Xbox One sales may be suffering iin comparison to Sony’s PS4, but that didn’t stop Xbox head Phil Spencer and his colleagues from setting their sights on the remainder of 2015 with an impressive lineup of exclusive games and features not matched by Sony. The the flurry of Xbox news at last week’s E3, with announcements such as the Xbox One gaining backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games, a new Game Preview program on Xbox One, and new Elite Controller, is grabbing the interest of gamers but what does it mean for the future of the Xbox One?
Brendan Sinclair of Gameindstury.biz had the chance to speak with Mike Nichols, Xbox’s Chief Marketing Officer, about the recent news and their vision for the Xbox One. In the interview, Nichols elaborates on how him and his team believes that while the original vision of the Xbox as a central entertainment system for your home, not just a gaming device, hasn’t changed even if this isn’t emphasized right now in their marketing. And that the new gaming features and content coming to the Xbox One is the source for an optimistic outlook for the future of Microsoft’s latest console.
From the interview it’s clear that the addition of backwards compatibility to the Xbox One is a large part of Microsoft’s strategy to boost sales and adoption rates of their latest console, which has suffered relative to their largest competitor, Sony. The Xbox 360 has been around since 2005, selling 83.7 million units and now sporting a catalog of over 1000 games. Nichols notes that:
“We have tens of millions of folks who use Xbox 360 every month and the number one thing we’ve heard from them that we can do is, ‘I don’t want to give up my games catalog. I’m still playing. Because not only do I give up my games catalog in some cases, now I lose my online gaming friendships, etc.'”
Xbox is hoping that offering backwards compatibility will significantly help sales because Nichols says they haven’t seen much category switching by previous generation console owners so far. This means there is potentially still a huge base of Xbox 360 owners who could be Xbox One customers. Nichols adds:
“There hasn’t been a lot of that, meaning from PS3 to Xbox One or from Xbox 360 to PS4. It’s happening in both directions to some degree, but it’s mostly been about the Xbox 360 and PS3 base, how energized they are, and how much of a leap forward do they feel like the next-generation system is.”
This is inspiring Xbox’s marketing message to place gaming at the forefront feature and giving previous generation console owners every reason they could ask for to upgrade to the latest Xbox. Sinclair speculates that this is probably why Kinect was absent from Xbox’s E3 briefing last week. And also why the original vision of the Xbox as a primary source of live TV and sports, in addition to games, is not vocalized nearly as much as it was at launch.
Nichols explains this advertising approach by saying:
“So whether we talk about it in advertising or define ourselves in that way is a bit of a different thing from, ‘Are we investing in it to make it really great?’ The original vision of the Xbox One–to be something really awesome beyond gaming; best for gaming and really awesome for all these other things–that’s continued in where we’ve been investing. But our marketing is a bit different. It really kind of focuses on one angle of it. And this year with the greatest games lineup in Xbox history, you know that’s for sure going to be the continued emphasis.”
The interview also included more details about Microsoft’s approach to partners in general with Windows 10, and how that is translating into the announced partnerships with Oculus and Valve to support virtual reality gaming in Windows 10 and potentially Xbox.
But the thrust of Nichol’s message in the interview is that their marketing approach is going to stick to how great gaming is on an Xbox One, because that is why people buy it. Even though they are still investing in developing it’s other gaming features. Nichols says, “The number one feature is the games, but the usage of watching videos, YouTube, and everything else has been growing quite a bit. And that’s continued to be a focus for us.” He also reiterates recent messages by the Xbox team that the Kinect is still an important part of the Xbox, as Nicols says “our customer satisfaction is highest amongst those people that have Kinect today, so it’s important for us to continue to offer it for folks.”
So as new gaming features and an exciting fall lineup make their way to Xbox, expect to see more, maybe relatively quieter, announcements about other entertainment features being supported by the Xbox One. And, as Microsoft hopes, more Xbox 360 owners investing in new hardware that doesn’t exclude their current games.