With Gamescom 2013 set to kick off in Cologne, Germany this week, it’s safe to expect that there will be plenty of news concerning both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. And with the European markets a sizable battlefield, expect both Microsoft and Sony to come out swinging.
The first rumors of Microsoft’s plans have arrived, and if true, could be a game-changer. The reports come from a number of sources, claiming that Microsoft will be bundling a free copy of FIFA 14 with every Xbox One console sold in Europe, forging a new relationship between the next generation of Xbox hardware and one of Europe’s best-selling games.
The news first came courtesy of MCV, citing “two senior games industry sources” who claim that the announcement will be made by Microsoft at Gamescom come Tuesday morning. At present, there is some disagreement over whether this exclusive FIFA 14 bundle is the ‘exclusive’ announcement that Microsoft was saving for the event (these same sources stop short of making that claim, but CVG is claming it is).
Previous reports had fairly clearly stated that Microsoft would be announcing a game exclusive to Xbox One specifically, which would mean the FIFA 14 bundle isn’t the only surprise that the company has in store. While that means debate can continue over which surprise exclusive could be revealed, the bundle could tip the tide all on its own.
Although the Xbox 360 has established itself as a leading console in North American markets, the company lacks the history with Europe that Sony has established (thanks to the free online connectivity and indie-friendly marketplace). And given the backlash Microsoft faced after announcing their system architecture and online policies, European markets can’t be assumed to come around as quickly as North American ones might.
With that in mind, it’s hard to think of a better – and bolder – solution than packaging one of the most popular games in the market, free of charge, with the Xbox One. That’s a heck of a deal to make a reality with any publisher, but Microsoft’s strong history with Electronic Arts makes it one we could believe possible. Especially given how much money the company is committing to landing exclusives.
All things considered, one of the most surprising twists in the Xbox One/PS4 showdown thus far has been each manufacturer’s targeting of their opponents’ most well-known strengths; first Sony reportedly landed a deal to stream cable channels (as opposed to the TV-focused Xbox), and now, Microsoft is making an aggressive play into one of Sony’s strongest markets.
How successful the bundle could be – if the rumors are true – will largely depend on how much European gamers will hold grudges. Microsoft didn’t win any fans with their always-on policies and poor messaging, but after reversing said policies, opening the doors to indie self-publishing, removing the need for Kinect, and even packing in a free headset, there isn’t much left that the company can do to win audiences. The last straw would be bundling a free copy of a highly-demanded game – could North American markets expect the same deal?
[UPDATE - Aug 20th: Microsoft confirmed that pre-ordered Xbox Ones in Europe will include a downloadable copy of FIFA 14.]
[UPDATE 2 - Sept 2nd: Microsoft confirmed that only Day One editions of the Xbox One will come with FIFA 14 in Europe.]
@Ianoconnor22 All pre-orders come with FIFA 14 in Europe, Ian. Doesn't matter if it's a Day One console or not.— Xbox (@Xbox) August 27, 2013
As you can see from the below and above tweets, Microsoft did in fact provide incorrect information, potentially leading customers to making a purchasing decision of the Xbox One package that doesn’t come with the game.
Had a few questions on this so wanted to clarify: FIFA 14 will only come free with Xbox One Day One Edition pre-orders, while stocks last.— Graeme Boyd (@AceyBongos) September 2, 2013
The Xbox One releases November 2013.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.