The drop in price announced today that takes the system from £430 to £400 and will include Titanfall from mid March. I’m not sure why you would announce this now considering they’ll be selling the system on its own for several weeks, and surely anyone about to buy one will be aware of the impending bundle with the system’s most anticipated game.
While it’s unlikely that early adopters will be compensated to the same extent that they were in 2002 when Microsoft aggressively slashed the XBOX price by £100 shortly after release, early-adopters should really receive some kind of reward for their support from the very beginning of the systems life cycle. Whether that comes in the shape of a free year of Xbox Live, a download code for a free first party game, or something else, they should be rewarded for their loyalty.
As for whether or not the price drop will boost sales, I am sure it will make a considerable difference in the short term especially for people who have been on the fence. Gamers who have been waiting for Titanfall and who had planned to buy the system and the game at the previous full price will have likely placed their pre-orders today and can’t believe their luck. Microsoft will lose money on those gamers as many of them would have gladly, or at least begrudgingly paid the extra £85 or so more than they now will have to.
In the long term, it’s hard to say whether or not this price drop will helps them catch up to PS4. I don’t think they’ll be able to salvage the lead in this generation, but I do think that they’ll slowly inch closer over time. When they had a huge lead over a misfiring Sony with the PS3 last generation, they were eventually pegged back and overtaken. When you hand Sony the initiative at the start of a generation as they have done, it’s going to be extremely tough to catch back up. Sony always get stronger and stronger over a generation and so it’s very unlikely that they’ll drop the ball now after making such a strong start.
Overall, it’s a good thing for gamers, the industry and competition, even if it does upset the early adopters as an immediate side-effect.
Update: One thing that I completely forgot about is the fact that the kinect camera could easily be removed from the package and be sold separately. This would allow Microsoft to dramatically lower the console price again and really enable them to compete on a much more level playing field with Sony. Kinect doesn’t really have any games right now that are going to appeal to hardcore gamers, or really even casual gamers. Kinect Sports: Rivals is surely going to be the first really good kinect game, but I still don’t see how it can justify forcing everyone to pay for a camera they may not ever use at all. Right now, almost everyone using it is doing so primarily for the voice activated functions. While cool, I just don’t see people persevering with that function in the long term. Once the novelty of being able to turn your system on or off using your voice fades away and you realise that it’ll be quicker to just use your controller, I doubt many will go back to it. I don’t play PS4 and wish I had the playstation camera so I can try the voice activation. I’m sure it would be fun to try, but even if it worked exactly the same way as kinect, I can’t see myself using it continuously over time. Microsoft need to stop focusing their advertising efforts on this semi-gimmick and focus entirely on the games.