Five Bold Post-E3 Predictions That Fare Well for Microsoft and the Xbox One

philspencer

So rarely do I get the chance to play devil’s advocate for the actual devil.  I kid Microsoft, of course, but they definitely haven’t made many friends this week.  Ever since they announced their used game policy, codenamed the “Satan System” for the duration of this article, gamers have been in an uproar.  We’ve been creating GIFs, announcing boycotts, and probably sending death threats (I assume), all in the name of sticking it to the man and fighting for our rights as consumers.  So, when Captain Jack Tretton verbally handed Microsoft its collective face by announcing that no restrictions would be placed upon the buying and selling of used games on PS$, the crowd went wild and the internet went kindergarten.  When he figuratively slammed the microphone to the stage, it felt like we were watching a rap battle, as he had to pause between punchlines to allow for the waves of “Oooooh Snaps” and “Daaaayuuuuuums” from the audience.  They even put out some post-conference verbal jabs and videos to throw salt in the wounds.  Remember this one?  “Oh, no they diiii’iiint!!”  But in the end, did those jabs actually make much of a difference?  Oh… no. They didn’t.

You see, because we are consumers, we have a tendency to focus on how the Satan System affects consumers.  You know… us.  I have the same tendency.  I don’t want restrictions placed upon the games I buy any more than you do, but we still have to look at the big picture.  As bad as the SS might be for consumers, it’s actually great for developers, and that might turn out to be more impactful in the long run.  It is no secret that many developers have long cursed the effects of used game sales on the industry, so while we are all condemning Microsoft and raising our middle fingers to the sky, the big publishers are holding secret meetings to finalize their plans to cash in.  That’s why…

 

1. Third Party DRM Will Be Just as Bad on PS4 as It Is on Xbox One

Jack Tretton

Jack Tretton isn’t crossing his hands; he’s cracking his knuckles, as he’s about to start throwing punches at Microsoft.  Used games. BAM! $399. POW!  The hits definitely landed, but will any of them really leave a lasting scar?

 

I can’t really speak for private companies.  They’ve been known to do some weird things.  I mean, Chick fil-A is closed on Sundays for crying out loud.  But for the most part, public companies are pretty predictable, especially the big ones.  In a perfect world, they would answer to us, since we give them their business; in the real world, they answer to shareholders.  More often than not, the shareholders are asking rhetorical questions, and the correct answer is loot.

It is important to remember that neither console is imposing any restrictions upon third party publishers when it comes to used game policies or DRM.  First, neither system forces companies to adopt a DRM system.  The PS4 has no way to facilitate it, and the Xbone’s Satan System is totally optional.  Second, should third parties choose to go the DRM route, they are free to do so on either console.  On PS4, third parties are allowed to incorporate any kind of DRM measures they want.  Microsoft just makes things a million times easier.

I’m not a fan of the Satan system, but at least it is standardized and controlled.  Publishers who opt for DRM (and most will by the end of the gen) are not going to be able to justify earning a greater profit margin for the Xbone versions of their games than for their PS4 equivalents.  That means they will need to come up with their own PS4 measures to balance the scales.  Given that the scales are enormously imbalanced, these measure will have to be pretty weighty.  Realistically, it will probably mean being subjected to a similar check-in system, but you will have to do it on a different server for each game you own, with absolutely no universal system to transfer ownership.  It’s a headache and an administrative burden, but publishers will still do it for cross-platform games, because the Satan System is too lucrative to have a bunch of PS4 copies diluting the revenue stream.  Honestly, assuming the technology works, it would be easier on them if they only released their games on Xbone and stopped developing for the PS4 altogether.  And that’s why, over time…

 

2. Many Cross-platform Games Will Become at Least Semi-Exclusive to Xbox One

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Gamestop is probably not going to survive through this generation.  Don’t worry though, because you’ll probably be buying most of your games online anyway.  If you are a PS4 user, you may not have a choice.

 

It just makes good sense.  If you are already using the Satan System, allowing used PS4 games to circulate is counterproductive to your established aims.  Developing a similar system for PS4 is a huge hassle, and you don’t even get to blame any of your consumers’ complaints on Microsoft.  Why not go Xbone exclusive?  Hell, at the very least, why not limit PS4 sales to digital distribution, with disc-based copies restricted solely to Xbone?  If that happens, Microsoft actually gains the advantage in used game sales.  They have already stated that players can “gift” a used game once to another account, which means they have developed a system to transfer ownership.  We won’t be able to do that on PS4 any more than we can do it now on Steam.  That is just a reality of digital distribution, and it’s one that we’ve already come to accept in the one arena (PC) where digital distribution has become the standard.  As digital distribution becomes the console standard over the next few years, led by a combined push from Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, and everyone who makes games on the planet, the Satan System will actually be seen as a perk, as some standard system for exchanging ownership is a hell of lot better than none.

Admittedly, all of these predictions rely upon a large number of people actually buying Microsoft’s console.  Based on the current sentiment, it is entirely possible that Xbone sales will be substantially lower than the PS4.  If that’s the case, publishers can’t really benefit from the Xbone’s technology, and going Xbone exclusive is not really an option.  Fortunately for Microsoft, their sales are going to be just fine, for many reasons.  The first of which is…

 

3. The Xbox One Marketing Will Be Everywhere

The Xbone's offerings are so diverse, Microsoft could sell one to everyone in this family (even Manny).  This holiday season, they are going to try.

The Xbone’s offerings are so diverse, Microsoft could sell one to everyone in this family (even Manny). This holiday season, they are going to try.

 

Everywhere!  Remember when “The Boy is Mine” came out?  It will be as inescapable as that, mixed with the “Wuussssuuuuuuuuuup” commercial, and Game of Thrones spoilers.  Microsoft is going to win the marketing war this holiday season, because they simply have more markets to target.  The PS4 is a gaming system.  They have made it very clear that they are all about the gamers, and they aren’t about gimmicks or bells and whistles.  Good for us!  However, Microsoft has its eyes on a bigger prize and a much larger audience than just gamers.  Obviously they are going to have games.  Based upon the uneven list of exclusives, in addition to their own games, they should also have most of the games the PS4 does.  But they also have a lot more features to boast.  While not focusing on games during the first press conference may have upset us as gamers, the TV features alone were nothing short of incredible.  Everyone on the What’s Jump staff was floored, and that was before they even began the focus on gaming.  That press conference didn’t land, because the wrong group was watching.  Hardcore gamers may not have liked it, but when Microsoft shows those same demos to the “everyone else who uses a TV” demographic, demand is going to soar.  The best place to target everyone is everywhere, so that’s where you will see their ads.  They will be a constant, unavoidable hum in the background of the national discussion, and they’ll hit so many markets that they will sell consoles on awareness alone.  One market in particular will be a huge driver.  Which leads me to…

 

4. The NFL Partnership Will Be a Big Deal

Every Sunday, the NFL convinces millions of Americans to gather together and drink glasses full of piss.  These people are pretty impressionable.

Every Sunday, the NFL convinces millions of Americans to gather together and drink glasses full of piss. These people are pretty impressionable.

 

It seems like people are glossing over the partnership Microsoft announced with the NFL during their first press conference.  I realize that not everyone who has an Oblivion shirt also has an RGIII jersey, so maybe the news just hasn’t fully gotten out yet, but it is big news, and the people who care about that news will be hit over the head with it for about 12 weeks leading up to the console’s release.  While it may not matter outside of the U.S., the U.S. is Microsoft’s primary zone of influence.  Here, NFL Sundays are a national event.  They are a 12 hour long gauntlet of entertainment, where strong dudes hit other strong dudes, all the while convincing us that we aren’t fully enjoying the experience unless we have this beer, that TV, and some pickup truck in the garage.  (Is it just me or is every car the J.D. Power and Associates car of the year?)  It is a masterpiece of consumer suggestion, and Microsoft just joined the party.  The first 12 weeks of the season will contain nonstop Xbox One ads, and every commentator will be raving about how he or she can’t wait until the Xbox One revolutionizes America’s biggest spectacle.  In the weeks immediately preceding and following Christmas, the commentating might go a little something like this:

  • Craig:  Whoah, Bob, did you see that hit?
  • Bob:  I sure did, Craig.  That was a head rattler.  You don’t see hits like that every day!  That was like a powerful Ford F-150 crashing through a stunning Vizio LED display!
  • Craig: Johnson has more sacks this season than in his first three season combined.  Did you know that?
  • Bob: I sure did Craig.  With the Xbox One set up next to us here, I’m getting all this information real time, and I can even check my fantasy scores.  I’m telling you.  Everybody better get one of these things before they sell out. Mark my words.
  • Craig: And it looks like they’re headed back onto the field for the next play.
  • Bob: Wow, I didn’t even notice.  Here I am, supposed to be commentating, and I’m not even watching the field, because I have so much game-related content to browse on my Xbox One.  It’s better than watching the game live.  Crazy right?
  • Craig: And, here’s the snap.  The quarterback steps back.
  • Bob: Buy a fucking Xbox One! NOW!

It would be easier if the features were just gimmicks, but based upon the demo, the Xbox One really does revolutionize the way people watch football, even more then having a Budweiser Select.  Sparking the curiosity of these NFL fans will lead them to look into these features, and when they do, they will be pleasantly surprised.  Sparking the curiosity of consumers is important overall, and it is one of the reasons why…

 

5. The $499 Price Point Will Not Be a Deal-breaker for Consumers

You smug bastard!  If you think you are going to stand between consumers and their Xbones, you've got another thing coming.  Go fly a kite!

You smug bastard! If you think you are going to stand between consumers and their Xbones, you’ve got another thing coming. Go fly a kite!

 

The main reason is that the consoles are not equal.  The other day, a friend threw out a hypothetical situation for me, where a Mom walks into the store to buy a gaming console for her son.  She sees the two consoles, one being $100 cheaper, and she says, “I know which one I’m getting.”  “You’re forgetting about the Moms!” he said to me.  That really isn’t giving the Moms enough credit.

That would work if they were shopping for homogeneous products, like different brands of milk.  Then, they would see that one brand of milk was $1 cheaper, and having no reason to assume that one was any better than the other, they would buy the cheaper jug.  For products that require more research, a higher price tag complicates the decision making process a little more than that.

It’s a sociological thing.  When we are not completely informed about a product, the way we assume we are with milk, we don’t scoff at the higher price tag so much as we wonder why it is higher.  We naturally associate the higher price with higher quality.  We still want to buy the cheaper item, but first, we want to know the differences between the two.  We need to find out what we are missing out on.

The Xbone is priced higher, but Microsoft will make it very easy for consumers to see what extra features they are buying with their $100.  Specifically, they are buying all of the extra home entertainment features, plus the added functionality that comes with the required Kinect.  That is not to say that every consumer will find value in those features, just that Microsoft will have the opportunity to sell buyers on their value.  Because those features actually have value, a lot of the time, people may be willing to pay the extra $100.  If these “Moms” are concerned about a $100 difference, it is likely a large enough purchase that they will be discerning in making it.  They may choose the PS4 or they may choose the Xbone, but it won’t be as simple as picking the cheaper one.  If Mom is already buying a system for little Billy, why not let Mom get some enjoyment out of it.  Why not Dad?  After all, you’ve seen PS4’s exclusives.  If Sony has Billy’s favorite game, it’s probably on Xbone too.

 

Bonus Mini-Prediction:

We already know that Halo will be huge, even with Destiny coming out, but Titanfall is going to be even bigger.  It is the perfect exclusive to cash in on the Call of Duty madness, because it is Call of Duty, which is not surprising since it is being developed by Infinity Ward Respawn Entertainment.  The demo they showed at E3 was a complete clone of the Call of Duty gameplay, with the all the added testosterone of jetpacks, parkour, and mechs.  The last Call of Duty game these guys released sold 13 million copies in North America, 63% of which were on Xbox 360, so the people who like these games are already Microsoft invested, and they already have Xbox Live accounts.  To put things in perspective, Sony’s biggest exclusives are Infamous and Killzone, the last entries of which sold a combined 4 million copies worldwideSony has grossly overstated the popularity of these franchises, as they are nowhere near must-buy, console movers.  Titanfall and Halo will be.

 

Thomas Shamburger
Thomas is one of the original creators of "What's Jump?" As a lifelong gamer, writer, and comedian, his goal is to provide readers with humorous, entertaining, and thought-provoking perspectives on current gaming news and culture. His early career successes in the business world helped to pave the way for the site's launch in 2012. As the Editor in Chief of "What's Jump?" he combines his passions for gaming, writing, entrepreneurship, and comedy.
Thomas Shamburger
Thomas Shamburger

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