Total Pageviews

Monday, June 10, 2013

What Xbox One and Politics Have in Common

Video game consoles have become a bit like political candidates â€" both need to excite their bases to win.

In politics, the base refers to voters who almost always vote for a certain party’s candidate. In games, the base is people who buy consoles mainly or even exclusively to play games, as opposed to watching movies, listening to music or any of the other activities now possible with modern consoles.

Microsoft was definitely catering to its base on Monday.

In an event at the start of the E3 conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft made a barrage of announcements about games that will be available for its new Xbox One console when the system ships this year.

There was Ryse: Son of Rome, a sword-and-sandals battle game. Sunset Overdrive mixes the training discipline parkour, first-person shooters, zombies and the manic zip-line scene from the movie “The Adventures of Tintin.” The racing game Forza Motorsport 5, using the Xbox One’s increase in horsepower, renders the hand-stitched leather of car interiors and brushed aluminum trim in exquisite detail.

“This is air you can taste and texture you can feel,” gushed Dan Greenawalt, one of the developers of Forza.

Microsoft said Xbox One would sell for $500.

The announcements were clearly an attempt to jazz up hard-core gamers, the most enthusiastic consumers of the industry’s products. That was a big contrast from last month, when Microsoft unveiled Xbox One at an event that spent little time on the games people would be able to play on the system and a lot on the other forms of entertainment Microsoft plans to dazzle them with.

Console makers have all decided that the key to getting the biggest possible audiences for their systems is to make them less intimidating to people who aren’t game diehards. That’s the thinking behind the innovations in game controllers in recent years, like the Nintendo Wii’s motion-sensing wand and Microsoft’s Kinect. It’s also a big reason why Microsoft wants to make Xbox One the main way you get television shows and movies.

Still, console makers can’t forget gamers as they position their systems in the market. They are the customers who spend the most money on games and are the most vocal evangelists for a console. At a conference late last month, Sony’s chief executive, Kazuo Hirai, seemed to be responding to Microsoft’s emphasis on the entertainment functions in Xbox One by saying that the PlayStation 4, Sony’s forthcoming console, is designed to please hard-core gamers.

“The most important thing we need to make sure we do, at least initially, is that we all agree and understand that the PS4 is a great video game console that appeals to video gamers,” Mr. Hirai said, according to an account of his comments by All Things D.

With its announcements on Monday, Microsoft seemed to be saying that it, too, values a constituency without which it knows it can’t succeed.