If there is one thing I respect when it comes to business, it’s a good marketing campaign. The ability to craft a narrative, a story and a value proposition out of the limited set of tools available has always been a skill I respect. With the Xbox One slowly losing ground in terms of sales and exclusives in comparison to Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft has been forced to craft a unique value proposition with its marketing. That proposition has become about creating value, but without using exclusives or unique features (e.g. portability). Relaying value for a game’s console is quite straightforward when you have an industry disruptive feature or a large variety of exclusives, but Microsoft doesn’t have either of those.
This has created a struggle for the Xbox with how its value proposition should be relayed. How does a company easily explain what a platform offers and how it continues to add value? Traditionally, announcements and press releases would be made, but that requires other companies to pick up news. This can be problematic at times, after all, not all news sites are going to see the same things as newsworthy and neither will consumers see every piece as worthy of reading. If you have a lot of announcements but many of them are not the most—at least on the surface—interesting, you need a new way to deliver that information in a package that people enjoy.
Enter in, Inside Xbox.
For all the failings that the Xbox One may have in terms of the offering, Inside Xbox has served as a succinct and effective flag bearer when it comes to explaining why you need an Xbox One. Each month, Inside Xbox takes whatever news related to the Xbox brand may exist, big or small, and packages that news in an interesting and engaging way that takes the time to explain why it is a benefit to the consumer. Each segment is focused on reinforcing this concept, even when it is about a title not specifically for Xbox, the focus on the value proposition is never lost.
Announcing new games is to be expected, and is straightforward in terms of marketing. A new game coming out is exciting in its own right, it offers new experiences to be explored and all marketing needs to do is simply hint at some of those that you will experience. However, for Microsoft, new exclusives deserve a bit more fan fair, largely because of the lack of exclusives on the console. If Sony or Nintendo were to feature a large segment of a monthly show on exclusives, it would be a regular segment that would take a large amount of time just briefly going over the titles. Microsoft, on the other hand, needs to make the most of what little they have, and they do.
Sea of Thieves, regardless of one’s opinions of it, took center stage on the premiere of Inside Xbox’s first episode. Each aspect of the game was delved into and featured. Whole sections of the show were devoted to how the game’s music was developed, designing the game’s world, features worth mentioning, and how the game has been shaped based off of the community. All of these various points were delved into, to take what was simply a new game being released, and elevate it into something larger. To further this effort, Microsoft releases a series of additional, Sea of Thieves branded items to accompany the announcements that served as giveaways that were handed out to the community of those who engaged with the stream via social media.
From a marketing standpoint, it managed to hit all the points. Taking the single game being released and turning it into something larger by highlighting the process, creating interest through additional items, as well as the game itself, and creating an incentive with those branded items to interact and become engaged with the stream. By having all these items together working in tandem, Sea of Thieves became more than just a game, it became a moment to behold.
If there is one major strength Microsoft has maintained throughout this console cycle, has been its ability to continually add new features. In the past, these have been communicated through specific videos devoted to these updates.
Now with the advent of Inside Xbox, many of these features and updated are communicated in the same show. Whats different now is where a series of features would be simply mentioned, now would go into far greater detail in how they benefit the player. Take the recent announcement of FreeSync being now supported on Xbox One, in the past, this might have been a short announcement or simply a bullet point on a list. With Inside Xbox, this turned into a full feature where not only was the announcement made, but it was also explained, the benefits were made apparent, and how it all tied together was shown to the audience; it took an update, and evolved it into something more.
Finally, Microsoft has taken a unique approach when it has come to promoting non-new games by giving many of them their own sections…assuming it somehow relates back to Xbox. The most obvious is the inclusion of backward compatibility into the show, which has become one of the Xbox’s strongest points in terms of features and something everyone is curious to learn. It is something that is expected to be announced, but what games are going to be announced is always a mystery both leading up to the show and within the show itself.
But the other, more important feature that Inside Xbox has managed to craft into its own promotional tool, updates to other games. In the most recent episode of Inside Xbox, Ghost Recon: Wildlands‘ latest content was delved into, which features Splinter Cell’s very own, Sam Fisher. While Ghost Recon: Wildlands and other titles featured in these segments are typically multi-platform, they all have a slight tilt towards Xbox for a few reasons.
The first is the titles chosen for these segments all have a slight inclination towards Xbox as a brand, Splinter Cell is often associated with Xbox largely because of its original entries doing well on the platform and the iconic night-vision goggles. Far Cry 5, which was featured on the first Inside Xbox, has a history of having unique exclusives for previous Xbox consoles. In both cases, each title featured both had a past being associated with the Xbox brand. Additionally, both titles skew towards what the Xbox brand has always been associated with, the shooter genre. Be it third person or first, thanks to franchises such as Gears of War and Halo, Xbox has always been associated with shooters. Finally, it’s because of these factors and that they are featured on Inside Xbox relates them all back to the Xbox brand, even if they aren’t exclusives. With all these links to the Xbox brand and the inclusion of them on a show devoted to Xbox, they all become related to the Xbox One, even with them being on other consoles. If you want to play Far Cry 5 or Ghost Recon: Wildlands, you play it on Xbox One. Not because you can’t elsewhere, but because those brands are Xbox One and the Xbox One is about those brands.
Overall, Inside Xbox has proven that even with Microsoft lacking when it comes to exclusives like the PlayStation 4, or the portability of the Nintendo Switch, it can still stay in the fight through one of its greatest strengths, Marketing. At each point, Microsoft’s marketing has made an incredible effort to not only make consumers aware of what is offered but also what brands are part of the Xbox brand. The culmination of all this effort has become Inside Xbox and it has made a fantastic show of it by taking the Xbox brand to new heights.