As the PlayStation 5 continually, albeit slowly, leaks more information into the public sphere, it has left many wondering where Microsoft is currently? And just as predictably as the initial question being asked, the first answer found—typically—has everyone jumping to conclusions. So what happened when any hint of information regarding Microsoft’s new game console was revealed? Exactly that.
hardly anyone has them[Project Scarlett], and they’re nowhere near final. That’s why you’re hearing a lot of nonsense about them not being powerful etc. Microsoft wants to surprise Sony this time
— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) November 30, 2019
(Tom Warren – Senior Editor at The Verge)
Shortly after that, the speculation began on something being wrong with fans making claims that Microsoft is behind or something is amiss, and Sony will have the upper hand. Of course, as others more knowledgeable in the Twitter thread stated, in the grand scheme of things, this mostly doesn’t matter. Specifically citing that developers likely already have the target specifications and will be working on PC for a large portion of their development anyway—only needing the final developer kits until the later stages of their products.
But it is this short bit of negative speculation that got me wondering, why would Microsoft want to take their time finalizing their specifications? Well, I believe the answer can be found when looking back at 2013.
When Microsoft revealed the Xbox One to the world, along with its price, the reaction was adverse, to say the least. Not only was it more expensive than a PlayStation 4 at launch, but it was also weaker, required Kinect, and flirted with the idea of being always connected and banning used games; things were not looking good for Microsoft at the time. Ever since those adolescent years of the Xbox One, Microsoft has been trying its hardest to reclaim the ground it had lost with, arguably, industry-defining results.
The return of backward compatibility was met with joy from the entirety of the gaming community and was only loved more when original Xbox games were added as well. Xbox Game Pass has become quickly one of the best examples of how a Netflix like model could be applied to games and game purchases in general. And who can forget the Xbox One X & S? The mid-console cycle jump that put Microsoft as the current console power-house and the entry-level console with the best price point this generation. Microsoft didn’t just succeed in making up lost ground, but it set itself up with a strong foundation to propel itself into the next generation, assuming they don’t make the same mistakes.
It is this portion right here that my theory stems from. Microsoft has built the Xbox brand up so well since its disaster of a launch in 2013, that the main issues holding it back are from that initial launch in 2013. So what would be the one thing that Microsoft could do to correct that problem? Make sure what happened before doesn’t happen again, and to do that, playing cautiously to not step too out of bounds from Sony.
To me, this makes perfect sense.
Allowing Sony to make some of the first moves in an effort to mitigate and adjust the course of action of Microsoft is a safe course of action. It allows Microsoft to evaluate its position as time goes on. While there are specific deadlines for decisions to be made, by keeping as flexible as possible for as long as Microsoft can for the Xbox, they can better their chances to avoid the fiasco that was the Xbox One’s launch, and that must be avoided at all cost. If there is one key thing to take away from Microsoft’s flubs in 2013, is that no matter how well a company may do to correct the mistakes of a console’s launch afterward, it can never truly recover. It can make strides, make a dent, and indeed still have a successful product life, but it will never be able to achieve what it could have if it only came out the gate with a fighting chance.
When it comes down to it, while Sony is historically better when it comes to exclusive games, Microsoft outperforms when it comes to new features, and it is here where I want to see competition blossom. I want to see Microsoft try to expand its exclusive offerings better, and I want to see Sony have a real desire to improve its overall features and offerings outside of games. So take your time with Project Scarlet, Microsoft, and don’t feel pressured by Sony to jump into the pool if you’re not ready just yet. The next generation to come will likely last another several years, and we would all benefit, including yourself, if you have a comparable product that forces Sony to compete more vigorously than this current generation of consoles.