Has the Xbox One Already Lost in Europe?

Posted by michaelenger (76 posts) -

Microsoft's Xbox One was released on November 22nd, 2013, little over a week after its direct competitor Sony's PlayStation 4. These are two systems with comparable technical specifications (barring any non sequitur arguments about FPS) and will feature much of the same games, along with a few exclusives. They differ from Nintendo's Wii U by being technical powerhouses that push us into the next generation of video games and, despite some major gaffs on Microsoft's side early in the game, will probably be neck and neck for the duration of the console generation. Or they would be, if the Xbox One was even in the game.

I live in Norway, which isn't a part of the United States or Asia, but in the minds of some publishers it seems like it's not even part of Europe when it comes to release dates. This isn't a phenomenon isolated to the northern kingdom, as we are lumped in with our scandinavian neighbors as countries big enough to warrant localization of titles. This results in an odd phenomenon where games and systems which are released in "Europe" don't come to the scandinavian countries until the manuals and interfaces have been translated to our respective languages. Nevermind that English is a mandatory second language for all citizens, there is a defiant insistence that we need things translated to our native languages before they are permitted to grace our frost-covered lands. This, in my mind somewhat myopic, adherence to guidelines results in a strange blend of languages where the back-of-the-box has a campy and cringe-worthy translation of blurbs for a game that is entirely in English, or when a game filled with American characters speaking English to each other in America using computers with a Norwegian interface.

It's strange and somewhat immersion-breaking, but being a native of this country it's something I've come to expect and you get used to ignoring the disjointed mishmash of languages and the fact that a "European release" may not mean "released across Europe", with some titles never even making it out of the United Kingdom or the big four (Germany, France, Spain and Italy). It's frustrating, but the cost of living in one of the happiest countries in the world.

But then there's this.

I'm in the mood for a new console. It's been sufficiently long since the release that games I want to play are available on next current generation consoles, so I feel that I can justify the purchase of a new console. I was a little surprised to see that on the website of a local electronics store it said that the Xbox One was coming in September, but I assumed that it was their way of saying "we ain't got nothing for you if you didn't preorder". Imagine my surprise when I saw the above text on the official Xbox website. In case you don't speak Norwegian, it roughly translates to "Xbox One is coming September 2014". September 2014. September. Six months from now and TEN months after the official release date. Not to say ten months after the release of their direct competitor, a console which is in the broadest terms indistinguishable from the Xbox One.

Delayed distribution aside, this is an amazing oversight on Microsoft's side, to delay the Xbox One's rest-of-Europe release by almost a year. I'm not entirely sure what is the reason for this, but either the European market (excluding the UK and big four) is too small to release a console in or Microsoft are underestimating the impact this will have on their fanbase. In September, after the hype from Titanfall is all but forgotten and gamers have been bombarded with next current generation advertisements, reviews and banter about leaderboards and plot points, I wonder how many people will still be waiting patiently for the Xbox One to become available, especially when the PlayStation 4 is right there, available right now as a comparable alternative for less money.

Maybe Norway just isn't a big enough market for Microsoft to really care about, but as of this writing the Xbox One is only available in 13 countries, leaving a lot of holes for Sony to fill. In the coming months, gamers all over Europe will hear about great new games being released and will just have to wait patiently for Microsoft to get their shit together. Or pick up the other console. You know, the one that's already here.

#1 Posted by bigjeffrey (4809 posts) -

yes

#2 Posted by SomeJerk (3158 posts) -

It's hard to say the Xbox One lost when it hasn't even shown up. The media and the folks not as internet and researcy-savvy as us still believe it's the DRM nightmare it was presented as back in May 2013 and the negativity-loving media for the vast majority of people took it up. The only good thing about the delay that works in the favour of the machine is that ten months is a decent time to save up money for it, even six will do.

The question is if people here want to.

UI and Kinect translation delay my ass..

#3 Posted by Creamypies (4052 posts) -

It's difficult to know their thinking behind the delay, but releasing a console almost a year after its direct competitor doesn't make a whole lot of business sense to me. The release of Titanfall resulted in an enormous sales boom here in the UK. It certainly makes you wonder why they didn't get their global release out of the way in time for it. But hey, at least you're happy!

#4 Posted by xyzygy (9899 posts) -

No, it hasn't. People calling it off this early were also the ones to call off the PS3 this early and the PS3 was selling even worse then the X1 is now.

@somejerk Why don't you believe that's why the console was delayed in most regions? Voice recognition is most likely a very annoying and time consuming thing to do for one language, let alone dozens if not hundreds. If MS released the console in countries where the voice stuff wasn't developed properly they would get a lot of flak for it so it makes sense that they're delaying to get it right.

#5 Edited by believer258 (11681 posts) -

Wouldn't releasing a console or game without translating be considered a little disrespectful? Or are things ever released in Norway without translations and nobody cares?

#6 Edited by EXTomar (4518 posts) -

As already noted, a lot of people over there can and do speak and read English well enough and would probably be just fine so the thing about "cultural sensitive" is a red herring. The classical "technical reason" for localization is compliance with local laws including the big one that is generally used everywhere: Thou Store Shall Accept Our Currency. A lot of this is more than just translating the store into another language. You have to setup or contract out services to handle the money processing. You have to setup or contract out the accounting for the enter service for tax and regulation purposes. The actual text translation of stuff on the store is just a (legal) formality.

In this case, countries like Norway definitely lose out where they maybe wealthy enough but not large enough to justify setup of that stuff today or at the expense of another region in Europe. I suspect Denmark is in the same boat but I'm not sure about Sweden or if it is possible to order one from another region and have it usable in Norway.

#7 Edited by michaelenger (76 posts) -

@xyzygy: You're probably right that it's too early in the console generation to claim someone has lost, especially when we consider that generations can last over 5 years. Xbox One also has the Kinect, which is an amazing piece of tech that someone somewhere has to be able to use for something incredible.

The gap between console releases has been bigger, especially during the sixth generation, but the face of the industry has changed since then and if we look at the PS3 as an example we can see that it struggled due to a late release date and higher price point. Microsoft gained a lot of fans during the last generation, but they're dropping off like flies partly from the DRM debacle and now because the X1 isn't even available unless you want to import it yourself.

However, you raise a very valid point about voice recognition, which could explain why there is such a long delay, but I would argue that anyone who has spent a day in Norway would know how familiar we are with using English and how ubiquitous English-only devices and services are here. Apple's Siri doesn't support Norwegian, but they haven't disabled the service for phones sold in Norway. I don't think Microsoft has the resources to do the staggering amount of work that's required to get natural speech recognition to a somewhat tolerable level for every language in Europe, and I think they should forego their obstinate localization practices in favor of keeping their fanbase.

@extomar: The marketplace on the Xbox 360 has been here for many years, but do you think it has something to do with the migration to local currencies instead of using a MS-points-currency?

I realize that this is a #firstworldproblem and a very local issue not faced by most gamers, I was simply awe-struck by the length of the delay. Microsoft have development offices here in Norway, so I would think they'd be more interested in maintaining this market and would have the resources/manpower to get the Xbox One out here as soon as possible.

#8 Posted by Nashvilleskyline (194 posts) -

The Xbox will be just fine, don't worry :)

#9 Edited by EXTomar (4518 posts) -

I don't know the regulatory details and whatever specific to Norway but that is probably the reason why Microsoft has development offices in Norway to at all. It is tempting to think it is just a "reskin" the old "360 store" into the new "One store" is a bit of a simplification.

My experience with this was in the 90s where we were simply trying to sell our software in the UK and the difficulties where difficulties came from the real world aspects instead of the technical ones. The everyone initially thought the difficult part was "localization" but that was stupidly trivial (because you know...English guys invented the language!) compared the accounting and regulatory things that needed to be in place. The joke in office was that the reason why some of the compliance rules were in place where to make sure there so there was at least someone's ass to arrest and throw in jail if someone did something "bad". :)

#10 Posted by VierasTalo (683 posts) -

I was equally appalled when I noticed that it was coming out in September here in Finland. The reasons behind it are understandable though. Even if they don't localize the interface, they at least have to make the voice commands either able to recognize the local accents or just straight up localize them. But what takes more time is making it so the architecture of the XBone is compatible with every damn TV provider and channel of said Nordic country. Even getting a DVR out that works with everything is a pain, so I can't even imagine what a set piece of hardware originally designed to run entirely different TV-protocols is like to get running in Nordic countries. Then you still have to get all the contracts regarding the rights to provide such TV-services in order, a difficult process in our country at least. I don't like that it took this long, and I think they might have been able to shave off a few months, but no one releases a console in the summer, so eh.

#11 Edited by michaelenger (76 posts) -

@extomar: As a fellow developer I don't want to trivialize the work that goes into conforming a store to a different country, hell the fact that our currency is written "XXX kr" instead of "$ XXX" probably causes headaches for some poor UI designer out there. Conforming to local laws is also an issue as I recall that the Norwegian government ruled it illegal for iTunes to sell songs with DRM attached and require the use of their software/hardware for playback. However, you would think that Microsoft would have all this figured out during development of the console, rather than treating the majority of a continent as secondary citizens.

Nevertheless, we can speculate on the reasons as much as we'd like, but I just wanted to point out the massive gap between console releases and question how savvy this business move was. I admit that the title was very link-bait-y, but at least I got some great feedback :P

PS: May I ask what software were you selling?

...voice commands either able to recognize the local accents or just straight up localize them.

I would love for the voice commands to be English with a little of that Norwegian flair:

#12 Posted by Shadow (4978 posts) -

This is way to early for that conversation to happen. We're still at a point where less than 10% of people who regularly play console games even own one of the new ones. We'll have a better idea this holiday season, but it usually takes around two years to judge what consoles will be successful in what regions, after each of them have a good number of AAA exclusives under their belt

#13 Posted by kadaju86 (17 posts) -

Have to admit the decisions that MS have taken when it comes to the release of Xbone in the rest of Europe greatly puzzles me. Funny thing is that I preordered it from the Norwegian Microsoft store in July or August (not too long before they announced that it would not release until 2014) and now I have a PS4 from the Japanese PS4 launch instead which I didn't even preorder until a month or so before its release her...

From what I can gather by reading Norwegian forums (gamer.no in particular) it sounds like most, if not all, major retailers (Elkjøp, Lefdal and so on) in Norway have started importing Xbone on their own which makes it easier to get a Xbone than a PS4 as Sony seems to still struggle with demand in Norway. Just a really curious situation where it is easier to get hold of a product that isn't supposed to be on sale yet as opposed to one that was launched six months ago. In any case, feel perfectly happy with my PS4 so far so will most likely just wait until the official launch in September and see if I can finally get my preorder (that will have been up for over a year by that time) of the Xbone. Already got two games waiting on it as I preordered those from gamezone.no and they got shipped in December.

(Voice recognition on the Kinect is really of extremely little concern for me as I probably won't use it much at all. But I do have the Kinect for 360 and have had that pick up my voice commands in both English and Japanese without any issues, so to get the voice recognition translated to Norwegian feels like an annoying point for the delay if that is one of the major reasons.)

#14 Posted by AlexW00d (6191 posts) -

I dunno man, the PS3 came out a full year later than the 360 and Sony still managed to sell well over twice as many consoles. It could all change.

#15 Posted by Sergio (2054 posts) -

If you consider selling fewer Xbox Ones than PS4s losing, then yes. I'd normally say it's too soon to tell for some markets where both consoles released around the same time, like in North America, but considering Europe as a whole, I'd say it's already a foregone conclusion that Xbox One has already lost, barring something major.

Europe for the most part has been more keen on Sony's offerings than Microsoft's. The PS3 released there later than the Xbox 360 and still managed to outsell it there, and it did it with other factors that should have worked against it. This time, Microsoft doesn't have the release date advantage, and in many cases, Sony has that advantage. The disadvantages the PS3 had are not there for the PS4.

That said, I think the Xbox One will probably do fine in Europe even if it doesn't sell more than PS4. It won't be a similar situation to how it will do in Japan.

#16 Edited by xyzygy (9899 posts) -

@michaelenger: Yeah, I am actually living in Germany right now and even here there are many who are familiar with English. I have some friends from Sweden and they say that in Scandinavian countries the people are very familiar with English, more so than the rest of Contintal Europe, so I would understand why you would say that they could have just released it in English over there. But I still think MS is right for wanting to fully develop the Kinect for the mother tongue of a country. It actually seems more "worldly" of MS (I know that's kind of weird).

Also, I'd like to use Canada as an example (where I'm from). It's a bilingual country with French and English and the French there are very proud. If Microsoft hadn't released the X1 with both French and English support, even though many French Canadians are familiar with English, it would have been pretty shitty of MS.

But about the DRM thing. The console was revealed almost a year ago and shortly after that was the decision reversed - it's going to become something no one really remembers anymore. In fact, I thought people were kind of past that since it doesn't even exist anymore and they've started to take initiatives to show that they're actually listening. Just like what Sony did last gen to start their boost.

#17 Edited by sdharrison (476 posts) -

The feature set of the XOne isn't something that makes a global product. It's centered around a United States media consumption experience, and it's not that great at that either (no DVR). The European shortcomings are just symptomatic of an inconsistent and misguided product launch. The way people on this forum talk about the XOne, it's as if there is some forgone conclusion that it will succeed and stick around a long long time. It's the same goodwill and benefit of the doubt that the media gave Microsoft in the run up to launch.

The soul of the XOne is getting consumers invested in the paywall ecosystem. That gives Microsoft data and leverage over other content providers. I also keep waiting for an announcement of subsidized contract pricing with cable bundles. Some of that applies to Europe, and some doesn't. But Microsofts bottom line is in the U.S. and that's not a secret. In a vacuum, it would be fine. But PC gaming and the PS4 are aggressively preferable gaming alternatives with larger future upside, and DVR cable boxes provide an unquestionably superior experience for watching anything except live sports.

It's a mediocre product in America, and it's a pointless European and Japanese product. It isn't a big deal, it happens all the time.

#18 Edited by rethla (425 posts) -

Well here in Sweden Its easy to get an Xbone but PS4 is hard to get and Xbone hasnt even been released here yet, i think its pretty clear whos the winner. It has been that way pretty much since december.

#19 Posted by TheHBK (5466 posts) -

The Xbox One was released in countries that matter last year.

#20 Edited by GaspoweR (2830 posts) -

I think it might have a lot to do with being able to add some of the TV and Kinect functionality which MS hasn't tied up yet in that particular region. This is just pure speculation on my part but did they shoot themselves in the foot by doing this very late? Yeah, I think so and now they are slowly recuperating in the hospital and then under going rehab. :/

#21 Posted by rethla (425 posts) -
@thehbk said:

The Xbox One was released in countries that matter last year.

Yeah, being outsold 2 to 1 clearly is all that matters. Xbone was released in those countries where it got most of its shit together and its a mess in the rest of the world.

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