There were no shortage of people blasting Microsoft for bundling a Kinect Sensor with its $499 Xbox One gaming console. Those supporting the Kinect sensor’s argued that Xbox One buyers could expect an easier experience and that there would be a lot of Kinect enabled games for users to play since everyone would have one right out of the box. Unfortunately, new numbers indicate that maybe those arguing against the Kinect sensor may have been right, just not in the way they expected.
Last night Microsoft formally announced that they’d sold five million Xbox One consoles to retail partners on its Xbox Wire company blog. Considering it’s a new platform that users have to invest into, those numbers wouldn’t be bad had it not been for Sony’s announcement that’d managed to sell over seven million Xbox One consoles as of April 6th.
Microsoft did confirm that sales of the Xbox One were still outpacing sales of the Xbox 360. The company sold 311,000 Xbox Ones in the United States, and of those buying the console Microsoft saw roughly three games sold per console buyer. The firm also confirmed that Titanfall was the most purchased game during the month of March.
Naturally, the announcement had many gamers and industry insiders wondering if Microsoft shouldn’t be worried about the Xbox One, and whether it was a smart decision for gamers to be purchasing a console that’s clearly selling less than its direct competitor. After all, theoretically, a console with less users stands a smaller chance of getting the latest games.
There’s just one problem with that thinking. As of today, the Xbox One is only available in 13 countries worldwide. That may sound like a lot but it’s nothing compared to the 48 countries Sony’s PS4 is now available in. Logic would dictate that because Sony was able to get the PS4 into markets faster, it was able to sell more units. Microsoft has already announced that it plans to make the Xbox One console available in 25 more countries, however that won’t happen until sometime this September. In the meantime, the PS4 is the only next-generation gaming console in some markets, leaving users with little choice other than picking up the PS4.
Rumors last year indicated that Microsoft delayed the Xbox One’s launch in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland because it needed more time to localize the software that powers voice commands on the Xbox One. It makes sense that Microsoft would delay the Xbox One launch in these countries, especially since the Kinect voice integration is such a key part of the Xbox One experience. It’s so integral to the Xbox One experience that there are commands that have no on-screen counterparts. For example, users can only adjust their television’s volume with a Kinect voice command.
If the rumors are true than the Kinect could be responsible for Xbox One’s lower sales numbers. Not including the Kinect with every Xbox One could have ensured an on-time launch for those 8 countries that Microsoft delayed. Originally, gamers were concerned that the Xbox One’s $499 price tag, $100 more than the PS4, was due to Kinect. The thinking went that users wouldn’t see the value in having the sensor for the extra money. With roughly 5 million sold, clearly users see the value in Kinect, but it’s hard not to imagine that a large chunk of PS4’s 2 million sales lead wouldn’t have been smaller if the console was available in more markets.
For their part, Microsoft never confirmed this, it only said that it was delaying the launch in those countries to “meet demand.”
So what’s next for Microsoft? The company will have to hope that Titanfall, its only exclusive high-profile launch title available today, will help it sustain sales until games developed by third parties begin to entice users to purchase the console.
Presumably, the company is going to pin its hopes on users preferring to play online games on Xbox Live rather than Sony’s PlayStation Network. In that respect, Sony’s new console has helped Microsoft. It used to be that gamers of all types balked at having to pick up an Xbox Live subscription before playing online. Now that the PS4 also requires this, Microsoft should be able to put the focus back on Xbox Live being more robust than the PlayStation Network.
It’d be smart for the company to retool its message around Xbox Live anyway. Especially considering that PlayStation Plus allows users to play games at no additional cost if they have a PlayStation Network subscription. Microsoft has tried to emulate this idea with its Games With Gold program, however it’s seen limited success because the games are usually older titles. To their credit, Games With Gold permanently gifts games to users while PlayStation Plus games are more akin to a rental.
We should hear more about Microsoft plans to boost sales during this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in June.