Lessons learned: Comparing the Xbox Series X and Xbox One launches

Even with a pandemic raging, the launch of the Xbox Series X is less chaotic than the launch of the Xbox One.

Microsoft’s current-generation console saw so many policy reversals prior to launch that it earned the less-than-flattering nickname “Xbox 180” — and the first few post-launch days weren’t exactly a walk in the park.

It was a learning experience for the company, but Microsoft seems to have taken those lessons to heart. The Series X has encountered a hurdle or two in the road to its launch, but Microsoft corrected course quickly.

Lesson 1: Listen to customers, not partners, first

Microsoft’s biggest mistake came right out of the gate. At E3, it announced the Xbox One would require consoles to connect to the internet every 24 hours, or games would cease to function — even in single-player modes — along with other restrictive policies on trading and loaning games to friends. Those policies were reversed before launch, but not before the company defended them at E3.

BUILD 2013 Xbox One

It was a PR debacle. Amazon, in June of that year, polled customers to see which next-gen console they planned to pre-order. The results were staggering, with the PS4 outperforming the Xbox One 18 to 1 — garnering 94% of the vote before the poll was taken down. Microsoft’s planned restrictions confused and angered hardcore and casual gamers alike.

Since unveiling the Xbox Series X last year at E3, Microsoft has avoided those headaches by focusing on what players have asked for, rather than the demands of its publisher partners.

Lesson 2: Don’t start a privacy debate

Kinect, at this point, is a fading memory in most gamer’s minds. But when the Xbox One launched, it was an essential part of the system. It was a pain to set up (you had to run a series of tests to ensure it worked optimally). It didn’t add much to most games,  and major franchises ignored it. It even raised privacy fears among players who didn’t like the idea of a camera watching them when they weren’t playing.

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Those concerns were so intense that Congress got involved. The U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation called the “We Are Watching You Act” (honest, that was the name), which would require companies using a camera-equipped set-top box to display the message “We are watching you” whenever viewers were monitored for any reason. The bill died in committee.

These days, of course, Kinect is dead as a gaming device. And, ironically, people are less freaked out by always-listening devices like Alexa.

Lesson 3: Don’t be cheap

Originally, Microsoft planned to ship the Xbox One without an HDMI cable. A couple of months before launch, it reversed course on that, adding it into the “Day One” edition of the system, along with a chat headset. Fans grumbled the company was nickel-and-diming them with the launch.

The Series X comes with an HDMI cable included, though not with a headset.

Lesson 4: Resolve problems quickly

Post-launch issues happen. Two generations ago, it was the Red Ring of Death on the Xbox 360, something that could’ve been devastating — but the company handled it so well that the Xbox 360 trounced the PlayStation 3 anyway.

With the Xbox One, a small number of the initial units had an issue with the Blu-ray drive, which rendered it unable to read discs. Microsoft quickly diffused the situation by providing affected users with a free digital download of one of the first-party launch titles (Ryse, Dead Rising 3, or Forza V).

Hopefully, the Series X won’t have any such issues. But if it does, Microsoft has a solid track record and has learned from past problems.

Lesson 5: Price it right

On top of the other missteps, the Xbox One cost $100 more than the PlayStation 4 on day one. That was largely because of the inclusion of Kinect, which wasn’t optional and didn’t enhance most games. Fans resented paying for a peripheral they didn’t want or need.

Xbox

This time around, Microsoft has priced its top-tier system at the same price as the PlayStation 5 and also has the cheapest next-gen console with the Xbox Series S. Combined with Game Pass and xCloud, that’s a compelling value proposition that has earned Xbox a lot of goodwill for its upcoming launch.

The Xbox Series X and Series S are also good overall value, given the price of their predecessors, the hardware inside, and the number of games available at launch. Microsoft is not alone here — the PlayStation 5 is also a good value. Still, a $500 Series X looks like a steal compared to the $500 Xbox One, or the Xbox One X, which sold for $400 (or as low as $300 on sale) until it was discontinued in early 2020.

Since we’re talking about Xbox, our best move would be to provide you with all Black Friday Xbox One deals, so that you can leverage the Black Friday discounts.

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