Opinion: Why Xbox One's erratic E3 matters for the mobile market
One vision, one platform, one big problem
On a par with the reception that greeted Nintendo when the Wii's name was unveiled, Microsoft's Xbox One has had its moniker ripped to shreds from the moment it left the mouth of Don Mattrick just a couple of weeks ago.
Looking beyond the somewhat mischievous implications of its nickname 'Xbone' – adopted within minutes across social networks – the 'One' element of the system's name has left some confused, and others numbed by the sheer corporate nature of it.
For Microsoft, 'One' is to be taken in the context of 'All In One' – a system that touches every base, ticks every box, meets every entertainment need.
Indeed, for those who went into E3 pushing the premise that Xbox One wasn't about games, the first hour or so of Microsoft's latest presser will have left many red faced.
One, however, is the perfect name for me. It highlights the console's biggest opportunity – the prospect of all Microsoft's various products and platforms being tied together on one system – and, conversely, its biggest weakness.
One for all
Why a weekness, you ask? Because, so intrinsic is Xbox One to Windows 8 and Windows Phone that any failure to fly off the shelves at launch could be akin to the first crack in the shell of the Titantic.
If 'one' falls, then the rest may follow.
That's why that, even though mobile largely remained missing in action at both Microsoft and Sony's briefings, any developer that has tied themselves to either Windows 8 or Windows Phone should have watched Sony's attempts to rip a hole in Microsoft's plans with nerves jangling last night.
Microsoft's long term vision is that users will be bedded into their entertainment platforms – of which Xbox is the main offering – whatever they're doing, whatever device they're using, wherever they are.
Xbox's games, music and video are starting to be spread across its console offerings, its tablets and its smartphones, and – just as its mobile platform appears to be gaining momentum in the west – it's just been undermined.
How? By being closely associated with a console that's scored the most spectacular series of own goals since the words 'giant enemy crab' went down in gaming folklore back at E3 2006.
Its not been a textbook start for Xbox One
But lets get things in perspective. Until Sony took to the stand, it appeared to have been accepted by most journalists and developers that – price aside – Xbox One's E3 briefing went some way to redeeming the bad press it received after the console's initial unveiling.
There are most certainly lots of games headed Xbox One's way, and Microsoft's decision to hold off all too many game announcements at the console's first press briefing in favour of rolling them out one after the other at E3 appeared vindicated.
And then, Sony's Jack Tretton started talking about used games.
The reaction Sony was able to whip up in the crowd when the firm announced that there would be no restrictions on used games and no daily online checks is surely unprecedented at E3.
Sony hasn't had a bigger win at an E3 press briefing since it usurped Sega by announcing the original PlayStation would launch at $299 back in 1995 – a full $100 below its then main target, the Sega Saturn.
And, it essentially mirrored that move by announcing a genuinely surprising $399 price point for PlayStation 4 – once again, a full $100 cheaper than its rival.
Price looks like it could be PS4's big selling point at launch
Up until that point, however, it's fair to say Sony hadn't exactly blown away Microsoft's Xbox One expose.
Indeed, it wasn't games that 'won' E3 2013, but rather positioning: whether it was always Sony's intention to launch at such a comparatively low price point and to forgo restrictions on used games (it's possible the firm came to said conclusions during the last fortnight) is unknown, and matters not right now.
Sony has decided to take a hit on revenue in order to get PS4 off to the kind of start that PS3 sorely needed. The light at the end of the tunnel for Microsoft, of course, is that both of these selling points can be eradicated if it so chooses.
Rather than having lost out on exclusives or major content, Microsoft could essentially nullify PS4's unique selling points if the Redmond giant eats a slice of humble pie, drops restrictions on used games and that 24 hour online check in, and works on making Xbox One's RRP more competitive.
United we stand...
If a rumoured subscription model – or a deal with TV providers to wrap Xbox One into existing subscription platforms – is unveiled, then that $100 price point difference will become less of an issue.
Though now unlikely, it's certainly not out of the question longterm, given Microsoft's often-maligned close relationship with media partners.
If not, Sony is going to have one hell of an advantage when both consoles hit the shelves side by side in major territories this winter.
It's no exaggeration either to suggest that, if Xbox One fails to match the success of its predecessor in the next year or so, there will be direct implications on Windows 8 and Windows Phone – as well as the third party businesses associated with both of them.
Xbox One has put Windows Phone in a tricky position
Given Microsoft is at least perceived to be playing catch up across the smartphone and tablet sector, Windows and Windows Phone's link with Xbox was previously seen as an asset. Now it's looking more like a chain around the neck of both platforms.
Beyond the likelihood of strengthening the calls for CEO Steve Ballmer's head, anything less than indisputable success for Xbox One from the word go risks undermining the whole Windows Phone project kicked off back in 2010.
The platform will be left as an island, competing against two giants – Apple and Google – that can throw their entire businesses behind their respective platforms in order to keep them ahead.
Yes, talk of mobile may have been somewhat muted in Los Angeles yesterday, but the impact the success or failure of Xbox One and PS4 will have on the sector is guaranteed to be somewhat louder.
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