Was the office looking a little empty Friday? Your absent co-workers could be gamers taking a “sick day” after standing in line for the Xbox One, Microsoft’s first new console since 2005.
The console made a splashy debut at rolling midnight launches across the globe, including a star-studded party in New York’s Times Square with headliner Macklemore.
Microsoft was half-encouraging folks to play hooky after releasing a “doctor’s note” that gamers could send to their employers, spouses, buddies or teachers prescribing a “heavy dose” of Xbox One. The note was signed by Larry Hryb, director of programming for Xbox Live, using his better-known gamertag, “Major Nelson.”
The launch brings Microsoft and Sony into heated holiday competition for the living room and the hearts of gamers, as the latest Xbox goes up against Sony’s PlayStation 4. Sony announced Monday that it moved 1 million PlayStation 4 units to consumers within 24 hours of its launch, setting a high bar for its rival.
It will be a tight battle for the two consoles, but some key differences might affect early sales. First, there’s price: The Xbox One is the more expensive of the two, at $499, compared with the PlayStation 4 at $399.
On the other hand, Microsoft has made a big push to go beyond gaming with Xbox One, turning it into an all-in-one entertainment machine that lets gamers use Skype and even watch live television in addition to playing games.
Gamers are increasingly looking for broader experiences on the console, said Chris Melissinos, a director of business strategy and development for Verizon. In a survey Verizon did on gaming, Melissinos said that the firm found customers are more comfortable with using the cloud, including media and entertainment services, from their homes. (It also found that 1 in 3 hard-core gamers would give up their car for six months to be the first to grab a next-generation console.)
“I think that presents an amazing opportunity for console creators,” said Melissinos, who also curated the Smithsonian’s recent “The Art of Video Games” exhibition.
But with its new strategy, Microsoft may have a harder time courting those hard-core gamers, said Brian Blau, a research director at Gartner. Still, he added, it’s anyone’s game to win. The machines are technically very similar — both have components on par with personal computers — making it difficult to say which will ultimately pick up the edge, he said.
“Because the hardware underneath is a lot more like a PC, the developers are taking similar approaches,” Blau said. “They’ve got the same visual quality and acumen.”
One thing that can affect early sales, however, is how well the companies can keep their consoles in stock. Sony, as the first to launch, faces a particular challenge in balancing early supply and demand, because empty PlayStation shelves could tip the scales in Microsoft’s favor.
Blau said that his checks with Sony indicate that while the firm may have some hiccups, it doesn’t anticipate any major problems.
“Not having enough is a good and bad thing,” Blau said. “But if Sony can’t supply any more between now and Christmas, that’s generally not a good thing.”
Follow The Post’s new tech blog, The Switch, where technology and policy connect.