Microsoft’s next generation console arrived in the US and Europe as midnight rolled around the globe, and thousands of customers lined up to get their hands on the Xbox One.
The arrival of the new Xbox in the United States means the months of posturing through press and marketing are over and the console war has begun in earnest.
Sony’s PlayStation 4 launched a week ago, selling 1 million units in just 24 hours to shatter every previous record for console sales.
While many pundits will doubtlessly focus on that figure, Microsoft doesn’t necessarily have to beat it to come out on top financially.
Reports claim that Microsoft is close to breaking even on its manufacturing costs for the console, and that may mean that it will have more staying power to back the console with long-term marketing support.
Adding to that, more consumers than ever are using their consoles for media streaming more than actual games, which makes the Xbox One’s ability to control tv and cable set top boxes a good bet with a larger audience outside of the core gaming demographic.
This of course means that developers could find themselves competing even more with TV and movies for entertainment hours, but that’s always been something of an issue with living room entertainment.
Even if this is the first device with the power to conjure the best of Hollywood, music, and games with a few words, it’s only making it easier for people to do what they’ve always done while sitting on a couch.
The inclusion of TV and motion control might do a lot to widen the console’s appeal, but from a development aspect the most interesting feature might be that Microsoft has said the device can serve as its own development kit.
Widening the market for games is good, but giving that entire audience access to the tools to enter the creative process is better.
The hardware powering the systems might be very similar, but the companies have chosen two very different strategies.
While Sony is certainly doing well – so well it’s tough to imagine Microsoft beating the staggering day-one sales of the PlayStation 4 – its success looks to have come from the core gaming demographic, and Microsoft could have a good shot of tapping into the bigger market of casual gamers opened up by smartphones and Nintendo’s Wii.
Over time this could develop into a sort of asymmetrical warfare; battles like the console launch might weight numbers to one side or the other, but it will take more than just a glance at sales figures to determine a winner.
Whichever platform holder is able to monetize its audience better will have the upper hand in the long run, and for that they’re going to need games developers.
Stay tuned for more from Develop in the coming days and weeks as we talk to devs about what they think the systems offer them now that they’re in the hands of the public, and what they plan on doing to take advantage of the opportunity.