Microsoft unveiled a special treat for the European market at Gamescom in Cologne, Germany. Customers that pre-order an Xbox One will receive, at no additional cost, a copy of EA Sports’ FIFA 14. This deal will retroactively include people that have already pre-ordered the console. It’s a great move that is likely to spell success for Microsoft in Europe. But is this the sign of Microsoft’s global strategy for the Xbox One’s launch? Will the rest of the markets the console launches in also receive a game of equal value? Microsoft remains oddly silent.
Packaging a game with a console at launch is a great way to add more value to a system that is already running $100 more expensive than its competitor, the PlayStation 4. It also hearkens back to an older day for gaming, when consoles always launched with a game – that’s just how things were done. That has changed, sadly, so the news of Xbox One bundles coming with a game was well received, in Europe at least.
The U.S. is Microsoft’s strongest consumer base for the Xbox 360. As Sony makes huge strides among console buyers with its gamer-first awareness campaign for the PS4, it stands to reason that Microsoft would want to solidify its place in the U.S. market and also offer a similar deal to the one in Europe.
“As with many products, bundle offers differ from country to country,” a Microsoft spokeperson told Digital Trends when asked about the pack-in deals in the States. “We’re committed to offering fantastic value to all our customers and have nothing further to announce at this time.”
Like the sport it mimics, the FIFA franchise is much bigger in Europe than it is in the U.S., so it would make sense to switch the game itself for an American audience. EA Sports’ soccer powerhouse sold around 7.5 million copies of FIFA 13 (on the Xbox 360 and PS3 combined) in Europe, while sales fell just shy of 2 million in the States. An obvious and natural swap would be Madden 25 for FIFA 14. Negotiations with a publisher could be ongoing, but there won’t be a better time before the November launch than Gamescom to announce an American bundle as well, even if the show is based in Europe.
When asked by CVG about a game being included in American Xbox Ones, even Phil Harrison, the outspoken Microsoft corporate VP who has recently been the first to answer tough questions even when the rest of Microsoft would not, refused to answer.
“So, we’re in Europe at Gamescom. We’re here to talk about games here, and FIFA is obviously key in Europe,” Harrison replied. When pressed he said, “We’re here in Europe, so I’m not going to talk about anything outside Europe right now.”
The Xbox 360 has a clear advantage in the U.S. over the PS3, with 18 million more consoles sold in America alone. In Europe, however, it’s a different story. The PS3 has outsold the Xbox 360 by more than 7 million units, and that gap recently pushed the PS3 ahead of the Xbox 360 in total global sales, with 78.59 million and 78.13 million consoles sold, respectively. The same is true in Japan, where Sony has a commanding lead of 9.42 million PS3s sold compared to 1.64 Xbox 360s. That said, Microsoft has never had much luck on Sony and Nintendo’s home turf. It’s why Europe is such a hotly contested battleground for the next-gen consoles.
A move designed to appeal to European gamers makes sense. It’s smart business to try to give the Xbox One an advantage in a territory that has a lot of room for growth but which currently belongs to a rival. Microsoft is offering a more expensive device, but the FIFA 14 pack-in increases value and helps to justify the $100 mark-up over the PS3. Will gamers in the States see that same value? We’ll know for sure by November, when the Xbox One is released.