The short answer to the title – the initial online only reveal at E3 2013, a lack of system sellers and the PlayStation 4. The Xbox One irrevocably lost this generation and, unlike the PlayStation 3 from the previous generation, ended up playing all the wrong cards. Both consoles had botched releases, insane price tags and no games to show for at launch but then how did the PS3 still recover? To understand the fate of Microsoft and the Xbox brand, the more appropriate question to ask is, how did the Xbox 360 win?
Unlike the Xbox One, the 360 was in almost every console gamer's home. Yet, the only noteworthy exclusive titles it had were the Mass Effect series, Halo, Gears of War and the Forza series. That is measly compared to even the PS3's line up of exclusives. What it had though, was consistency. The Xbox 360 was priced cheaper, had better performance and much crisper visuals compared to the PS3's cell processing goodness. It was just the definitive console to have for the all-purpose gamer. All multiplatform games ran better on the Xbox 360, this was a given. And ultimately, despite Sony's best efforts to release stellar exclusives, Microsoft was way too ahead at that point with the Xbox 360.
Closing off the seventh generation, and Microsoft are hot on their heels with the success of the 360. At E3 2013, both the Xbox One and the PS4 were making their respective debuts. This is when Don Mattrick, former president at the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, decides to put on quite the show for everyone. It was a mishmash of always-online features, TV, sports, Kinect and multimedia. The real kicker for everyone was the Xbox One's confusing DRM policies and the more expensive price tag. But they took all of that stuff away and Xbox became just about games again, right? True but they didn't capitalise on that and even if they did, negative press almost never works out favourably in business.
Xbox One's DRM policies were so poorly explained that they made the console sound like something which always had to be online, which always needed the Kinect for verification and wouldn't allow proper game sharing. There was a lot more to the policies, most notably being able to play games straight from your HDD after installing a game for the first time using the CD. Xbox had already lost.
So they took away the DRM always-online gimmick before launch but it had no games. The PS4 had the same titles plus a couple of exclusives. You'd think that at least the Xbox One was going to perform better than the PS4. That didn't happen either because both consoles ran games at a native 1080p resolution where the PS4 would even outperform its dreaded competitor. Fast forward to 2018, and almost all multiplatform games have a lower resolution on the Xbox One than on the PS4. But the PS4 didn't have worthy exclusives back in 2013. This is further validated by comparing sales figures from 2013, where the PS4 sold 4.2 million copies whereas the Xbox One pushed 3 million. While it was still a large margin, the gap was going to get larger.
As of right now, the PS4 has been bought and sold over 79 million times whereas, Microsoft has only been able to push around 37 million consoles into homes. And it's all to the credit of Sony's brilliant first party titles and the on-par performance of multiplatform games. For each wrong move on Xbox's part, Sony did ten more rights this generation.
After Don Mattrick was fired, Phil Spencer was brought in to correct a lot of his mistakes. And so the war of marketing began, where Xbox touted their device as the most powerful console there ever was showing off the teraflops and the gigahertz. On the flipside, Sony kept on promoting their first party titles. You'd think that after five years of being bullied around by Sony, Microsoft would learn. And yet, it's still Halo, Forza and Gears of War that remain as Xbox's main first parties. Whatever chance they had with conjuring up new first party titles was done once Scalebound was axed and when Ashen was delayed. It's hard to even recall any news regarding Xbox One exclusives because of how much they kept going on about “the power”.
And thus this power brings us right where we are now – the Xbox One X. Released 7 November, 2017, the console is truly the most powerful one ever made. But in a world where both the major consoles have x86 architecture at their core, it's really hard for developers to make a game poorly optimised for one and not for the other. And given all the marketing that went behind the Xbox One X's power, it's almost sad that God of War and Detroit which are both PS4 exclusives are the best looking games of this generation.
There's an old curse that console makers have been a victim of for ages and it entails – first a success, then a hit and lastly a miss. It dates back to 1983, with Nintendo releasing the NES followed by the SNES to great success only to be undone by the Virtual Boy. It's happened in this decade with Sony's successful launch with the PS1 and the untouchable PS2 which they followed up with the botched PS3. And the same can be said about the Xbox now. The original Xbox just ran every game better than the PS2, and the Xbox 360 was the definitive home console. What led the Xbox One to its grave is the same that led all other misses to theirs – arrogance and the inability to adapt. The PS3 kind of did pull itself back which meant that Sony could release the PS4 and Nintendo's made of money so they could afford to take risks. But the Xbox division is a small part of a major company. It isn't a very profitable division either. So, if the Xbox can't let go of this obsession they have with power and entertainment, then they cease to exist as a gaming console in which case I guess, the term console wars would just become irrelevant. GGWP, Sony.
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