It’s wild to think how far Microsoft and the Xbox One has come. It started this generation with what even the company has admitted was a huge misstep. The Xbox One’s debut was nothing short of a catastrophe borne of mixed messaging that targeted the completely wrong crowd, and what many described at the time as anti-consumer strategies. It was a fumble that presented its competitor, Sony’s PlayStation 4, an opportunity. And Sony seized it.
Microsoft hasn’t been able to come back from that stumble. PlayStation 4 has maintained a sales lead and owned a great deal of the gaming community’s mindshare, but while the Xbox One hasn’t been able to gain ground, it has at the very least established steady footing again. The process of recovering has been a long and arduous one, but under the leadership of Phil Spencer, Xbox has worked its way back into the hearts and minds of gamers.
A new era of Xbox is now on the horizon, but in order to confidently move towards the future, it’s important to keep in mind lessons from the past. And that’s exactly what this episode of Remember When aims to do. It explores the original pitch for the Xbox One, arguably one of the worst sales pitches of all time, and then charts how Microsoft turned it all around to put Xbox in a strong position to achieve success with the Series X.
Of course, as always, writer and host Kurt Indovina has provided his insight into the process of making this episode, which you can check out below. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out the previous episodes of Remember When on YouTube.
Kurt Indovina: I have to be honest, for most of my life I’ve been a PlayStation fanboy. There’s no denying that I, like so many of us, have got caught up in associating my identity with a brand. I don’t really know when that happened or why, but at some point, I unabashedly picked a side, and that meant scowling at the competition, which was Xbox. But at some point in my old age, I started to care less about the side I was on and started to care more about the medium of video games as a whole. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t merit in understanding why we pick sides, and the competition is ultimately good for the greater industry. The story of the Xbox One is very telling of that.
Back when it was announced in 2013, I remember feeling confused as to what it was and who it was for. Was it something you watched TV on or was it something you played video games on? And why did I have to be online always? And wait, I can’t lend games to my friends? Nothing about its reveal screamed, “Hey, you! Yeah, you, gamer person. This is for you!” Actually, I walked away from that reveal thinking it’d be best for my dad. To me, it was pitched as a sleek all-in-one entertainment system geared towards upper-middle-class dads that wanted to watch football, the Price-is-Right, and occasionally play Call of Duty. At the time, I was no longer on my PlayStation high horse, but I had a hard time convincing myself to care at all about Microsoft’s new console.
Fast forward seven years and it’s kind of weird for me to say this, but, at the end of this generation, I think I may be team Xbox. So, how did this happen? Well, that’s exactly what this entire episode of Remember When is about. For this episode, I wanted to look back on how Microsoft managed to turn the Xbox One from a zero… to, well, a One? X? It’s truly an incredible redemption story. And I don’t think any of this would have happened without the towering success of the PlayStation 4. It was very clear that Microsoft started on the wrong foot, and in order to reposition themselves, it wasn’t about selling units but improving mindshare within its most dedicated audience: the gamers. And without the competition, it’s hard to imagine that Microsoft would have ever learned a lesson.
Needless to say, I can’t wait for what’s next from both Sony and Microsoft the next generation. Furthermore, don’t worry, we’re currently working on a PlayStation equivalent to this style of episode. So be on the lookout for that in the near future.