Xbox marketing chief Mike Nichols talks Xbox One X price, games, and more
Microsoft wrapped up its big E3 2017 press conference yesterday after announcing OG Xbox backward compatibility, showing off 42 new games, and revealing the beastly new Xbox One X console.
The Xbox One X is an all-new 4K HDR console designed for enthusiasts. Whether you have a 4K TV or not, with Xbox One X you will see the benefits of enhanced visuals, improved loading times, and more solid frame rates and resolutions. If you have a 4K display, games will look crisper and more impressive than on any other console on the market today, according to Microsoft.
We caught up with the company's Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) for Xbox Mike Nichols to discuss Xbox One X's price, the first-party game lineup, and much more.
Windows Central Q&A with Xbox's Mike Nichols
Windows Central Senior Editor Jez Corden: So, for people who might not be familiar with you and your role at Xbox, could you give us a bit of background on what it is you do?
Mike Nichols: Sure! I have the pleasure of running the marketing team for Xbox. So, on a day like today, when we get a chance to show off all the goodies that our genius engineers are working on, it's a real treat. That's my job.
Let's talk about the "controversial" topic first: the Xbox One X's price. Plenty of commentators, including game analysts and press, have effectively said if Scorpio costs more than $399 it would be "dead on arrival." How do you respond to accusations that Xbox One X is too expensive?
Well, I think the first thing that people need to understand is that the Xbox One X is part of a family. We used the language last year very purposefully that Scorpio would be the newest member of the Xbox One X's family. We wanted to offer a set of choices for gamers. Ranging from, "Hey, here's a great way to get into the Xbox One ecosystem," all the way to a console that's so powerful that it sets a new bar for what console gaming can be. Of course, you can't have one price that scales across both of those objectives.
So, you know, we feel really fantastic about the price for the Xbox One S as a great way to get into the ecosystem, and at the same time, frankly, I'm amazed that we were able to deliver the Xbox One X's specs that are consistent with a $1,200 to $1,500 PC if you'd built it yourself, for only $500. This is a new standard in console gaming quality. And it's at a price that is within the kind of range that has been used successfully in previous consoles.
So I think what we tried to do today was explain what it is that we're trying to get done, focusing on choice for gamers, and reiterate that it's like, "Hey, you can go from an Xbox One S to an Xbox One X, and you have great choice." All games and accessories work across both. If you want to get an Xbox One S today, as many people choose to do, then good news: should you decide to upgrade to an Xbox One X sometime later, all those games and accessories will not only work on it, they'll work better on it. We feel really good about the options we're giving gamers.
Since you guys placed some emphasis on the notion of preserving gaming history, with OG Xbox backward compatibility, do you think that we're no longer going to see generational gaps between consoles now? Is forwards and backward compatibility the norm?
Our goal is for Xbox is to allow gamers to play the great games of the past, present, and future. We've seen such a remarkable response to the backward compatibility program that we announced a couple of years ago: 508 million hours of gameplay on backward-compatibility titles. This does nothing but reinforce to us that it's a great direction to go in. It represents real value for gamers. It's something that we believe in. Phil Spencer has been a great champion of it, personally, and we've got an absolutely great engineering team that frankly has figured out ways around this that we didn't think was possible. They've managed to prioritize it and do it.
If you want to go and buy Halo 5, if you want to go and buy Gears of War 4, or any one of these new titles, the largest lineup of titles we've ever shared at E3 - we want you to know that your investment is safe for the future. Your investment is going to continue on and on. One of the things that we've shown with the Xbox One X is that future innovations of Xbox hardware won't just play old games, they'll play them better [with] faster load times, better resolution, more solid frame rates.
It's not unlike, in some respects, some other forms of digital entertainment. If you have some music, it might play great on lower-end audio hardware, but it'd play even nicer on a high-end audio system. We believe that a lot of the same characteristics should apply to games because these things are precious, they're timeless.
We've seen it, and our buddies at Nintendo saw it with the Classic NES and virtual console. The interest that people have in backward compatibility, even for playing games that are 25 years old, this is something we believe in. And we plan to continue to invest in this area.
Let's talk about the name briefly. Xbox One X was rumored as the name quite a while ago, why did you guys decide to go with this name specifically?
We chose the name, in a lot of respects, inspired by the original Xbox's internal phrase. I was just a customer back then, I went and bought an Xbox just like anybody else, but that phrase stuck with me and it stuck with the team. There were some people on the team that were proposing, "Hey, that line is so true of what we're delivering with Scorpio." Connecting that idea, "there's no power greater than X," along with the notion that we really want to communicate the notion that there's a family of consoles with compatibility between them.
We want you to know that when you go into store, and see a disc with Xbox One on it, that it will work on all of the devices. We needed it to be "Xbox One Something." Xbox One X really came out of that phrase: "There's no power greater than X."
Could we see SKUs with bigger hard drives, or multiple colors? There's that incredible Gears of War laser-cut Xbox One S version for example ...
So the plan that we're announcing now, the initial plan, is the launch with the black coloring that you saw today. We'll have some other news as we get closer and start taking preorders later in the year. Special versions and things like that, that we'll get to. We decided to keep it simple today, considering the tech specs we had to show and all the games we wanted to share. We just decided to spread some things out that we know people will be interested in, that goes in the area of special editions as well.
One of the things I noticed from the presser today was the lack of first-party [games]. You guys showed State of Decay 2, Sea of Thieves and Crackdown 3, but I didn't feel as though it was anything we haven't seen before. How do you respond to the idea that Microsoft isn't trying hard enough with its first-party lineup?
We feel really good about this generation overall for our first-party games and exclusive titles. We sometimes forget about games like Sunset Overdrive, Ryse, and more obviously Halo 5, [and] Gears of War. We feel pretty proud about the lineup of exclusives that are playable on an Xbox One. This year in the show, we decided to really focus on two things. No. 1, mostly games that are shipping between this E3 and next E3. A lot of the games we showed today will be playable today at the show, so you can get more hands-on and come to your own conclusions. We're very proud of them. We think that they're going to show up great. Super Lucky's Tale, Cuphead, Tacoma, and so on, these are all games coming this year.
And to the other point, we wanted to emphasize that this hardware is going to make everything look better. We've got some fantastic plans. 343i has fantastic plans for Halo, [and] The Coalition has fantastic plans for Gears of War. We have plenty of things that we're still working on that we think people are going to be really pumped by. This year, we just really wanted to focus on the games shipping this year, and Scorpio.
Finally, what game coming to Xbox One X, are you most excited for?
Forza. Forza shows the Xbox One X off so well. It's so fantastic. I love auto racing, I love Forza. I think it's going to be amazing.
Forza Motorsport 7 is official, 4K60 on Xbox One X!
Big thanks to Mike Nichols
The Xbox One X is shaping up incredibly well with a vast library of "enhanced" 4K games, including The Witcher 3, plenty of launch exclusives such as PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and showcase AAA games like Forza Motorsport 7, Shadow of War, and Anthem.
Will the Xbox One X help Microsoft make up lost ground with the PlayStation 4? It's too early to say, but I think it's clear Microsoft isn't too worried. The Xbox One X is a console for existing customers who want to upgrade their libraries to the best visuals possible and get the most out of their investments in 4K TVs. The Xbox One S will continue to be the gateway to the ecosystem, which Microsoft is expanding with OG Xbox backward compatibility, and a deluge of games, tons of free feature updates, and the proliferation of UWP (Universal Windows Platform) apps, extending the functionality of the console even further.
Keep it locked to Windows Central for all the latest and greatest emerging from E3 2017. And let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!