It’s only been a few days since the Xbox One launched, and we’re already seeing some impressive sales numbers emerging. The Xbox One is available in 13 markets across the globe, and over one million units are already in the hands of consumers. That’s a solid start for Microsoft out of the gate, but can Redmond overcome its troubled past to compete head-to-head with Sony and Nintendo outside of North America (and the UK)?
Microsoft was quick to point out that Friday was the biggest launch in the history of the Xbox brand. In less than 24 hours, the Xbox One sold through over one million units in Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Spain, United Kingdom, United States and New Zealand. In comparison, Sony reached that same number in North America alone – the PS4 is already out in the US, and has been for a week and a half. However, it won’t launch in Europe until 29 November, and the unfortunate Asian market will have to wait even longer for both consoles.
Traditionally, the Xbox brand hasn’t been particularly strong outside of North America and the UK. The original Xbox sold roughly 15.77 million units in North America, 7.17 million in all of Europe, and just over half a million in Japan. While the Xbox 360 handily outsold the PS3 in the US and Canada, it didn’t fare quite as well in the rest of the world. In Japan, the PS3 sold nearly six times the number of Xbox 360s that were flogged, and it’s even worse when you include handheld systems. Sony’s PSP outsold the Xbox 360 12-to-1, and the Nintendo DS outsold it 20-to-1.
If Microsoft wants to remain relevant in this market, it’s going to need to significantly expand its presence in Europe and Asia. While early reports are claiming strong Xbox One sales in the UK – especially compared to the languid Wii U – Microsoft still has a lot of work ahead of itself if it wants to dethrone Sony as the gaming heavyweight in the rest of the world.
The fact that the Xbox One launched simultaneously in North America and Europe is a good starting point, but there are a number of business decisions that need to take place before the Xbox brand can explode outside of the US, Canada and UK.
First and foremost, Microsoft has to improve its support of mobile devices. Sony and Nintendo both cater to Japan’s love affair with handhelds, but Microsoft is effectively absent. If the Xbox team doesn’t move towards the mobile market, they can kiss Japanese traction goodbye. Redmond recently brought the Halo franchise to phones and tablets, so that’s an encouraging step in the right direction.
After Sega exited the hardware business, there were rumours going around that the Xbox would pick up where the Dreamcast left off. At the time, there were many hopes that Microsoft would be the saviour of Sega, and the Xbox would effectively serve as a Dreamcast sequel. Sadly, that didn’t work out. While attempts were made to revive classics like Panzer Dragoon and Phantasy Star on the original Xbox, there just wasn’t enough momentum to get off the ground. Instead, the Xbox remained focused around Western gaming tastes (namely shooters and sports), and the rest of the world remained attached to Nintendo and Sony platforms.
If Microsoft could relaunch the failed Game Room experiment with beloved international classics, that would certainly help ingratiate the Xbox One among Europeans and the Japanese. After the surprise success of the Killer Instinct reboot, maybe Microsoft could even persuade Double Helix to reboot another franchise like ToeJam & Earl or Alex Kidd exclusively for the Xbox One. Even with the Metal Gear and Final Fantasy franchises shifting away from Sony exclusivity, it’s going to take much more than that to outclass the PS4.
For more on Microsoft's new console, see our closer look at the Xbox One’s launch woes which focuses on Microsoft’s faulty and scuffed consoles, and there’s also 10 things that you should know about Microsoft’s Xbox One. We’ve got a full review of the Xbox One, too.