Microsoft’s mistakes: how Sony is winning China’s console war

By C. Custer | Small Business

Today is September 23rd, the day that Microsoft was supposed to launch the Xbox One in China. It would have been the first game console to officially launch in China in over a decade. But China’s gamers—including the thousands who preordered the console—won’t be getting their hands on the controller just yet, because this weekend Microsoft delayed the launch. The Xbox One is now coming out in China “sometime before the end of this year.”

Just think about that for a second. Just imagine the reaction if Microsoft had pushed back the Xbox One release to some vague point in the future three days before launch in North America.

China may have fewer Xbox fans than the US, but their reaction appears to be fairly similar. Here’s one of the top comments on a Sina Games article about the delay, for example:

F**k! After I preordered it I waited over a month, and then when September 17th came I immediately paid the balance in full, and now you’re telling me “wait until sometime before the end of the year”??!! Motherf**kers!!!!!!

Maybe that sounds a little entitled, but Microsoft has given Chinese console fans a steady stream of bad news since the console was first announced. It’s understandable that Xbox One fans would be upset at this point. If you’re a Chinese Xbox fan, here’s what you’ve learned over the past year or so:

  • The Xbox One is coming to China on September 23rd! (Hooray!)
  • …but it’s gonna cost you $600 (and that’s without the Kinect)
  • …and the games are all totally region-locked
  • …and they’ll come with activation codes so you can’t buy or sell used games at all
  • …and the console itself is language-locked to simplified Chinese
  • …and the Chinese-language voice control with Kinect isn’t totally functional (apparently)
  • …and the confirmed launch lineup is extremely limited
  • ….oh, and just kidding, it’s not actually coming on September 23rd, just “sometime” before the end of the year.

It has been, as you might imagine, a series of bitter pills for some Chinese Xbox fans to swallow.

Kaz Hirai: so happy right now.

Kaz Hirai: so happy right now.

It has been great for Microsoft’s Japanese rivals Sony, though. I imagine Kaz Hirai sitting in a boardroom somewhere in Tokyo, taking notes in a notebook titled “What not to do in China” as he watches Microsoft make its moves. This entire thing seems to be leading to a repeat of Sony and Microsoft’s E3 2013 press conferences, where Microsoft announced an expensive console with a bunch of restrictive features, allowing Sony to essentially just say “We’re not doing any of that” and drop the mic to uproarious applause.

Now, granted, China is a different animal altogether, and some of the restrictive features of the Chinese Xbox One are probably government mandated. The region-locked console and games are almost certainly a legal requirement, and the small launch lineup is likely due in part to the difficult and time-consuming process of getting games officially approved by China’s Ministry of Culture.

But in other areas, there is wiggle room, and Microsoft is giving Sony a huge opportunity to once again sweep in and play the hero. I strongly suspect that the company could offer the PS4 in China at a lower price point than the Xbox One—certainly, at a lower price point than the Kinect-equipped model (which will cost about $700 in China). I see no reason why Sony couldn’t offer games without activation codes, so that they could be easily traded and resold. And there’s certainly no reason Sony couldn’t release their console with more language options so that China’s sizable (and affluent) expat population can get in on the fun.

Whether or not Sony actually will choose to step in and take advantage of this opening remains to be seen; it’s quite possible the Japanese giant has decided to focus on other markets and ignore the nascent and unproven console market in China for now. But with competition like Microsoft, my guess is that Sony’s simply figuring there’s no hurry. With the American console maker apparently engaged in trying to defeat itself in China thanks to needless restrictions and last minute delays, there’s no need for Sony to act. The folks at Playstation HQ can simply sit back, take note of all the traps Microsoft falls into, and then step in with a stronger, cheaper alternative when the time is right.

With no specific plans for a Playstation 4 China launch yet announced, Microsoft almost certainly has time to resolve some of these issues, but whether or not it will is a different story. This week’s launch delay could be a good sign—perhaps the company is working to get rid of some of these restrictions or to lower the price of the device. But it could also be a sign that Microsoft has hit yet another obstacle in its Chinese Xbox adventures. And that’s definitely not a good thing.

  • Five reasons not to buy the Xbox One in China


Chinese gaming news site Sina Games runs an editorial encouraging gamers not to buy the Xbox One, for these five reasons.

The post Microsoft’s mistakes: how Sony is winning China’s console war appeared first on Games in Asia.

The post Microsoft’s mistakes: how Sony is winning China’s console war appeared first on Games in Asia.
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