Xbox One is £20 off at Zavvi as Microsoft pays gamers for plugs

Microsoft's console is down to £410 at online retailer Zavvi, a saving of £20, while the company has apparently been paying for positive mentions on YouTube.

Nick Hide Managing copy editor
Nick manages CNET's advice copy desk from Springfield, Virginia. He's worked at CNET since 2005.
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Nick Hide
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First up, a quick deal -- the Xbox One is down to £410 at online retailer Zavvi, a saving of £20 on the RRP. It's the cheapest you'll find it outside getting lucky on eBay, and there are some voucher codes floating around to make it even cheaper.

That's without any games though, which start at around £40 a pop. If you'd prefer Sony's PlayStation 4, which retails for £350, you'll be waiting until the end of next week at the earliest -- Amazon UK says it's getting stock in on 30 January, the first time since it went on sale.

The PS4 outsold the Xbox One over Christmas, with official figures earlier this month pegging Sony's machine at 4.2 million sold, and Microsoft's box at 3 million worldwide (although the Xbox is on sale in fewer countries). That the Xbox is still on sale -- and now being discounted -- doesn't necessarily reflect a lack of popularity, as Microsoft may simply be better at manufacturing consoles. You can be sure Sony would be putting PlayStations on sale if it could.

Viral murk-eting

Which brings me to my second story in this glorious two-fer-one mashup (talk about value!). Microsoft reportedly paid gamers on YouTube for mentions of its new console in their videos, at a rate of $3 per thousand views, via the Machinima network.

A UK community manager for the network tweeted the offer to his followers, later deleting it. Ars Technica picks up the story with a leaked email from Machinima, disclosing that YouTubers were only eligible for the payment if they didn't say anything negative about the console. If they didn't disclose in their videos that they were paid, it could contravene US advertising regulations, and it's not clear that Machinima required them to do so.

The budget for the whole project was vanishingly small -- Microsoft reportedly paid just $3,750 for 1.25 million views of Xbox One-related videos over a week, a drop in the ocean of marketing dollars it spent in the last few months. It's the second time the company has apparently marketed its console in this way, with a similar campaign during launch.

I'd say the campaign probably amounted to little more than a toe in the water, or some ad exec clearing out the last crumbs of his budget, rather than any kind of corporate strategy to hoodwink millions of gamers.

"Microsoft was not aware of individual contracts Machinima had with their content providers as part of this promotion and we didn't provide feedback on any of the videos," a Microsoft spokesperson told me in a statement. "We have asked Machinima to not post any additional Xbox One content as part of this media buy and we have asked them to add disclaimers to the videos that were part of this program indicating they were part of paid advertising."

Are you one of the 3 million gamers with a shiny new Xbox One? Do you think Microsoft is holding up its end of the bargain and providing enough cool stuff for you to play? Do you think it's easy to tell if someone on YouTube or other social networks is genuinely enthusiastic for a product or being paid to talk it up? Talk yourself up in the comments, or over on our squeaky-clean Facebook page.

Update 22 January: Added comment from Microsoft.