Piers Harding-Rolls, the head of games at analyst firm IHS Screen Digest, has set out his demands of what Microsoft must do at the New Xbox reveal tomorrow night…
The competitive landscape for games consoles is more complex than ever. Against this background, Microsoft is poised to reveal its next generation console with the target of standing out not only from Sony and Nintendo, but also from Apple, Google and Samsung and the multitude of alternative devices, platforms and channels that are encroaching on the established home entertainment industry.
IHS identifies three core strategies Microsoft needs to reveal on 21st May:
1. Take Xbox Live To The Most Popular Smartphones and Tablets
Core to maintaining console-device relevance in the home entertainment device battleground is engaging the audience on personal devices that are either used around the home or out and about. This means making Xbox Live services and content available on Apple and Google OS devices, as well as Microsoft's own Windows Phone and tablet products. IHS is looking for Microsoft to reveal a comprehensive roadmap which takes the current companion app strategy and delivers consumer access to Xbox Live-based video, music and games content on the most popular smartphones and tablets.
Microsoft must aggressively support competing smartphone platforms with its new Xbox strategy because of the weakness of its own mobile efforts. In 2013, Apple's iPhone and Google's Android will together represent 91% of the installed base of smartphones worldwide. By contrast, Microsoft's Windows Phone platform will decline to just 3% of the smartphone base from its 20% share in 2005, the year the Xbox 360 launched.
2. Double Down On Games and Interactive Content
Since the launch of the Xbox 360 in 2005 as a pure gaming machine, Microsoft pioneered the evolutionary role of the console as a hub for home entertainment. Now in 2013, Xbox 360 is one of many devices that serve video, broadcast and music content to the home. While it becomes increasingly hard to differentiate in broader entertainment terms, Microsoft continues to be very strongly positioned across high-end games content and online games services. This games offering anchors the broader entertainment positioning of the Xbox platform and will provide a defensive perimeter against potential new market entrants such as Apple and Google in the TV gaming space. As such, IHS will be looking for a heavier accent on high-end and exclusive games experiences than we have seen from Microsoft over the last two years.
Microsoft saw its console installed base market share increase from 14 per cent for the Xbox to 31 per cent for the Xbox 360 pursuing a strategy centred on the gamer.
3. Deliver Innovative & Exclusive Entertainment Experiences
Aside from games exclusives, which will continue to hold significant sway with early adopters, Microsoft has the tools and opportunity to deliver innovative entertainment experiences at the intersection of broadcast, video content and interactive entertainment. Dual-screening and play along experiences using Xbox SmartGlass, a next-generation Kinect interface and 'interactive' broadcast content - particularly sports - are all areas where Microsoft could carve out a unique role in the market setting it aside from the competition. IHS believes that a combination of smaller exclusive offerings taken together will help provide Microsoft marketing ammunition to drive next-gen Xbox sales.
What Else Do We Want To See?
· Make the platform easy to develop for and port to - to remove barriers to platform entry by content partners, to compete with smartphones and tablets that are easier to develop for
· Open up the publishing process for games - to remove barriers to platform entry by content partners, to compete with other, more open, distribution channels
· Adopt freemium monetisation models for games - to enable audience engagement, flexible monetisation and alignment to other high-growth games segments
· Develop a roadmap for the introduction of streaming games content and services - to allow impulse purchase of content, allow try-before-you-buy demos and corner the high-end on-demand experience to the living room
· Offer day and date digital availability of AAA games - to drive high margin digital sales to offset smaller packaged games sales
· Extend the subsidised pricing strategy for Xbox Live subscribers to other territories - to offset incoming competition from cheaper TV gaming devices
· Wrap social discovery features around Xbox Live - to leverage multi-screen deployment of Xbox Live and drive user engagement and acquisition
· A new user interface that successfully reflects a next-generation experience but that is also aligned to existing Metro UIs - to maintain UI consistency across Microsoft products