MICROSOFT: Three not-so-magic numbers

Cynicism is like chocolate. A little bit can be good for you, but too much can be damaging.

Microsoft went into tonight’s E3 press event with a monumental task – overturning weeks of some of the most viscous online commentary the industry has witnessed to convince the world that Xbox One will be a sound purchase this Christmas.

And ignore the forums – tonight’s showcase was at times spectacular.

The range of Xbox One exclusives was very impressive – be it Respawn’s Titanfall, Insomniac’s Sunset Overdrive, Crytek’s Ryse, Capcom’s excellent looking Dead Rising 3 and even – if it’s the sort of thing that tickles your fancy – a new Killer Instinct.

Add Forza 5, D4, Minecraft, Project Spark, Crimson Dragon and Kinect Sports Rivals to that list and you’ve got an impressive line-up that could appeal to a very wide demographic.

But Microsoft made one crucial mistake tonight. And it was a whopper. The last bit of information it offered, and the thought that lingered in the minds of all observers as they either exited the LA auditorium or closed their browser, was three tiny numbers.

Four. Two. Nine.

429. That’s a colossal launch price for any console, let alone one that is being pitched by many as a machine that is a direct attack on consumer rights and ownership.

PS3 launched at 425 and was a sales catastrophe until Sony slashed the price. Hell, Sony had to redesign the console completely to reverse its fortunes.

And don’t forget that Don Mattrick left the E3 stage with exactly the same problems that weighed on his shoulders when he took to it. The Xbox One pre-owned situation is clearer than it once was insofar as we know the machine CAN block pre-owned. But there are still so many crucial questions left unanswered.

Publishers are flat out refusing to confirm their intentions on pre-owned. Retail is all smiles and compliments in public but you can be certain that behind the scenes there is some very deep-rooted concern.

The Xbox One’s online requirements are still hugely unpopular. Even if it’s not ‘always-on’ it’s ‘so-frequently-on’ that in reality there’s little difference. And how many people have studied Microsoft’s complicated policy sheet enough to truly grasp when they can or cannot play or lend their games?

To ask consumers to stomach such a high RRP when this level of uncertainty still surrounds the machine is not just a big ask – it’s a flippin’ huge one.

In a couple of hours Sony takes to the E3 stage to respond. After that we’ll have a far clearer picture.

Should the Japanese firm announce a 299 launch price and no limit on pre-owned then we can effectively declare it game over.

Should it, however, confirm a 400 RRP and reveal that publishers will have the ability to choose their pre-owned strategies (or more likely say absolutely nothing at all on the subject) then the games industry will awake tomorrow with some very serious concerns to ponder.

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