Microsoft has finally acknowledged its next generation console. After months of silence, rumours, and bad news, Sony’s closest competitor has confirmed that it will reveal a “new generation of games, TV, and entertainment” on 21st May. While some feel that the Redmond-based manufacturer may struggle to usurp the PlayStation 4’s recent unveiling from a strictly gaming perspective, we reckon that it would be naive to rule out the Xbox maker entirely. But what are likely to be the biggest weapons in the company’s barracks, and what can its Japanese counterpart do to ensure that none of them land a killer blow?

For the dollar sign

While third-party exclusives are definitely dying out, there’s been some speculation that both platform holders have been quietly negotiating with external publishers for the start of the impending generation. We’ve already heard whispers regarding Final Fantasy XV on the PS4, and we wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft had something equally impressive to counter. In fact, with the North American company lacking the same number of wholly owned studios as Sony, we suspect that it's probably got a slew of deals in place. And that could prove a real blow to the Japanese manufacturer’s next generation console.

With rumours scarce, we can only hypothesise, but the Xbox maker is said to have something in the works with EA. You’re never going to see FIFA or Madden go exclusive, but there is a question mark over Respawn, the studio setup by former Infinity Ward employees Jason West and Vince Zampella. Other targets could include Grand Theft Auto V, with the idea of a ‘next generation timed exclusive’ not seeming entirely unreasonable. While the open world sequel’s probably going to do the bulk of its business on existing consoles, being able to tout the ‘definitive’ version of the open world adventure as an exclusive for its machine would be a big coup for Microsoft. It obviously also has a history of working with Rockstar.

In addition, the company’s almost certainly going to continue its focus on cross-marketing initiatives and DLC deals as well. We’d be shocked if the manufacturer ended its relationship with the Call of Duty franchise, which is going to be a blow to the PS4. We wouldn’t be surprised if it got more aggressive in this area than ever before, though, partnering with a large number of high-profile titles in order to give its machine a greater sense of importance. Obviously, Sony has secured the support of Bungie for its upcoming shooter Destiny, but other than perhaps Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Watch Dogs, we can’t see the company being able to match Microsoft’s cheque book, which could prove a real problem for its impending system.

Buy now, pay later

According to numerous rumours, Microsoft will sell its next generation console using a subsidised pricing model. Writing earlier today, notorious industry insider Paul Thurrott claimed that the console would cost $499 on its own, or $299 with a two-year contract. The leaker added that those that adopt the latter model will have to commit to $10 monthly charges, and will receive full Xbox Live service throughout. Typically, consumers end up paying more when opting for a subsidised service, so Thurrott’s figures don’t quite add up – but the principle remains the same.

This could be a huge threat to the PS4. While the platform holder has ensured that it’s learned from its pricing missteps with the PS3, the reality is that even if Sony’s next generation console comes in at $349 (which is unlikely, we hasten to add), it will still look more expensive than Microsoft’s subsidised $299. Whether the market adapts to such a practice remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that the Xbox maker will earn a lot of mindshare merely from the appealing price of its platform. The test will be whether that converts to actual sales, but given the strength of the brand in certain territories, there’s no reason to believe that it wouldn’t.

Of course, it’s feasible that Sony could offer a similar solution if it takes off, but we’re informed that there are a lot of infrastructural challenges associated with a subsidised model that will take time to solve. It may be that the battle’s already over by the time that the PS4 is able to adopt a similar pricing structure. Furthermore, if the subsidised model factors in cable and television contracts – as some rumours appear to suggest – then this will create even more logistical headaches that the Japanese manufacturer may not be able to traverse. We’ll have to wait until May to learn exactly what Microsoft has in mind, but there’s no doubt that a perceived pricing problem was one of the biggest issues with the PS3, and Microsoft could be about to create the same scenario again.

Boxes and bravado

You can bet that Microsoft’s spent every waking moment since February observing the reaction to Sony’s big PS4 press conference. As such, it’s safe to assume that the Xbox maker will deliver in every area that was considered a weakness, including showing off its next generation console’s physical design. While we feel an unnecessary emphasis has been placed on this in the weeks following the PlayStation Meeting, we daresay it will become a key talking point in the mainstream media, with the Redmond-based manufacturer’s openness perhaps giving the impression of a more polished product and presentation.

The firm will also benefit from having multiple events in a short span of time. This will allow the company to focus on very specific aspects during its first presentation – such as media – while simultaneously maintaining anticipation through until E3. We get the impression that the organisation’s only going to show very short game demonstrations, but it will work its way around this by promising bigger demos in Los Angeles. This may allow the company to push its purported multimedia agenda without drawing the ire of enthusiasts – though it will be up for scrutiny if it doesn’t deliver during its second press conference.

And then there’s the Microsoft difference. While the PlayStation Meeting press conference was generally well produced and paced, the Xbox maker typically thrives at creating a media circus around its products. Who could forget the famous Cirque Du Soleil event a few years ago? While we don’t expect the company to repeat the same extravagant initiative again, the North American firm is very good at drumming up hype, and we expect it to have people salivating over its announcement event by mid-May. Sony must ensure that it has a means of stealing back some of the conversation, be it through a second press event or even just a batch of new trailers.


What weapons do you think that Microsoft will use against the PS4 at its reveal next month? How should Sony respond to the system’s announcement? Let us know in the comments section and poll below.

Which of the following do you think is the biggest threat to the PS4? (46 votes)

Timed exclusives and DLC deals will really hurt

9%

Subsidised pricing will make Sony's system look steep

39%

Microsoft will drum up a massive media circus

24%

None of the above

28%

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