Microsoft is moving into 2020 with plenty of risky hardware on the horizon. The company is returning to the smartphone world with the folding Surface Duo, while the Xbox Scarlett will usher in the ninth generation of consoles. Despite both promising some game-changing abilities, neither is a sure-fire hit.
Looking specifically at Xbox Scarlett, Microsoft is familiar with launching a console loaded with specs only for its to struggle. That was the Xbox One, a device that ultimately recovered but was still vastly outsold by the PlayStation 4.
In an interview with The Verge, Microsoft’s Xbox chief, Phil Spencer, suggested the company has learned from the mistakes it made with the Xbox One.
“I would say a learning from the Xbox One generation is we will not be out of position on power or price,” Spencer told The Verge. “If you remember the beginning of this generation we were a hundred dollars more expensive and yes, we were less powerful. And we started Project Scarlett with this leadership team in place with a goal of having market success.”
Spencer is correct, price was a huge sticking point for gamers when the Xbox One and PS4 launched. Microsoft’s console was $100 more than Sony’s and consumers didn’t want to pay. It is worth noting the Xbox One came with Kinect bundled in, which Microsoft argued justified the cost. The demise of Kinect shows that customers were cold on the motion camera peripheral.
However, Spencer has not discussed some of the other failings during the Xbox One launch cycle. Microsoft attempted to make the device an all-in-one entertainment unit, a living room box. Actual gaming seemed to be lower on the priority list as Microsoft tried to lock people into content.
Sony was more straightforward with the PS4, putting the gaming experience at the front and center of the console.
It is worth remembering Microsoft solved a lot of these issues and the Xbox One generation thrived in the second half of its life. However, the market damage was done and the PS4 dominated sales.
PlayStation 5 will launch in the same window as Xbox Scarlett, so the competition will be on again. History has shown consumers are not necessarily loyal to console brands as they move through generations, at least not casual consumers. Solving the many mistakes of the Xbox One launch could allow Xbox Scarlett to compete more evenly.