Whenever a new game console is released, there’s a huge amount of money pumped into marketing the hardware, as well as a push to get it onto store shelves in as many markets as possible. There’s a good reason for that – you need as big a user base as possible, as quickly as possible, to recoup the costs of developing the new machine and start making a profit.
With this new generation of hardware Sony seems to have got that right, whereas Microsoft is in danger of getting it horribly wrong. The reason? Availability.
Back in June at E3, Microsoft announced that it intended to release the Xbox One in 21 countries come launch day in November. However, by August that plan had been revised to just 13 countries. The other eight – including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and Switzerland – now have to wait until 2014.
That was a blow for gamers in those countries, but also for Microsoft, because the PlayStation 4 would gain an advantage simply by being available in those markets. The question then became: How long would gamers be left waiting for the Xbox One in these countries?
Although not officially confirmed yet, it is thought that Microsoft has delayed the launch until the third quarter of 2014. So, at the earliest, some or all of those countries won’t get the Xbox One until July, but it could be as late as September.
When Microsoft originally announced the fact that it would only launch in 13 countries this year, the reason given was to ensure “customers get the best Xbox One experience the first day it is available.” It seems unlikely that this remains the reason they would delay a launch by eight to ten months.
The situation looks worse if you also consider Asia. Microsoft has already confirmed it won’t be releasing the Xbox One in Hong Kong, India, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan until late 2014. Japan also doesn’t have a release date. In total, that’s 14 markets where Microsoft isn’t offering any competition for Sony throughout most of next year.
The Xbox One does not use any brand new tech beyond the revised Kinect hardware. In fact, the internals of the PS4 and Xbox One are very similar. There should be no issues with manufacturing the Xbox, so you have to look to Microsoft’s organisation skills to see why launches are being delayed and staggered months apart. Was this simply not planned well enough?
And could this situation get any worse? Quite easily, actually. A year from now Sony may be in a position to lower the price of the PS4, meaning Microsoft may be launching the Xbox One in some countries with an even greater price differential than the current $100 (or £80 in the UK) gap. Of course, Microsoft could also lower the price of the Xbox One, but that’s a lot of profit being thrown away, especially when you consider the additional costs of marketing surrounding a launch for each new market.
For more on the battle of the new consoles, see our Xbox One versus PlayStation 4 speed showdown article that looks at which is the fastest console. You might also want to read: Why the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One's homogeneity bodes ill for the future of the game console.