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Xbox: “We'll look back on 2016 as our tipping point”

Fresh momentum suggests that Xbox One has overcome its troubled launch

2016 will be looked back upon as a tipping point for Xbox One, the platform holder says.

The console has found itself firmly in second place in all territories around the world, and has largely failed to threaten Sony and its dominant PlayStation 4.

However, since the summer and the launch of Xbox One S in particular, Microsoft has enjoyed some positive momentum. Xbox One has been the best-selling console in certain markets, including the UK, US and Australia, since August, and the firm expects this improvement to continue.

"Since launch, Xbox One S is Britain's best-selling console in 2016," Xbox UK marketing director Harvey Eagle tells GamesIndustry.biz.

"I put that down to a combination of things. Firstly, it is a great product with a great design, and the 4K proposition is resonating very strongly. I think we have a great selection of console bundles for those buying for the first time - particularly with FIFA, Minecraft and Battlefield as the core three options.

"I think we have a great exclusive line-up again this year. Forza Horizon 3 is a great game and really highly rated on Metacritic, and Gears of War 4 is another great example of an exclusive game.

"And with all of that at a price point that has opened us up to being more attractive to more families than ever before."

He continues: "Momentum is really important in this business, because it gives confidence to retailers, publishers and to consumers. We are giving them confidence that they have made a right point. I think we'll look back on 2016 as a tipping point for Xbox One. And as I look forward to 2017, we have some really great things to look forward to that will help us sustain and build on this momentum, including games like Halo Wars 2 and Sea of Thieves, and of course a new Xbox One console in Project Scorpio."

"Our data shows that there is still a significant number of households actively using their Xbox 360 who haven't upgraded yet."

Harvey Eagle, Xbox

An area of focus for Xbox now is to upgrade more Xbox 360 owners to its new platform, something it hopes the backwards compatibility element that was introduced in 2015 will help with.

"Our data shows that there is still a significant number of households actively using their Xbox 360 who haven't upgraded yet," Eagle says. "[The backwards compatibility list] is growing all the time and I think it is definitely a benefit for Xbox 360 owners, to know that the money that they've already spent on games won't get wasted when they upgrade to Xbox One."

It's not all about Xbox One for Microsoft at the moment. The company is also pushing the gaming aspects of Windows 10, too. With such a focus on core console and PC games, one of the challenges Microsoft will face is trying to convince families and kids that Xbox One is a machine for them - and not just hardcore gamers. This is something the firm will need to do if it wants to convince more 360 households to upgrade their hardware.

"No, we're not moving away from that market," Eagle insists. "We have some really great offers right now, particularly with the Minecraft bundle. We've just built a new family hub on Xbox.com, to make sure that people know what is available for them. And also, importantly, how to set up their console securely and safely for Christmas.

"Another thing... our data shows that people are getting into PC gaming at an earlier age. I think that's really interesting. They're used to gaming on a tablet, and as they start to grow, they're playing more games on PC. And they're increasingly likely to want to build their own PC gaming rigs. So for us, with Xbox and Windows 10 gaming at the heart of our strategy, and with features like Xbox Play Anywhere, we think we have a unique opportunity to talk to both console and PC gamers of all ages."

Xbox One S has performed strongly since its launch in September

Xbox One S has performed strongly since its launch in September

Of course, PlayStation remains the dominant force in the console market, and it would be very premature to suggest that the recent momentum Xbox has enjoyed is about to change that. Over Black Friday, PS4 once again found itself back where it's been for most of this generation, at No.1.

Nevertheless, Microsoft will be pleased by the early success of Xbox One S, and it suggests that the platform holder is far from done in this console race.

"People just can't afford to buy everything at once as soon as they come out."

Harvey Eagle, Xbox

Unfortunately, not everyone is enjoying success in the console industry this year. Certain AAA titles have struggled to perform in the boxed space. It's been most pronounced this Christmas, where typically reliable console triple-A products - such as Call of Duty and Watch Dogs - are struggling during their opening weeks on sale.

"It has been a mixed year to-date on some of the big triple-A launches," Eagle concludes.

"Some titles have performed very well. I would reference FIFA 17, Forza Horizon 3 has been selling extremely really well, and I'd put Battlefield 1 in that bracket as well. But certainly others have struggled to fulfill their potential in first week sales. In my view, this is down to a highly congested release window - and you can see that especially in the shooter category. But I do think that the quality games will find their audience over time and will continue to sell. People just can't afford to buy everything at once as soon as they come out.

"We at Microsoft have tried to spread our release schedule more thoughtfully through the year. We had Recore in August, Dead Rising 4 in December, and then we have the likes of Halo Wars 2 and Scalebound and Sea of Thieves in 2017. We have also seen good success commercially from Gears of War 4 and Forza. We think that having our line-up more spread out has helped with that. But of course you have other publishers launching games according to their own schedule, and sometimes you do get congestion. I think that is what has been happening."

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