From a sales perspective, the PlayStation 4 is the de facto winner of this console generation. While Microsoft stopped reporting actual sales figures for the Xbox One a few years ago, Sony has consistently out-performed Microsoft with their home console since the debut of both machines. But this generation is winding down. Sony has announced the PS5, and Microsoft has announced Project Scarlett. The slate is now clean, and the world is primed for a showdown at next year's E3 - if Sony actually decides to show up. But what would it take for Xbox Project Scarlett to win over fans of the PS4?
Microsoft will have to come out swinging at E3 2020 if it has any hope of winning over the hearts and minds of gamers. Last time around, Xbox lacked a clear message and de-emphasized games, opting to advertise the Xbox One as an all-around entertainment device rather than the video game console fans wanted. It was, in short, a disaster, and one that arguably cost Microsoft this entire console generation. If the next Xbox, which Microsoft isn't sure what to call, is going to be successful, it needs to have clear messaging that it is a video game-centric device.
To drive that home, Microsoft needs to show what Xbox Game Studios has been up to the past few years. Halo Infinite was announced as a Project Scarlett launch title, but there are few other games that have seen the light of day for the console. There has been a slow churn of exclusive games on the Xbox One, though they have lacked the quality and quantity of what Sony has been releasing for the PS4. But Microsoft has been going on a shopping spree, buying an impressive line up of studios like Obsidian Entertainment and Double Fine. While the general public has a pretty good idea of what some of these studios are working on, the others have to be grinding away at their own projects. It seems pretty likely that Microsoft will show those projects off leading up to the release of Project Scarlett
A strong line-up of games and clear messaging will put Microsoft in a much better position for the next console generation. Plus, Game Pass has been doing wonders for the company, and has even helped bolster game sales in some cases. Not to mention, Game Pass subscribers get Xbox exclusives day one included in the subscription. There's a good chance just buying a new console and dropping $15 for an Ultimate subscription will appeal more to gamers on launch day than buying a PS5 and spending a few hundred dollars more on whichever games Sony's console launches with.
Out of the gate, Sony is still going to have an advantage. The disastrous reveal of the Xbox One isn't something that the gamers are likely to forget, and Sony will almost certainly enter the arena with extreme confidence. Microsoft is going to have to meet that confidence with their own, and a pricepoint that isn't $100 more than their competitor's. Anything less than that, and Microsoft risks a second console generation behind Sony.
That being said, the Xbox One hasn't sold poorly. It hasn't seen the same success as its competitor, but the PS4 is one of the best-selling consoles of all time. It's been nearly six years since the last major console releases, and some fans that traded their Xbox 360's for PlayStation 4's may be willing to once again jump ship and return to the Xbox ecosystem with the right messaging. It's going to take some convincing, but the last four years have been Microsoft building an argument about why their ecosystem is best - and that argument has become very compelling.
Only time will tell if Microsoft is able to stick the landing for their next console, but the company has a very strong position right now. Plus, the company has found a consistent face in Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox. Now that Shawn Layden has left Sony, that's something the PlayStation brand doesn't really have. Sony does have Shuhei Yoshida, be he hasn't had the same stage presence as Layden. At this point, both companies can make strong arguments as to why they have the best platform for video games, but Microsoft just might be able to pull ahead with its console.