Sunday, June 11, 2017

Why Microsoft needs a fresh user base for the Scorpio to succeed.

Microsoft Scorpio

The moment is almost here and as gamers all around the world count the hours, we get near to the final unveiling of Microsoft's new console, up until now called Scorpio (which is a kick ass name so they should keep it). Now the question is... how can Microsoft convince gamers that their new console is the real deal after the Xbox One lost the battle against the PS4?

The answer is easy... They need a fresh user base with a more open mind. 

Xbox One

Take a moment to think about what happened to the Xbox One. Regardless of how dumb the initial pitch was and how their PR disaster hurt the console's launch, it managed to recover and sold relatively well. Some people thought that they were going to have a comeback in the console race, especially after the console had a really strong Christmas 2016, but once January 2017 came it all deflated and has been practically inert ever since. You want to know why? Well prepare yourself.

The main reason the Xbox One lacked the strength to close the gap was because its user base was really narrow in their gaming selections and that limited not only the amount of players, but also the opportunity of having a good variety of games, which most often than not turn into direct sales of the console itself. Sadly the Xbox One carried the effects of the blight of 2008 and that really hurt the potential of an otherwise awesome console.

MTG Blight

What was the Blight of 2008?

I like to call "the blight of 2008" to that period in the previous generation of consoles where all the attention in the market shifted to two three genres which were first person shooters, racing and sports games. Every other genre was basically ignored and month after month the leaders in sales were games in the genres previously mentioned. Don't take me wrong, I love those types of games too, but on those days they were like a giant black hole that was swallowing everything. It was so bad that even the once proud Japanese companies started imitating their Western counterparts in a desperate attempt to have better sales. It was the couple of years that had sad incidents like the president of Square Enix giving his infamous "ultimatum" about them catering to the west and the death of many good games because of  poor sales. This went on and on with many franchises been either changed or dumbed down until the current consoles came and brought back the balance we had enjoyed for the previous 20 years and had momentarily lost in the days of the blight.

Microsoft Scorpio

So what does the Xbox One has to do with the blight?

It makes me sad to say it, but it seems that some people believed that we are still living in the days of the blight and so they didn't supported anything that went away from their comfort zone as if they were still living in 2008. I am not pretending everybody to buy every game, but sales numbers show that the Xbox One user base was basically saying "meh we just want shooters, racers and sports", which is a thing that discouraged most third party companies of releasing good exclusives for the console and made the Xbox landscape to be based almost entirely of multi-platform games with some few exclusives thrown there now and then.

Don't believe me? Check out these articles:

79% of UK Final Fantasy XV sales were on PS4, 21% Xbox One

ReCore News: Sales Gone Bad? Microsoft Finally Made Their Move

Poor sales continue as Quantum Break hits Steam

You see? Those are examples of one multi-platform and two exclusives not performing well on the console in terms of sales. They were all good games so those failures were uncalled for.

Microsoft Scorpio

Then what Microsoft needs to do to fix this?

What Microsoft needs to do from today on can be divided in two things. First they need to win over people that fled to other consoles because of the lack of the games they wanted and second, they need to re-educate they loyal fans to support more types of games than they did with the Xbox One. They need to immediately state that the console will be powerful, sexy and with lots of different games to support that power. Otherwise, they may have another Xbox One situation on their hands and that would be really devastating for the Xbox division within Microsoft.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

E3 2017: Keys to Victory

In pay per view boxing matches, there is something called "keys to victory" which is a small pre-fight analysis of what each boxer needs to do in order to maximize his chances of winning. Today we are going to once again use that format to do a little analysis and see what each company needs to do in order to get that "winner of E3" title.

Why is winning E3 a big deal? Well, when a company "wins" an E3 event the grand prize is lots of hype and most often than not hype traduces itself into sales and sales very often turn into good games been considered for the platform in the near future. So without any further delay, lets see what each company needs to do in order to win it.

Up until now, Microsoft has had a really tough first half of the year. Looking on the bright side, the Xbox One has been getting good initiatives like the Netflix-like gaming service, but without many games to keep its user base engaged it has remained quite cold in the house of Xbox. In order to win this year's E3 their strategy has to be to push the Scorpio along with a barrage of exclusive games. Seen a revival of Scalebound as a Scorpio exclusive will sting a little (if you own an Xbox One), but would be a valid strategy. Other big games that could be revived are Fable and even KOTOR (Star Wars: Knights of the old republic). Once again the key for them is variety as the Gears-Forza-Halo combo will not be able to carry their new system to where they want it to be. They need to re-shape their fan base into something that welcomes more types of games and this E3 event is a great chance for them to do so.

Strength: Having a new machine to show gives them an edge if they know how to use it.

Weakness: Consumer confidence is quite low considering the poor first half of the year that the Xbox One had.

Sony is in a complex situation. They had a wonderful first half of 2017 with a parade of great third party games, but with few announcements and rumors in the last 5 months and with Final Fantasy 7 remake and Kingdom Hearts having difficulties it looks as if they have spent most of their bullets and are now facing a drought. With their situation been like it is... Can they win it this year? The answer to that question is yes, but they need to prove that the drought is not coming and that we have something to look forward to in the next 5 months. We all know that new gameplay will be shown of some games that were already announced, but if we don't get some cool surprises along with some solid release dates, we might have a so-so conference at best. The pressure is on them to keep the ball rolling.

Strength: Great first half of 2017 has the consumer as happy as they can be. The overall attitude is positive and many expect Sony to have an ace under their sleeve as they have done for the last 3 years.

Weakness: Expectations are so high that Sony will have a hard time topping themselves and anything less than what's expected could be seen as dim and uneventful. 

Right now, Nintendo is having a great time. Their gamble with the Switch paid off and they are as we speak a very close second to the PS4, month after month since the Switch was released. Now, the problem for them with this years E3 is that most of their surprises have once again (like last year) been either leaked or announced on ahead of time, leaving them with little mystery and intrigue, things that are needed in this type of event in order to have a big impact on the audience. 

Another fact is that even with the success they are having, they still won't give a big conference and once again rely on their Nintendo Direct videos, which are cool, but don't have that extra "umph!" that big time conferences give. So if things are like this then what does Nintendo need to win? The best bet they have is having secret stuff that they can use to blow us away when they are finally mentioned or showing what they have in a brilliant way, so they can lure us into the hype train. How can they do this? Well, details about the Splatoon 2 and Arms tournament can be a good start along with details about their Netflix-like retro game service and maybe one or two new Switch games that haven't been announced.

Strength: Great momentum since the Switch was released, even bigger that the one they had with the Wii in 2006.

Weakness: Unless they have some good secrets to unveil, everything new about the big N is already known.

Wrapping things up:

E3 Fight Forecast

This years E3 will be a good one with solid game play and maybe a few surprises in a really close fight between the main competitors, but try not to expect a "dreams come true" hype fest like the last one, because it is very unlikely. Let's just enjoy what we will get and get excited about the things that will be announced while hoping that the momentum that 2017 brought can last for a long time.