SEPT. 3, 2014 • September was already an important month for launching new Xbox One markets with China, Japan and India already announced. But this week Microsoft Corp. firmed up another 25 nations that will get the console. The new markets getting the Xbox One this week are: Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Israel will get the system on September 15. Market introductions set for the week of September 22 include: Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Russia and Taiwan. Xbox head Phil Spencer announced the details in a blog post, where he also promised Argentina would get an official launch date soon.
Impact: By all accounts Microsoft is not constrained by the available supply of systems or productive capacity. The leisurely rollout of the Xbox One may be a testament to how involved the localization process can be for a major interactive consumer electronics product. Whatever the reason, the timing for these new market launches is excellent given that FIFA 15 and Forza Horizon 2 are releasing at the end of the month. FIFA is a huge franchise globally and racing games also are a popular genre that crosses borders easily. At this stage our question is not so much how many markets can Microsoft support well but how is the company planning to build consumer demand for the Xbox One? Waiting until 2015 for Halo 5 to arrive will not get the job done. What the Xbox One requires is a compelling new narrative. A few weeks ago Microsoft Research demoed some new predictive streaming technology that permits a console system to overcome lag issues that come with cloud gaming. In short, player actions are analyzed so if there is a lag issue with the connection the game will compensate by filling in where it thinks the user wants to go. That’s a potential boon for making cloud gaming smoother but there are other opportunities here. Who knows if Microsoft is even thinking this way but what if they took some of that user input data, plus that predictive algorithm, and applied both to NPC and environment artificial intelligence? What if only Xbox One games had interactive worlds that actually reacted to individual players uniquely? That would be one hell of a reason to own an Xbox One whether you are a core gamer or a mainstream consumer.