Microsoft is losing control of the next-gen console conversation
April 10, 2013
Microsoft has a messaging issue when it comes to their rumored next-gen Xbox. They don't have any messages, which is the issue.
After the break, let's look at how Microsoft is losing the PR battle.
Here's what we know for sure..
Doesn't matter how ridiculous Microsoft's offering is. It will sell. Why? Because the number of people that play the next COD/BF and Madden/FIFA game absolutely dwarfs any other type of user. They're also the same group that is least likely to want to mess with having multiple systems, or integrating a game system with another streaming media box. One system, CoD/BF and Madden/FIFA every year, and Netflix. Oh, and they are already conditioned to pay a subscription fee just to access the ability to pay the subscription fee for those games and services.
The situation is funny because Microsoft should've seen the kind of damage pre-release negative speculation did to the Windows 8 brand. Because the media got to frame the discussion in lieu of facts, all anyone heard for months was how terrible Windows 8 was. When the product actually came out in a public beta, many people had already decided it was awful and any positives had to struggle through the bad opinion. As Tom and I discussed in the podcast, Microsoft marketing is in a tough situation. They can't jump the gun and confirm the terrible rumors, but they need to take control of the conversation.
Does the current Xbox conversation even matter to average Xbox customers? Maybe the rumor mill's power is relegated only to enthusiasts, and the targeted mainstream consumer simply isn't aware or doesn't care.
That's where I think your comparison to Windows 8 doesn't apply here. Mainstream computer users don't buy new operating systems. They use whatever is pre-installed on their latest machine, and Windows 7 works fine, so why upgrade? Conversely, mainstream console users have a greater incentive to upgrade when the benefits are more obvious, e.g. better graphics, exclusive new software.
Remember that most consoles largely sell to enthusiasts in their first year or so on the market. Mainstream consumers are far more likely to wait until a price drop and/or a good amount of highly-rated/popular software actually available in stores, rather than dropping $500 on the strength of promises.
Enthusiasts being this visibly unhappy with something before it's even announced is *bad*.
That's a great question. Will the bad Xbox rumors matter to mainstream consumers? I don't think anyone can predict that with any certainty, but we've seen past examples of enthusiasts influencing the general narrative before product launch. Sometimes this can bleed into the mainstream press and ripple through to the regular shoppers.
For starters, do the average Xbox consumers even buy consoles at launch? Enthusiasts are the ones that spend hundreds of dollars on a product sight unseen.
I'm not certain where your average consumer gets their information from (but certainly they get information from SOMEWHERE, right? they're not making major purchases in the dark?), but the problem here is that there is no positive news. Blog posts criticizing the Durango before it's even out get thrown around facebook and eventually rumors take on the weight of facts.
It's bizarre that this is even a problem. I'd think that negative rumors would be good for Microsoft, so that when they release a console that has none of the things everyone was worried about, it will seem like they actively did something good, rather than passively avoided something bad.