Microsoft sent a clear marketing message today with the unveiling of the Xbox One, its new console. Don Mattrick, head of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment, put it simply: The Xbox One is the “Ultimate all-in-one home entertainment system.” The separation from Sony is clear. Sony’s initial reveal of the PS4 was all about games; Microsoft, while giving prime spots to games, spent the majority of its reveal talking about TV, entertainment, sports and features only partly related to games.
Microsoft was careful to make games as much a part of every feature as possible. For instance, showing off the ability of the Xbox One to switch between live TV and games, or how you can be playing a game while doing something else on the side. Microsoft understands that gamers are going to be the first audience to be aware of this device, and the ones who will be lining up to buy it initially.
The essence of Microsoft’s marketing strategy will be to reach TV viewers of all types as well as gamers. Making TV easy to use, and switching between functions swiftly, and making Skype calls on your TV are all cool, generally useful features. The appeal of just saying “Xbox on” and having your TV and Xbox come on should be broad; even more popular will be the ability to say “Watch CBS” and not have to fumble with your remote.
It’s also apparent that Microsoft knows the right gamer buttons to push ““ the company was careful to mention there are 15 new exclusive titles in development that will launch within the first 12 months, and 8 of them are new franchises. That’s not counting the third-party support. One thing we didn’t hear about was indie developers, or any easing up on the bureaucratic complexity that is publishing on Xbox Live currently. Many developers would like to be able to push out updates freely, and we don’t know yet if Microsoft will make this happen.
The event revealed that Microsoft is creating live-action entertainment for the Xbox One based on the Halo brand, and exec produced by none other than Steven Spielberg. There’s a deal with the NFL, and an exclusive deal with EA Sports, and an exclusive arrangement with Activision for the Xbox One to get Call of Duty: Ghosts DLC before other platforms.
Microsoft made the case at this event for the Xbox One to be the key box you put under your TV to make it simple to operate and bring the latest games to you along with all sorts of entertainment. While the E3 show will doubtless focus on all the games and the way the Xbox One is great for gamers, this event argues that Microsoft will be making its overall marketing pitch to a broad audience, not just gamers. Gamers may well get targeted messages, but when Microsoft hits the mass media it will be trying to sell the Xbox One to anyone with a TV.
We have yet to learn many key details, such as the pricing, what services will be offered at what cost, and even exactly when the new console will be on sale. Microsoft has also said nothing about its marketing plans for the Xbox One, but you can be sure there will be a massive spend. This product is being positioned as a key part of Microsoft’s future, and they will do what it takes to make it successful.