A monster of a thread on NeoGAF is suggesting that the Xbox One is having at least one supply chain issue that may impact the launch of the console. Knowing the importance of a pre black Friday, holiday launch window for both the Sony and Microsoft consoles, I do not foresee the launch being pushed back as an answer. So what is a video game manufacturer to do?
There are two supposed issues, one with a relatively easy fix that may have a minor impact on system performance, and one that will straight up impact Microsoft’s ability to get units to retailers for sale. The rumor with the most cred, and seemingly accurate is that Microsoft is having yield issues with eSRAM which could affect the number of systems available at launch because there simply will not be enough parts/chips available to build the number of consoles that consumers will want to buy. As ‘confirmed’ in this NeoGAF thread, there is high confidence that these chips are not going to be available in the numbers expected. Just knowing the importance of launching on time, I fully expect that we will see Xbox One on store shelves this holiday season, but it will likely be scarce in quantity. That means the large marketing campaign will lose some oomph, unless the Xbox One can create a Wii-like frenzy. Probably price point makes that less than probable.
The second rumor is more concerning, especially to those of who are looking to this system for gaming first, and multimedia second. A lot of speculation is going around suggesting that the eSRAM yields are actually so bad, that to keep the manufacturing on a proper schedule will require lowering the clock speed of the GPU or potentially the whole APU. Editor’s note: The APU is the name given to the chip/package that contains the CPU, the GPU and the eSRAM. NeoGAF members and stfuandgame have both suggested that in order for Microsoft to both have enough units available to sell at launch and to not lose significant piles of money on eSRAM chips that are effectively trash, the Xbox One will be underclocked by 100-200 mhz.
While this is all speculation, the various folks putting this information out there have been on point for both the Sony hardware specs and rumors pre-PS4 announcement and the Xbox One multimedia and game usage restrictions before that formal announcement. This is troubling not just because I want to get one of these in my hands as soon as I can, but because I don’t think Microsoft can afford a big stumble here.
While mostly forgotten, they are still carrying the baggage of the Red Ring of Death from the launch of the 360, and any tangible hardware failures will not only make the news, but will certainly be overblown because that’s what media outlets do now. Sony also has played their hand very smartly with the way they have handled their announcement and what details they have specifically avoided. By letting Microsoft open up the used games and DRM discussions, they have allowed themselves to play the hero without actually saying anything even though they could be doing all of the very same things. They have cleverly let Microsoft take the spotlight as well as the heat and public outrage. Sony has slowly gathered momentum since the awful launch of the PS3 and generally has the majority of the goodwill from the die-hards of the video game community as well as many smaller and independent developers. The race is still Microsoft’s to lose, but I think Sony’s hyper focus on gaming and social media is going steal some of the core consumer base from the media focused (and now potentially even more underpowered) Xbox One.