There has been a recurring bit of chatter across the interwebs about Microsoft’s plans for the Xbox brand given that the division hasn’t been entirely profitable for the company (despite the brand becoming well recognized as a power player in the home entertainment sector). The latest bit of chatter has kicked up due to a lot of weight being added to the rumors about Microsoft selling off Xbox.
The Verge spotted an article on Bloomberg where they source individuals close to Microsoft’s inner operations that Stephen Elop, potential candidate for Microsoft’s CEO position to replace a retiring Steve Ballmer, would be keen on killing or diverting resources off wasteful divisions of the software (and minor hardware) giant.
As summed up in the Bloomberg article…
Elop would be prepared to sell or shut down major businesses to sharpen the company’s focus, the people said. He would consider ending Microsoft’s costly effort to take on Google with its Bing search engine, and would also consider selling healthy businesses such as the Xbox game console if he determined they weren’t critical to the company’s strategy, the people said.
This isn’t the first time this issue has come up regarding the sale of the Xbox division, but the reality strikes a heck of a lot closer to home given that once the rumor went wild Microsoft’s stock price skyrocketed at the prospect of the Bing and Xbox divisions being sold off, which could result in a hefty profit margin for the 2015 fiscal forecast.
More than anything, the launch of the Xbox One and whether it proliferates or profligates Microsoft ‘s marketing position will determine how much weight the rumors will hold. I imagine if someone like Elop saw a lot of strong consumer interest they might consider keeping the Xbox brand around a little while longer. However, if the launch is plagued with temperate sales andpoor consumer feedback, it could easily affect the Xbox brand’s market position and dampen the way people react and perceive Microsoft’s home entertainment gaming division.
Now this creates a rather interesting conundrum with a dichotomous approach from gamers on the potential dump of the Xbox brand by Microsoft.
On one side, gamers feel that Microsoft needs to keep the Xbox brand in order to keep the industry competitive and force Sony to stay innovative, consumer-friendly and feature-savvy, if not forward-looking with staying relevant with their services and devices. Many gamers fear that Microsoft selling off the Xbox brand where it becomes nothing or loses its prestige under a smaller company it could force Sony back into the early dark days of their PS3 mentality. On a personal note, I’m not sure why people don’t think Nintendo would keep Sony competitive? But oh well.
On the other side, some gamers feel that Microsoft effusing the Xbox brand could be good for the industry, opening the door for a potentially better competitor to step up and try their hand at the gaming industry. This viewpoint isn’t a bad one and it would be interesting to see who might enter the competitive home entertainment console space, although technically that’s sort of what Valve is about to do with the Steam Machines.
Right now, though, gamers need not worry too much until an official successor to Ballmer is announced and their intentions are made readily clear. Until then, enjoy the ride while it lasts.