Xbox One X: why choice isn’t always a good thing

Project Scorpio has a new name: Xbox One X, aka Kiss Hug Kiss (XOX). The new machine is the tiniest Xbox ever, and although many have been praising the updated design as “sleek“, it just looks like a boring black box to me. Sure, it will nestle in nicely among the other various black boxes under my TV, but I still pine for the days when consoles had handles and chunky buttons. C’est la vie.

Speaking of boxes under my TV, I still have a ten-year-old, 12GB, white Xbox 360 tucked away there. I never bothered to upgrade it to a ‘Slim’ model, as it worked fine and I wasn’t bothered about having more storage or a slightly sleeker box. But in the current console generation, with the introduction of the Xbox One X (and the PS4 Pro before it), the decision to upgrade just got trickier.

More choice isn’t necessarily a good thing. In 2015, for example, Tesco decided to cut the number of products it sells because it realised that having more choice actually led to consumers buying less. In one famous study on choice psychology by Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper, consumers were given a voucher for a dollar off a jar of jam. On one day, they were presented with 24 varieties of jam. But on another day, they were given the choice of just six varieties. When presented with six varieties, 30% of consumers bought some jam. But when given the choice of 24 varieties, only 3% bought jam.

This is called the ‘choice paradox’. More choice can actually lead to people buying less, as they become paralysed by indecision and end up giving up rather than ‘buying the wrong thing’.

On paper, the Xbox One X seems like a win-win for Microsoft for two main reasons: 1) it will encourage people who already own an Xbox One to buy the newer version, so Microsoft will essentially get two sales where previously they would have had only one; and 2) it will give Microsoft the technological lead over their rivals.

But the downside is that by introducing a two-tiered console range, Microsoft has fragmented its market. It has potentially introduced crippling choice indecision. Choosing between two consoles with different specs might not be as confusing as choosing between 24 varieties of jam – but it IS confusing. Imaging a mother going into a game shop to buy an Xbox One for her daughter.

Mother: “Hello, I’d like to get an Xbox One for my daughter, please.”

Shop assistant: “Great! Which one would you like, the Xbox One S or the Xbox One X?”

Mother: “Erm, what’s the difference?”

Shop assistant: “Well, the Xbox One S is the older version, and the Xbox One X is the latest one, and it’s much more powerful, but it’s a bit more expensive.”

Mother: “OK, well I suppose she’ll want the latest one, how much is it?”

Shop assistant: “It’s £450.”

Mother: “Wow, that’s a bit more than I was expecting! Is it a lot better?”

Shop assistant: “Yes, it’s the most powerful console out there at the moment, although really you need a 4K TV to get the most out of it. Do you have a 4K TV?”

Mother: “I don’t think so… although we were talking about getting a new one. So this Xbox One S, this isn’t as good?”

Shop assistant: “No, it’s not as powerful as the Xbox One X, although it runs all of the same games.”

Mother: “So the Xbox One S plays the same games as the Xbox One X?”

Shop assistant: “Yes, that’s right, although they look a bit prettier on the Xbox One X.”

Mother: “Well, I suppose we’ll probably get a 4K TV at some point, so maybe I should get the Xbox One X. But it’s so expensive… How much is the Xbox One S?”

Shop assistant: “It’s £250.”

Mother: “Wow, that’s a lot cheaper! Now I’m not sure – maybe if I got that one I could get a few more games with it as well so she’d have lots to play on her birthday. Oh, what’s that one over there?

Shop assistant: “That? Oh that’s the original Xbox One, that’s a secondhand one.”

Mother: “So is that not as good?”

Shop assistant: “Well, it’s basically the same as the Xbox One S, but it’s a bit bigger.”

Mother: “And how much is that?”

Shop assistant: “It’s £150.”

Mother: “OK, that’s really cheap! And you say it’s just like the other one? Well, maybe I could get Sarah that and a few clothes along with some games… But maybe she’d really want the latest one? Although if we haven’t got a 4K TV, it’s probably not worth it… But then again we might be getting one… I tell you what, I’ll leave it for now.”

Undoubtedly, this scene will be played out many, many times in games shops across the country from November onwards.