamous: Second Son will be a single player only game gives a big advantage to Microsoft in my opinion. People are more likely to try and convince their friends to pick up a console so they can play a game together than they are to make sure their friend enjoys a single player title, because we are selfish like that. As Simon loves to say, network externality will sell this game, as more and more people playing it will invite more and more to get it, whereas this will not factor in nearly as much for inFamous: Second Son. Microsoft might have just hauled themselves back into the race.
Sony should be thankful that the Titanfall Xbox One sale announced earlier this week was fake. Microsoft would have pulled the equivalent of getting the orange star in Mario Kart Doubledash, speeding ahead of its rival with wild abandon and glee. This all being said, Titanfall’s arrival will definitely upset the current stage of the console war. If the majority of loyalist gamers in the US were willing to brave the cold and crowds on Black Friday for an Xbox One, Titanfall’s arrival will be the thing that convinces the people who couldn’t be bothered before, to be bothered now. This also might provide a way for Microsoft to not only boost its own sales, but steal even more from Sony. An exclusive title like this could upset the balance of those who were teetering between PS4 and One before. On the other hand, I am keen to see how many copies sell for Windows. I am wondering what the size of the gamer population that wants Titanfall but not the One is. This could provide interesting data to see how other “Microsoft” exclusives split audiences in the future.