Boxing clever

Boxing clever
It might originally have been based upon the surprise birth of a little fella in a barn over 2000 years ago, but things have changed. In the games industry and at retail, Christmas has become an all or nothing scrapfest for the consumer pound.

And of the three platform holders, it is Microsoft making the most aggressive moves. With 360’s Arcade SKU just 30 pounds more than a new PS2 and the 60GB model a tenner less than Wii, it’s clear that value for money is the basis for its big Christmas blitz.

“I think we offer now – and have done for quite a while – unparalled value,” senior regional director of Microsoft UK Neil Thompson tells MCV. “We’re giving consumers a really strong reason to come and enjoy the platform. What the competition do is down to them and they’ll have to figure that out.”

Third party time
The news was bound to cause shockwaves across the trade – not least within Sony and Nintendo’s UK offices. For third parties publishing on Xbox 360 though, it’s bound to be a real boost.

And not only that, Thompson has made it abundantly clear that Microsoft is not just cutting the price of its console – it has wide-ranging initiatives running across the trade to maximise sales in this peak period.

“We do a lot of work with third party publishers and will continue to do that in order to bring the right content to the platform and make sure people are aware of the range and scope of what the content will be,” says Thompson.

“It’s obvious that we do invest in the whole ecosystem – everybody involved in the Xbox platform, be it publishers, retailers, or people publishing content online. We want to ensure everybody in that ecosystem is benefiting from it and we invest where we can.”

360-degree marketing
Microsoft has plenty to say above the line too – and while Xbox’s appeal was built on titles like Halo 3 and Gears of War in previous years, this push seems to be taking a more general approach.

“On marketing we’ll spend tens of millions – it’s fair to say that we’re going to engage in a very bold marketing push from now until Christmas,” reveals Thompson.

“We have the widest range of content – be that gaming, HD movies or music. You are definitely going to see Xbox as a very visible player in the market. We are very confident in what we can achieve this year.”

With this much investment, Microsoft means business. But with this amount of cash at stake, what is this year’s target? Maintaining a lead over PS3?

“Christmas will be a success if we sell the units that are in the market, irrespective of what anyone else does,” adds Thompson.

“I have been very bullish about the supply that retail has taken on board this Christmas.

“I think we’re going to sell lots of units and I think retail feels that they’ve had an incredibly successful year with the Xbox. What we have to remember is that it’s not just about the console you sell, it’s about how much software you can attach, how many accessories you can attach to that, and many Live points you can sell through that.”

Gearing up for war
The battle lines have been drawn and Microsoft is up for the fight. With eye-catching pricing, a big range of games and a huge marketing campaign ahead, the pressure is on Sony and Nintendo to respond. Will Microsoft’s rivals be able to resist a similar drop in price?

The next few months are sure to be absolutely fascinating...

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