When Microsoft officially reveals the Scorpio here’s how we think it needs to go down…
In 2013 Microsoft held a disastrous pre-launch event for the Xbox One, virtually condemning the console to a lifetime of ridicule and bad press before it even got out the gate. The actual launch wasn’t much of an improvement but thanks to Phil “Man of a Thousand Smiles” Spencer and some clever business moves such as backwards compatibility, the Xbox One S and the recently announced Game Pass, the Xbox brand has been dragged out of the mud.
Now Microsoft is poised to play its trump card: Project Scorpio, supposedly the most powerful games console ever made.
This “monster” of a console has been proceeded by two console launches from which Microsoft could learn a great deal. One of these launches is Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro which, despite seemingly doing reasonable sales numbers, had an almost equally disastrous reveal event last year as the Xbox One’s; and the other being the Nintendo Switch, a console that has had an uphill struggle but has exceeded expectations in many ways.
So here are seven lessons Microsoft should adhere to when it comes to launching the Scorpio:
1 Make it clear
There’s an old writing adage: keep it simple stupid. This is something that will be crucial in delivering an effective sales message for the Scorpio. While inviting Digital Foundry, a trusted source for all things videogame tech, to inspect the Scorpio was a clever bit of PR, the long and short of it is that only a handful of consumers will understand the tech specs of this new console.
During the PS4 Pro event much was made of the specific technical attributes of the console but without a way to effectively demonstrate what impact this would have on the experience, it largely fell on deaf ears. When Microsoft officially reveal the Scorpio, most likely under a new name, they must make sure that they can sell the power of the thing in a demonstrable way that’s clear not just to those sat in front of the stage.
It’s still unclear how the Nintendo’s companion app for the Switch will work or even when it will release and the same will be said of that aspect of the Scorpio. How will games work on both Xbox consoles? How will online multiplayer be affected? Can you still connect four controllers to it? These are some examples of the pedantic questions that will need to be definitively answered before launch.
2 The Price is Right
While Phil Spencer has already referred to the Scorpio as a “premium product”, if it’s an inordinately expensive device it won’t appeal to a group of consumers who are pre-disposed to consoles being no more than £400 in order to be deemed reasonably priced, no matter how many teraflops it has. A lot of PlayStation owners wouldn’t fork out for a Pro on account of its price, if the Scorpio is another 4K upgrade then anything exceeding £500 will just be money that could be put towards a high-end PC.
3 The Killer App
At the PS4 Pro event a clip was shown of the yet-to-be-released PlayStation exclusive, Horizon: Zero Dawn. While only those present at the event could see the game in its 4K glory, audiences watching the stream where reminded that whatever the Pro was, there was still a really cool-looking game only coming to PlayStation. You only have to look at a banner ad or Twitter to see that The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the mother of all killer apps. What Microsoft needs to accompany Scorpio’s big reveal is a game that is both attention grabbing on stage and something that will have screen shots and clips all over Twitter when it releases.
With 343’s (the guys who make Halo) Frank O’Connor all but confirming there will be no Halo game this year, a good choice for Microsoft’s killer app would be the long-in-development Crackdown 3. The site of super-powered agents smashing up skyscrapers would not only demonstrate the power of the Scorpio in a palpable way on stage, it would also make for some sweet GIFs and everyone knows Twitter loves GIFs.
4 It’s in the game
Sports! Microsoft has a good relationship with EA and with a reveal around E3 for the Scorpio being a likely bet that would time nicely with the release of Madden and FIFA. While most hardcore game enthusiasts turn their noses up at the idea of the latest “sportsball” games being shown off, punters have always been drawn to the game that best simulates their favourite sport and hearing that the most authentic version will be on the “new Xbox” may be enough to sway them.
5 It does what Nintendon’t
While the Switch has one the hearts of the vast majority to the gaming industry, its lack of video apps like Netflix has been one of the criticisms levelled at Nintendo’s new console. Even though putting media capabilities at the forefront hurt the Xbox One’s image originally it was a clever move by Microsoft to highlight that the Xbox One S features a 4K Blu-ray player in their marketing when the PS4 Pro was announced without one. Naturally, part of the Scorpio’s reveal should highlight all the different media support on offer on this new console and perhaps Microsoft could even announce some kind of 4K Netflix support for added panache.
6 Don’t forget the little guy
Phil Spencer has said that he fully expects Microsoft will sell more of the Xbox One S than the Scorpio. With this in mind it’s important that during the reveal of Scorpio, reference is made to those who may have just recently bought a One S and how Microsoft will continue to support it after the Scorpio is released. One positive that did come out of the PS4 Pro event is that Sony announced that regular PS4 units would be getting HDR support as well. If Microsoft can follow each new game announcement with “Also coming to Xbox One”, even that might be enough to assure current owners that they aren’t missing out.
7 One more thing
If it’s one thing everybody loves about any game industry event it’s that “one more thing moment” and in order to round-out the reveal of the Scorpio, that’s exactly what needs to happen. It could be the announcement that backwards compatibility will include original Xbox games or a glimpse at Halo 6 but whatever it is, the last thought in everyone’s head about the Scorpio needs to be: “I need to Tweet about this”.
By Ned Newberry