We've almost reached a year since the Xbox One and PlayStation 4's launches and by all reasonable metrics, the PlayStation 4 is the current king. On the monthly NPD charts, the PS4 has lead in units sold for every month of 2014. Even after dropping the Kinect as a necessary pack-in Xbox One sales have yet to overtake its rival. The last time we heard about any concrete numbers, the PlayStation 4 had sold over 10 million units worldwide. In contrast, Microsoft's announcement in March had the company shipping more than 5 million consoles to stores; it's been quiet since then. If you count this as race, the Xbox One is trailing behind.
Heading into this holiday season and with a new CEO at its head, Microsoft is looking to close the gap. In addition to exclusives like Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Forza Horizon 2, and Sunset Overdrive, the company has pushed certain multiplatform titles heavily on Xbox One. These titles include Activision's Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, a series that has always had early DLC on Xbox platforms, and Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed Unity, a formerly PlayStation-leaning series that's shifting sides this holiday. Microsoft has the mainstream titles it believes will carry the holiday season, but it's not done yet.
Microsoft has announced that for a limited time, the Xbox One will be $50 off in the United States, bringing its retail price down to $349. In addition, the company is offering three Xbox One bundles at discounted prices. These bundles include either Sunset Overdrive, Assassin's Creed Unity, or Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. The promotional pricing will end on January 3, 2015.
The Assassin's Creed Xbox One bundle includes a basic Xbox One, Assassin's Creed Unity (digital code), and Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag for $349. You can also pick up the Assassin's Creed Xbox One Kinect bundle for $449, which adds a Kinect and Harmonix' Dance Central Spotlight to the mix. This bundle will be available on November 2.
The Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Xbox One bundle includes a Call of Duty-theme Xbox One with 1 TB hard drive, a Call of Duty-themed controller, and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare's Day Zero Edition (digital code) for $449. This bundle is already available on the Microsoft Store, but the special pricing doesn't go into effect until November 3.
Finally, there's the Sunset Overdrive Xbox One bundle, which includes a white Xbox One console, a white controller, and Sunset Overdrive: Day One Edition (digital code). Like the Call of Duty bundle, this is already available on the Microsoft Store, but the special pricing won't go live until November 2.
It's a rather strong show of force for Microsoft. The company says the bundles should be available at most major retailers this holiday season, including Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Target, Toys 'R Us, and Walmart. Honestly, if I didn't already own both systems, the combination of the price drop, Forza Horizon 2, and Sunset Overdrive would've probably pushed me over the edge. I still have issues with the Xbox One, primarily in its screenshot and video handling, but I'm a special case. For the mainstream consumer, Microsoft may have a solid strategy on its hands.
The problem is Microsoft still has to overcome its ongoing issue in the enthusiast community: the Xbox One doesn't seem as powerful as the PlayStation 4. Xbox One versions of multiplatform titles are continually outdone by their PlayStation 4 counterparts when it comes to concrete visual metrics like resolution and frame rate. $350 is still expensive and many enthusiast gamers only own one console for most of a generation; asking them to choose the weaker of the two consoles is a hard sell. Microsoft is doing its best to lock up some good first- and second-party exclusives, but I wonder if it's enough to really turn the tide.