At its E3 2017 briefing this weekend, Microsoft unveiled the most powerful console ever made. The Xbox One X has specs and features that no other home console can match, from true 4K graphics to the most advanced processor to ever appear inside of a console. Not even the PS4 Pro competes with the power of the Xbox One X, but that doesn’t help to answer one very important question:
Who exactly does Microsoft expect to pay $499 for a 4K Xbox One?
I have no doubt that there are Xbox fans out there with 4K TVs and some money saved up that will line up on November 7th to buy an Xbox One X. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the vast majority of consumers don’t own 4K televisions. Yes, it’s true that the Xbox One X will upscale Xbox One games on 1080p TVs as well, but is that really worth $500? After all, anyone can pick up an Xbox One S for $249 right now and still get the added benefit of HDR rendering when and if they decide to upgrade to a 4K TV.
Save for a few outliers, the average consumer doesn’t seem to be the target audience.
So how about hardcore gamers — video game fanatics who are willing to spend thousands on a gaming rigs that will play the latest PC games at 4K resolution and 90FPS? Isn’t “the most powerful console ever” right up their alley? Well, it might have been, but virtually every Xbox One exclusive from here on out will be available on both Xbox and PC. If you own a $2,000+ gaming rig, you’ve basically already got an Xbox One X sitting in your home. Crackdown 3, Forza Motorsport 7, Sea of Thieves — all on PC.
Some gamers simply prefer console to PC, and perhaps those gamers will be willing to spend $250 more on the Xbox One X. But if you’re going to pay a premium, why not go all the way?
I haven’t had a chance to get my hands on it yet, but I imagine that the Xbox One X is a ridiculously impressive piece of hardware. It runs laps around the also impressive PS4 Pro, it’s somehow physically smaller than the Xbox One S and it’s going to make every Xbox One game look and play better. But as desperate as Microsoft and Sony are the kill off the standard console cycle, I don’t think that this is the way to do. Beyond that, I’m positive that this isn’t the right messaging to convince anyone to upgrade.
“HD” meant something a few years ago. It didn’t take long for the average consumer to see the difference between SD and HD. 4K is a much trickier proposition. There’s no doubt that 2160p is a step up over 1080p, but unless you display the images side by side, I’m fairly confident the average consumer won’t know the difference. More importantly, they aren’t going to be willing to pay double to find out if there really is a difference, especially when everything already looks great on an Xbox One S.
As big a deal as Microsoft made this Xbox One X unveiling, it has a tough job ahead of it: Convince everyone that they need a 4K console, even if they don’t have a 4K display to put it on.