Sony leads in early console sales, but does Microsoft have a plan?

In the next stage of the battle between Sony and Microsoft, Sony has taken an early but somewhat predictable lead. At launch, the two PlayStation 5 systems have reportedly sold between 2.1 to 2.5 million units, while the Xbox’s managed between 1.2 to 1.4 million. This, coming off the previous generation where the PS4 sold over 107 million units compared to Xbox One’s 46 million. While this could demonstrate a continued pattern going forward, there are some indications that Microsoft’s more progressive attitude could serve them well in the long run.

New Sales Systems

As a baseline, both new sets of consoles will continue the traditional method of a single payment. These are $499 for the PS5 disc model and the Xbox Series X, and $399 and $299 for the PS5 digital model and Xbox Series S respectively. Microsoft has gone a step further, however, allowing users to take 24-month plans for the X and S at $35 and $25.

While this might not sound ground-breaking by itself, the big factor here is the inclusion of the Game Pass Ultimate. When active, this subscription service gives players unlimited access to over a hundred new and established releases in the Xbox library, including games like Gears 5, Control, Doom Eternal, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Note that these games also extend to offerings from EA and Zenimax, extending the possibilities for players even further.

A More Welcoming Entry-Point

Two major problems affect the early adopters of new consoles. The first is the cost, which can prohibit the purchasing of games. The second is a lack of launch-titles, making early systems often feel wasted. Through this alternative funding scheme, Microsoft has a way to address both of these issues, making player’s money go even further than it would with traditional purchases.

For a better illustration, consider how much it would cost to fully obtain a Series X with the monthly funding plan. 24 months times $35 works out to $840 total. On top of this, we could add how much the Ultimate Game Pass itself would cost outside of this bundle, which is $25 a month. Over 24 months, this would add up to $600. In other words, by going the monthly payment route, those who buy the Series X would end up with $1,099 of value for a total cost of $840, a non-insignificant saving.

As for the lack of a launch title library, this is addressed through Series X’s extensive backward-compatibility library. Most games from the Xbox One line work perfectly on the new Series’, with the bonus of better graphics and smoother or higher frame-rates. Eventually, as they arrive, new games on the Game Pass will overcome this issue as well, meaning players don’t have to miss out.

The Precedent of Bonuses

Though new for console gaming, Microsoft’s ideas for the Series X and S tie into established patterns in other forms of media.. Though the combination of bonuses and extra convenience, many other platforms have gone on to usurp the popularity of more traditional systems, and this exactly what Microsoft is trying to emulate.

Perhaps the most visible example of this to the average user are streaming services like Showmax and Netflix. From limited beginnings with slower internet connections, the ability of these systems to offer vast libraries at a fee lower than cable packages has led to a slow but steady takeover. In the last ten years alone, Netflix has gone from 20 million subscribers to 195 million, with a solid 20% CAGR since 2016.

Online casinos are another industry that has succeeded through a similar approach. While not relying on subscription systems, the casinos listed at sites like Vegas Slots Online find a good portion of their success through the application of bonus systems. Here, cashback, deposit matches, and free spins all help players stay engaged longer and for cheaper than traditional systems might. Again, combined with a massive assortment of titles, their continued popularity seems inevitable.

All made possible through the internet and the digital age, other systems working across this path appear in practically all forms of entertainment. Music has systems like Spotify, audiobooks have Audible, and even mobile computer gaming has made progress with streaming services like Stadia. This side of the entertainment looks to be the way forward, it’s just a matter of who in video games will take the first big step.

(Source: Pixabay)

Though it’s too early to tell if Microsoft’s gambit will pay off, there is no doubting the value that its new approach will offer consumers. As for whether these benefits will cause diehard Sony fans to jump ship, this might be a bit of a stretch. At the very least, in the next few years, we wouldn’t be surprised to see PlayStation follow suit with a similar payment system.


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