Since the less-than-stellar response to the launch of the Xbox One back in 2013, the Xbox team has tried to close the gap with the immensely popular Playstation 4. Sony’s console has dominated this generation of systems, perhaps in part due to the negative word of mouth concerning the Xbox One prior to its release. Microsoft’s latest offering didn’t have backwards compatibility with the Xbox 360, used games were an issue, and it was always turned on. Not all of these things were true, of course, but the effect on sales of the platform was profound.
And now, as a response to their customer base, the Xbox team announced that a November update will introduce backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 titles, as well as introduce Windows 10 functionality. The update is close to a complete overhaul of the platform. In addition, the Xbox’s flagship title, Halo, will soon make its appearance on the Xbox One, which will almost certainly boost sales. But will this be enough to catch up with the PS4?
As though waiting to answer that very question, the Playstation team announced Thursday that the PS4 will receive a price cut — putting the system at $349.99, which will give Sony yet another edge going into this holiday season. And now, Videogamer reports that Xbox team leader Phil Spencer spoke on the console wars during a panel at the 2015 GeekWire summit. His response to whether Xbox One could close the gap was less than heartening:
“You know, I don’t know. You know, the length of the generation… They [Sony] have a huge lead and they have a good product.”
Spencer went on to say that at the product’s launch, the Xbox had “fundamentally lost the trust of our most loyal customers.” He cited backwards compatibility as an example of something that wouldn’t necessarily sell millions more consoles, but was something Microsoft wanted to do, as a means of demonstrating its loyalty to consumers. Spencer claimed that, at his organization, “we’re not motivated by beating Sony, we’re motivated by gaining as many customers as we can.”
At the moment, Playstation 4 sales hover around 25 million units versus the Xbox One’s 10 million, so maybe it’s a good idea for the Xbox team to not pay attention to the numbers. But the outlook isn’t entirely bleak: Spencer noted that PC gaming is the “next horizon” for the Xbox team, making the goal to unite PC and Xbox gamers, who are often the same audience, on Xbox Live. Controller parity between the platforms, as well as keyboard and mouse support for the Xbox One are also all things that will reportedly happen.
So while a world of new possibilities will open up for Xbox One owners with November’s game-changing update, it seems unlikely that Microsoft’s console will close the gap with the PS4 before the history books close on this generation. Sony’s lead is staggering, and their perfectly timed price drop will only improve upon that lead.
But then again, there are a lot of disgruntled Xbox 360 owners who, up to now, have been waiting for a good reason to upgrade to the next generation. Maybe they’ll pull the trigger this November.