Microsoft’s 2017: momentum at last, and a golden opportunity

Is this the year we can finally begin an editorial on Xbox’s fortunes without referring to the catastrophic consequences of Xbox One’s botched launch in 2013? I guess I’ve answered my own question there, but at least I feel a little bad about it. Phil Spencer and the rest of the Xbox management team deserve better than having past mistakes raked over yet again, because they have achieved what at one time seemed impossible. They start the new year no longer on the back foot, with some notable successes under their belt, and with, for the first time in years, a strategic advantage over their rivals at Sony. (They even .)

It is, of course, all about , the high-powered new Xbox console due at the end of this year. It’s bound to be a controversial box, but have no doubt that Microsoft’s games division will be attacking its launch like its life depends on it – and not for nothing, either. It represents a very real opportunity to regain ground in its hard-fought sales war with Sony.

So what went right in 2016? First and foremost, you have to look to Xbox One S. The repackaged console is – quite simply, a desirable bit of kit in its own right. It also brought the Xbox hardware in step with the changed priorities and philosophy of the Xbox enterprise as a whole, which were no longer reflected in the bloated original design with its vestigial Kinect focus and set-top box pretensions. Here instead was a neat games console with bonus features, reminiscent, if anything, of the original PlayStation 2. It rewarded Microsoft with a much-needed and well-deserved sales boost, outselling PS4 (in some markets, some of the time).