Microsoft first launched the Xbox One in 2013 with a muddled and ever-changing strategy and too-high pricing, confusing and then enraging its fans. Well, no more: Microsoft just destroyed the competition at E3 2016 and is delivering on a transparent, coherent and exciting Xbox One strategy. Folks, this is what winning looks like.
Microsoft’s Xbox turnaround mirrors what we previously saw with Windows, and that is perhaps not coincidental: When Windows 8 launched in 2012, it was a touch-first disaster that angered long-time users and did nothing to bring Windows to the mobile market. Microsoft apologized, issued some quick fixes with Windows 8.1 and some other updates, and then came surging back with the nearly-perfect Windows 10, which was itself a free upgrade for all the Windows 8.1 victims.
2016 is Xbox’s Windows 10 moment. And not just because Microsoft is continuing to infuse Windows 10 goodness into its console. No, this turnaround has a lot less to do with technical specifics than it does with simply listening to its fans and then delivering on their needs.
Microsoft, finally, is doing the right thing for Xbox. And, more important, for Xbox fans.
We see this in the Xbox One S, which is of course that thinner, smaller, and hopefully quieter/cooler console upgrade that we always see 4-5 years into any console generation. It is less expensive for Microsoft to build and can therefore be profitable over time. It retains everything that was right about the original Xbox One—even the HDMI pass-through stuff, which, let’s face it, many believed would be collateral damage—and fixes the most important things that are not.
We see this in Microsoft’s vision for Project Scorpio, a next-generation console that will provide 4K gaming and VR capabilities but retain full compatibility with the Xbox One games library and its accessories. This mid-stream upgrade—the Xbox One Scorpio will arrive exactly half way through the normal 8 year console life cycle—will dramatically improve Xbox One without leaving current users and early adopters behind.
We see this in the new Xbox Wireless Controller, which takes on some of the best features of the expensive Xbox One Elite Controller—the grippy handles and the more reliable and durable thumbsticks—while retaining the low price of its predecessor and adding some new improvements of its own, including Bluetooth compatibility so you can use it with Windows PCs sans dongle, and better wireless performance. There’s an even an amazing Xbox Design Lab, which lets you customize your own Xbox Wireless Controller to your heart’s content and do so inexpensively.
We see this in the Windows 10 Anniversary update features that will roll out over the summer and fall system updates. This includes such things as Cortana and a single store across Xbox One, Windows 10 for PCs, Windows 10 Mobile, and HoloLens. (With more to come in that fall update.)
We see this in the coming set of Xbox Live features like Clubs, Looking for Group, Arena, language region independence, and more.
ANd we see this in the cross-platform capabilities coming to Xbox: Cross-play, which lets Xbox One and Windows 10 gamers play select multiplayer games together, Xbox Play Anywhere, which lets gamers buy a digital game once and play it on both Windows 10 and Xbox One, and even in the new Android and iOS Xbox apps, which mirror the functionality we see on Windows 10.
Finally, Microsoft gets it. And Microsoft, Xbox fans see what you’re doing. We love what you’re doing. And we thank you for doing it.
What a great time to be an Xbox fan.