State of Decay 2

Inside Microsoft’s strategy for the Xbox One X reveal

Microsoft unveiled its Xbox One X video game console on Sunday ahead of the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). The console debuts worldwide on November 7 for $499.

You can use the same peripherals for the game console as those for the Xbox One and Xbox One S. And it will be able to play original Xbox console games. Microsoft showed off games such as Electronic Arts’ Anthem, 4A’s Metro Exodus, and State of Decay 2. But it didn’t show any Gears of War or Halo titles.

Microsoft’s team went over every detail of the press event for months. And we got a chance to ask one of the company’s leaders why it made certain choices as it prepares for yet another round of the console wars.

I caught up on Monday with Mike Nichols, chief marketing officer at Microsoft’s Xbox, in an interview at the company’s showcase at Galen Center in Los Angeles.

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

Above: Xbox One X debuts November 7.

Image Credit: Microsoft

GamesBeat: I was curious what your thoughts are on the marketing side, how this compared to your strategy for the Xbox One introduction. You have a certain amount of time. What do you say about this new console?

Mike Nichols: How many of these have you seen from us? All of them? 16 or so? [laughs] We decided this time to focus on two things this year. One was the introduction of the console. The second was—we didn’t want to show a lot of games everybody knows. We decided to show a more eclectic collection of different types of games. We wanted to show a lot of them.

When we were in all the rehearsals, we were thinking, “Well, we’re always around 90 minutes. Do we want to do that again?” But there weren’t any games we wanted to pull.

They’re very valuable. They have a role. I’m personally a fan of a lot of those big popular game franchises. But we ended up focusing elsewhere.

Above: Kareem Choudary unveils the Xbox One X at E3 2017 .

Image Credit: Microsoft

GamesBeat: What’s enough to get people to buy the box? There weren’t as many existing franchises that you could have talked about. You could have shown Halo for 30 seconds, something like that, or Gears of War.

Nichols: We focused mostly on things shipping in the next 12 months, so everyone had a sense of those. We’re definitely working on stuff for Halo, as you might imagine. We’re working on stuff for Gears of War. We have a whole bunch of things up our sleeves, but they’re a bit further out. It was a matter of timing. We think it’s okay to give some of the franchises time to breathe.

Giving people something a bit unexpected—everybody expected we would talk about Project Scorpio, and we did. Every time we come into the briefing, it’s expected that we’ll tell you about Halo, Gears, this, that. It becomes a little rote.

GamesBeat: You would have lost the time for all these smaller games, too.

Nichols: Again, even then, everybody knows Halo 5 is on Xbox One. Everybody knows Gears of War 4 is on Xbox One. It was more like, let’s show some other stuff we think is interesting.

GamesBeat: I remember some more technical things you guys got into. Did you want to get all of that out of the way before you talked about games the machine can play?

Nichols: I felt like it was important to frame things up for everyone, so the show is easy to follow. There was so much anticipation about the hardware announcement in particular. We wanted to come out and say, “Here’s the hardware announcement. The rest of this is about games that are playable across all the different members of the Xbox One family.” The original, the S, and the X.

Frankly, there’s so much engineering that’s gone into the thing. We’re proud of that. That engineering will result in far better experiences. The visual ID itself—I’m biased, but I think it’s beautiful. But the real magic of it is on the inside, and the experience that enables. That’s where we ended up focusing. Let’s talk a bit about the innards and the design decisions we made, and then let’s show what this thing can do up on the big 4K LED screen. It seems like people liked both elements of the presentation, at least based on the early read. Hearing a bit about the hardware decisions and then spending the next 90-plus minutes on games.

GamesBeat: What about VR? Was that decided in some way, whether you wanted to talk about VR or not?

Nichols: Our focus as a company on VR is far more on Windows than it is on Xbox One. We have some headsets launching that we’re very proud of, coming later this year for Windows. It’s called Windows Mixed Reality. We have all the Studios teams working on several titles for those headsets. We’re working with third parties on content for those headsets. But our primary focus is on Windows and PC for mixed reality, for lots of reasons. We decided to focus this show far more on Xbox One and the introduction of this particular console.

Above: Xbox One X has all the same ports as the original or…