There’s a general expectation that Microsoft and Sony will be launching their new consoles (I would say “next generation consoles”, but Microsoft and Nintendo have done an excellent job of ensuring that the generational terminology and nomenclature we are all used to is more or less meaningless at this point) some time soon. Most rumors assure us that it will happen by next year. I think the general expectation is that it will happen next year, presumably by the end of the Holiday shopping season.
Nintendo did the smart thing with the Switch, where they realized that their hardware is unique and distinct enough that they no longer need to adhere to the traditional “generations” timeframe to launch their systems, and they can just… launch them whenever they want. Therefore, in the smack dab of a random year like 2017, they launched the Switch, and that worked out for them. Presumably, they will follow that kind of pattern going forward.
Logic dictates that Microsoft and Sony also follow patterns that have been successful for them with their new console launches—but what are those, exactly? For Sony, the answer is simple—launch your new console whenever you want, really, and it will be successful. They’ve performed great by launching theirs around the Holiday shopping season, and I see no reason to suspect that the PS5 may suddenly buck the trend and launch in March (except maybe in Japan, where it may launch a few months later than in the rest of the world, like the PS4 did).
But Microsoft, Microsoft has had three consoles—and one was very successful, while the other two were kind of middling when it comes to how they did. The Xbox and Xbox One both launched in the Holiday season alongside their competitors (Xbox launched alongside GameCube, Xbox One alongside PS4). Those didn’t do that well. The Xbox 360 also launched in the Holiday season—but it launched a year earlier than the PS3 did, and that assured it some early momentum and success that let Microsoft have a successful generation.
The next Xbox, whatever it is, is not coming out this year. While I think that would be the most beneficial for Microsoft (though they would end up creating friction among those who bought the Xbox One X less than two years ago), all evidence dictates and indicates it’s not happening this year. Not only do all rumors and leaks peg it at next year, but it’s very clear that the third party development community is not yet ready to launch games for new hardware. But, with that said, I think the basic principle still applies—Microsoft should work at launching their console appreciably before Sony launches theirs. Which means, at the very least a few months—the more, the better.
The best thing for Microsoft to do would be to launch the Xbox Scarlett (or whatever it ends up being called) in early 2020, ala Nintendo Switch. As the Switch demonstrated, there are multiple benefits to having an isolated, early year launch:
- You’re not sharing your launch window with anyone else (so if the Xbox 4 sells 3 million at launch, the news will be that it sold 3 million at launch, not that it sold 3 million while PS5 sold 4 million).
- You get to build up a healthy install base going into the Holiday season, when you can try to sell your console to the larger mass market.
- An early launch means you get to address any kinks or issues well ahead of Holiday season. If the OS needs work, or there are hardware shortages, or the lineup is lacking, Microsoft gets the chance to work on that for the next few months, and have the Xbox 4 be in its best possible state in the Holiday season when they push it to the mass market (versus a hypothetically Holiday launching PS5, which will be launching with all the bugs and issues that system launches are usually characterized by).
- You get the benefit of marketing at some advertising venues for your launch you otherwise wouldn’t; events such as the Super Bowl, the Oscars, Emmy’s, The Game Awards, and more, which Nintendo leveraged in their marketing for the Switch to lethal effect.
All of this, plus the headstart gives Microsoft buffer. Even if the PS5 has a record breaking launch, the Xbox keeps pace with it by definition, because it already has a lead-in of units sold. If Microsoft feels it necessary, the Xbox can see a price drop to undercut the PS5 (which is far easier a few months after launch than it is right at launch). Microsoft gets to sell a console that already has a healthy library of games available on it, versus the PS5, which launches with its launch lineup, and then has to build its library from there.
There is, all around, nothing but advantages for Microsoft if they choose to launch before PS5, and launch earlier in the year. And I think that’s what they should do with their next console. While it’s not necessary for the Xbox 4 to launch ahead of the PS5 to be able to keep pace with it, it will make Microosft’s job far easier if they do do that. Launching alongside the PS5, which will be succeeding the market leader, is stacking the deck against yourself unnecessarily—you can still come back from that, but you’ve made it that much harder to, and there’s just the chance that you not come back from it at all.
So that’s where we are—I think Microsoft should launch the next Xbox ahead of the PS5. While a year’s headstart would be ideal, as the Xbox 360 demonstrated, I also know that’s not plausible, and won’t happen. I get that. Fine. At the very least, then, I hope that Microsoft will launch earlier in the year next year, and give themselves the buffer of a few months, to prime themselves to go toe to toe with Sony in the next round of the console wars.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.