Xbox One X could be its own worst enemy in the console war to come

So, now we finally know. Project Scorpio is Xbox One X – the upgraded, 4K-ready home console that’s been tricked out to the nines. It’s the most powerful console ever – both in reality and PR speak – but from what we’ve seen the curse of the Xbox One brand could clip the wings of this mutated beast before it even takes to the skies.

On paper, Xbox One X is pure gold. Six whole teraflops of graphical power (that’s a big jump up from PS4 Pro’s 4.2 teraflops). It’s running a custom GPU engine that runs at 1172MHz (another massive increase over Xbox One’s 853MHz and PS4 Pro’s 911MHz). It will run games at ‘true 4K’ and will support 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. It’s a monster, plain and simple.

And it could well fail, because it’s called ‘Xbox One X’.

X marks the spot

Ever since that disastrous pre-E3 reveal in 2013, Microsoft has been fighting self-lit PR fires. 

Gaffs, contradictions and the bottled lightning success of PS4 has forced a still powerful console and a global brand into a very obvious second place. It’s a role reversal from the tussle of PS3 and Xbox 360 last generation, and that gap has only widened for Sony over the last three and a half years.

Trapped within the sullied shell of Xbox One, this new gaming platform could well come to naught.

Xbox One X is the first proper chance for Microsoft to compete. Backwards Compatibility and the Xbox One Experience UI update were just band aids to cover the war wounds inflicted on Xbox One. Xbox One X represents a new, rejuvenated body entirely.

But trapped within the sullied shell of Xbox One, this new gaming platform could well come to naught. Everything about its launch suggest Microsoft is aiming this new hardware at its existing market, rather than shooting for the one thing it desperately needs: everyone who avoided Xbox One in the first place.

If this was Sony – a firm who makes Sony Bravia 4K TVs after all – a true 4K console would be sold as a never before seen experience. A wave of the future riding in before the end of a year. Your gaming experience evolved into something new. Games old and fresh will look, run and feel like never before.

Boxing (un)clever

PS4 is a midas touch branding. Stick it on anything now and it sells. Xbox One has the opposite effect. Microsoft should have just embraced the mid-generation cycle as a new one and dropped the ‘One’ entirely. Start afresh and go for the jugular, right from the word go.

‘This is your new console. The most powerful gaming machine ever made.” That’s the confident, trend-braking mantra Microsoft needs to be shouting now. Even if it's essentially a souped up One S, call it simply the 'X' or some such moniker, proclaim it the new generation of gaming, and let Microsoft pat itself on the back for letting all Xbox One games be backwards compatible.

Joe Public needs to know about this console right now. Microsoft needs to hit the marketing campaign hard. It has the money after all. 

Trail every game with Xbox One X. Drive it home that no other console will run this game better. FIFA? Better on Xbox One X. Middle-earth: Shadow of War? Better on Xbox One X. Star Wars Battlefront 2? You guessed it! Flippin’ better on that there 4K console!

Then there’s that price. That big ol’ price. $499 (estimated to be £449, AU$649 globally) is a big ask. A huge ask. It’s a bigger price tag than PS4 Pro, its closest rival, but the gap between them is huge and Sony will no doubt give its own upgraded console a price slash to drive that issue home.

Remember how disastrous that $599 price tag was to PS3 in 2007? It left Sony’s console limping out the gate, a year behind the far more affordable and better marketed Xbox 360. And those two consoles offered essentially identical technical performance (even if the PS3 was reportedly a mare to develop for).

Microsoft has no excuse now. It has a trump card in its pocket, but it could well be crushing that card and fraying its edges before it’s even brought it into play. Xbox One X is a game changer for the Big M, and it could be already throwing it away.

The hype is real

We know that price is going to stick, so what does Microsoft have to do toensure Xbox One X launches with maximum hype?

It needs to sell, sell, sell, those specs. Microsoft even went as far as releasing basic specs over a year ahead of release, then gave Digital Foundry the chance to test that hardware. Xbox One X isn’t a charade encased in a poorly-designed shell – it’s the real flippin’ deal.

If you’re presenting a new console that’s almost a generational leap all by itself like a marginal upgrade, that’s how it will be seen by the average consumer.

Those specs – those teraflops of GPU and the 4K support – will not sell consoles to the average gamer. These gamers aren’t stupid – far from it – but you need to translate those key features into a language that will turn heads and prick up ears. Microsoft’s Xbox One X campaign needs to be like the ballsy Xbox marketing of old.

It needs to be a shop window with giant neon signs pointing to a box that screams. “I will change your games, whether you have a 4K TV or not. I’m an investment that will only continue to pay off.”

Tying Xbox One X to the rest of the ‘Xbox One family’ might make Microsoft feel all fuzzy inside, quietly giving itself a ‘you did good, kid’ bump on its own shoulder, but it’s brand suicide for Xbox One X. Even the naming convention makes Xbox One X sound like just another Xbox One. 

It isn’t, far from it, but if you're presenting a new console that’s almost a generational leap all by itself like a marginal upgrade, that’s how it will be seen by the average consumer and that first impression will never shift.

Xbox One X might be stuck with /that/ name, /that/ box and /that/ price tag, but Microsoft still has time to do this right. It made the right choice and kept HoloLens off the table this year, but with Sony no doubt ready to sell the untapped power of PS4 Pro, Xbox One X needs to be sold to the gaming public at large as the revolution it promises to be.

  • E3 is the world's largest exhibition for the games industry, stuffed full of the latest and greatest games, consoles, and gaming hardware. TechRadar is reporting live from Los Angeles all week to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated E3 2017 hub to see all the new releases, along with TechRadar's world-class analysis and buying advice about the next year in gaming.

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