Xbox head of marketing turns turd polishing into an art form

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Top marks to Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer. In an interview with Forbes magazine, he came up with an interesting way to explain the Xbox One’s lagging sales behind the PS4.

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Here’s what he said, when asked by Forbes if the “unbundling” of Kinect from Xbox One is to try to narrow the pricing gap (my emphasis):

“It’s hard to really assess the gap in sales. They’re in many more markets right now than we are. They’re in 40+ markets, we’re in 13. People have been more satisfied with the Xbox 360 than the PS3, so in that respect people have less of a need to upgrade in the short term due to regular updates for the Xbox 360. We could point to any number of things. That said, we’ve heard from a lot of our Xbox fans who say, “Hey look, I want an Xbox One, but at $499, I probably have to wait a little while before I can afford to get one.” I do think we’re going to get people now who move over, and then buy the Kinect later. So I do think the [price point] broadens the appeal and hopefully brings more people to Xbox One sooner.”

Yep, I’m sure you’re right Yusuf – Xbox 360 owners are just too delighted with the current offering. I’m overloaded by the (approximately) two decent games that have been released on the 360 since the launch of the Xbox One.

Isn’t it just a brilliant way of spinning what is objectively bad news? It’s slightly reminiscent – though not as snarky – as when before the Xbox One’s launch, the then Xbox chief Don Mattrick was asked about the “always online” requirements of the One (which have since been dropped) and he replied by saying “we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity, it’s called Xbox 360“.

More seriously, there were a few other interesting tidbits from the interview including stats on Kinect usage: apparently 80% of users are using Kinect voice commands and are averaging 120 per month. That’s over a billion voice commands issued over all. Though perhaps the biggest takeaway from this is not how popular voice commands are but that… Microsoft are logging your voice commands.

Mehdi was also asked if the lack of Kinect will affect developer support for the peripheral, and he slickly responded by saying:

“One thing I should say is that we made this decision in conjunction with our games publishers and our entertainment partners. As you can imagine, we have really strong relationships. The two of us looked at the problem the same way. We love Kinect, we love the way it’s going and the possibilities. At the same time, we also wanted to have a broadened base of users. Some games are fully Kinect-based, and some are better when you use Kinect, but can also work fine without it. In each of those cases, this is still the right call.”

So there we have it: The Kinect was dropped because Microsoft want a broadened base of users by selling more consoles.

It’ll be interesting to see if sales reach parity with Sony’s machine.

James O’Malley