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Microsoft Launches Xbox One X But Sony Will Remain Console Platform Number One

by David Mercer | Nov 07, 2017

The latest iteration of Microsoft’s Xbox games console platform, the Xbox One X, launches today in 35 countries. Microsoft is pitching it as the world’s most powerful console, and the specifications back up this claim to a large extent. Those specs alone will be enough to persuade some early adopters across Microsoft’s fan base, as well as a few from the Sony camp, to invest $499 to get access to the best TV-based gaming experience currently available.

The Xbox One X allows games developers to offer 4K-native games, together with visuals enhanced with HDR (High Dynamic Range), Wide Colour Gamut and faster frame rates (up to 60Hz). It is the developer’s decision as to how or whether these capabilities are deployed: they may choose to use them at selected points in the material or not at all. But wherever these technologies are available they will be signaled by the “Enhanced” label on games titles. If games use HDR, then this is also clearly labelled. 70 Enhanced titles will be available in week one, and in total more than 160 new and existing games will be offered with enhanced capabilities.

I am fortunate enough to have been using a pre-launch Xbox One X hooked up to an LG HDR OLED TV. The experience with games like Forza Motorsport 7 and FIFA 18 is spectacular, and we really are getting close to the long-held ambition of photo-realism during gameplay. The Ultra HD Blu-ray player is a nice bonus (and not included in Sony’s PS4 Pro) and may well reignite my interest in optical discs, if only for the very best movies.

As Microsoft points out the console also improves game quality played on regular HDTVs. In spite of this it is clearly targeted at gamers who have, or are planning to acquire, an HDR-capable 4K Ultra HDTV. We estimate that there will be nearly 80 million such TVs in use by the end of this year, and more than 700 million by 2022, so this is a rapidly growing opportunity.

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The “X” goes up against Sony’s PS4 Pro console, which is also HDR-capable but currently priced $100 lower. Microsoft will be hoping that the higher specs and wider range of enhanced content of the “X” will allow it to sustain its $499 tag for as long as possible before the inevitable price cuts begin to kick in.

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After 16 years doing battle with Sony, Microsoft’s Xbox platform has never really looked like gaining the number one position at a global level. It has performed well in certain territories, notably North America, but has rarely challenged Sony’s international strength. The “X” is a necessary step in sustaining Xbox’s challenger position. Our current models suggest it may help to increase the overall Xbox user base by around 10% over the next three years. But this will still leave Sony with 50% more consoles in use than Microsoft by the end of 2019. By that time the PS5 will be the hottest topic in console gaming, whether it has been launched or not.

Client reading:

Video Game Software Forecast: Global 2010 - 2022

High Dynamic Range TV: Content and Technology Implications

Global Game Console Forecast 2010-2020

Game Console Wars Heat Up as Sony Plays its Hand with new 4K and HDR Capable Hardware

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