It's a little too early to write the Xbox One's obituary.
Sure, Microsoft's console is taking a beating in both overall sales and the realm of public approval. But the Xbox team has made a few moves that may even things up.
The largest coup came this week: News leaked that "Rise of the Tomb Raider," the latest installment in the popular Tomb Raider video game franchise set to release next year, will be a timed Xbox One exclusive. This means that for an unknown number of months, only Xbox One owners will have access to Lara Croft's latest adventures.
This made gamers go ballistic, accusing Microsoft of trying to buy its way back into the console race with clandestine deals and shady tactics. They even accused "Rise of the Tomb Raider" developer Crystal Dynamics and publisher Square Enix of selling out their fans in order to make extra money.
I don't see that. I get that "Tomb Raider" has been a staple on PlayStation systems for almost two decades, but why is it suddenly not OK for Xbox One to buy the rights to a popular game? Sony has gained the upper hand by purchasing great franchises; why shouldn't Microsoft follow suit?
PlayStation owners will get to play "Rise of the Tomb Raider" eventually, and there is no law against a PS4 owner buying an Xbox One. People are a little too caught up in the PS4 vs. Xbox One marketing frenzy. You don't have to swear allegiance to one console. If you love video games and have the money, buy both.
This growing arms race is also good for business. Surely, Microsoft paid well for the exclusivity rights. "Tomb Raider" fans should applaud — the deal increases the likelihood of "Tomb Raider" longevity.
The move should be good for Microsoft, as well. A fair number will buy an Xbox One after hearing the news. It could serve as a tipping point for people on the fence about the $400 investment.
More Xbox news
The Xbox team also is throwing some money behind special promotions for two of the winter's biggest titles: "Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare" and "Evolve."
The "Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare" Xbox One bundle comes with a copy of the game, a specially painted Xbox One with a 1-terabyte hard drive and a "Call of Duty"-themed controller for $499.99.
It's a very safe move. Microsoft is banking on the most successful video game franchise of the past five years or so. The special console and controller will add collector's item value, and the massive hard drive is the largest ever packaged inside a console. The bundle's Nov. 3 release date also should net some serious holiday sales numbers.
In addition to the bundle, Xbox is promising early access to "Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare" and exclusive in-game items and content.
As I noted last week, the sci-fi hunting game "Evolve" was delayed until Feb. 10. However, Xbox One owners who pre-order the title will get access to an exclusive "Evolve" Beta test sometime in January.
I really like this move. "Evolve" is set to release on PC and both consoles, so it sweetens the pot for people unsure about which version to buy. If I had a PS4 and an Xbox One, the choice would be pretty easy. It's the same game either way, so why not play it early?
NFL fans, take note
Microsoft also is appealing to football fans by signing an exclusive deal to add the NFL network to its entertainment selection, offering a "Madden 15" bundle similar to the "Advanced Warfare" one and adding an all-inclusive fantasy football app that will allow Xbox One owners to check their www.nfl.com or ESPN fantasy leagues while watching games or playing the console.
I'm glad Microsoft is willing to write some checks. The more money billion-dollar empires throw at game companies, the more games will get made. This may not mean that much to massive franchises like "Call of Duty" — which will make millions in sales, anyway — but it could keep hundreds of smaller independent developers in business.
I spent a lot of time with indie developers at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, and most of them were ecstatic that two corporations are willing to wage a bidding war over their games.
So, even if you are a diehard PlayStation fan, be happy that Microsoft is putting up such an intense fight. It will force the fathers of your beloved console to up their game as well. Let them battle it out — we will reap the benefits.