The internet has been pretty harsh on Microsoft lately with jokes about how well their console performs as a Netflix box. Even at Pixelrater, it has become normal to nag on the Xbox One for having nothing to play. Obviously we don’t mean LITERALLY nothing to play. On the contrary, I spend most nights playing Xbox One with my friends. Only problem is, what we are playing isn’t an experience that’s unique to Xbox. If you were to Google the dominant titles right now, you’d find lots of games, Overwatch, Destiny, The Witcher 3, Rocket League, Call of Duty, Battlefield 1, Grand Theft Auto 5… The list goes on and on, but the important takeaway is that these games are not loyal to Microsoft. They’ll go where the wind blows, and where the money moves. Aside from Halo Wars 2, Microsoft hasn’t recently had a whole lot to offer in the way of new experiences that are ONLY found on Xbox One.
While I respect their cross platform initiative, offering the option to play on PC AND Xbox One with a single purchase, it leaves me increasingly concerned as to why exactly I need to stay on board with Xbox and not abandon completely.
In the past, Microsoft was the undisputed king of consoles with the Xbox 360. They reigned both first party launches as well as third party partnerships.You couldn’t throw a rock and not hit a publisher that was pushing their game as a timed exclusive to Xbox 360. Even though they didn’t put out MANY first party exclusive titles at a time, they were at least consistent. Gears, Halo, Fable, Alan Wake, Forza…These were among those that made the Xbox 360 a comfortable home to players looking for an exclusive experience.
I don’t need to be a historian to show you how different that is today. As Sony gained traction with the PS4, Microsoft’s ivory tower has withered away. Competition is healthy, but it often doesn’t feel like Microsoft is even trying anymore. Those third party timed exclusives, which gave them a considerable boost in numbers, have drifted over to the Sony plane. Second party developers, like Alan Wake creator — Remedy Entertainment, who were once loyal to Xbox, have now opted for a third party path forward. Smart for them — bad for Microsoft.
This sudden disappearance of outside support has made their struggling first party venture all the more noticeable. The highly anticipated Scalebound has been cancelled. Fable, which is a series I hold dear, has been iced after the cancellation of Fable Legends. They’ve already come forward and said there will be no new Halo this year. These are examples of the decaying Titan that was once the Xbox brand. ReCore was a good effort, but it’s pretty unanimous that the game sort of fell off the rocker pretty early on.
Sure, there was a new Gears last year. It’s a very impressive return to form for a series that was long overdue. Outside of that, though. Microsoft has had to rely on annualizing their only real other reliable system seller: Forza.
Honestly, I think a lot of this failure can be attributed to their incessant aim to try and top Sony. Instead of trying to put all of their money into hardware revisions, they need to focus on games. Teraflops will only get you so far if the only thing you’re adding to the console is backwards compatible games.
What can turn things around? Here’s what I hope to see this year at E3 from Microsoft:
Game Pass incentives
Game Pass is Microsoft’s new, subscription based game library. For 10 bucks a month, you get access to “100+ games” to download to your console and play at your leisure. That number begins to dwindle down after you take into account how many of those titles are A) worth playing, and B) actual Xbox One games. While the list may be small now, it’s still a superior offering to Sony’s subscription which requires players to stream the games from a server. Gross, right?
If Microsoft is smart, they will see the potential of this ecosystem and start offering subscribers benefits in the form of discounts or early access to titles. If I got free preview access to Crackdown 3 for being a Game Pass subscriber, I’m much more willing to give the service a try. Hell, give me a demo of Cuphead and I’ll eat that subscription right up.
A solid release date on known first party releases
Right now, I can only recall a few titles that are on the table for Xbox One.
Sea of Thieves
State of Decay 2
They all look fun, but aside from State of Decay 2, they have been in development for a long time and have been shown at multiple E3’s by now. I’m a firm believer that a rushed game is a bad idea, but Microsoft really needs to get these games that are almost certain to be well received out the door and into the hands of the players.
A new IP
I’m all for the next Halo. In fact, I hope the next one comes sooner rather than later, and makes bold decisions to cater to a more casual audience. In the meantime though, Microsoft should really get something new into our brains. Gimme something on a fresh t-shirt, Phil.
Not too much focus on Scorpio
This one is more of a wish than an actual expectation, but PLEASE don’t spend the entire time talking about Scorpio. We get it, it’s all you have talked about since last year. It’s a powerful xbox that out performs the PS4 Pro. I’m just as excited as everyone else to know what it is. But you have to remember that you’re also a games company. Which makes the realization all the more depressing that Scorpio is what Microsoft will almost certainly focus on while on stage.
To be totally frank — I don’t really expect much out of Microsoft at E3 this year. If they are going to show up on stage, spend 45 minutes talking about how Scorpio will “change the industry” because its games run more smoothly than PS4 Pro, you can count me out for two reasons:
1) In the least possible “tooting my own horn” terms — I have a PC that makes both consoles look like dirt with glitter inside. Even though I am in a vast minority with that good fortune, I’m still part of an ever-increasing audience who is transitioning to PC as a serious gaming platform.
2) I don’t watch the press conferences to get the dirty on your third party ports. (Unless you’re Nintendo, in which case — PLEASE REGGIE-SAN KEEP THE THIRD PARTY TITLES ROLLING AND DON’T EVER STOP).
I expect Microsoft’s focus this year will be on Scorpio and not much else. I’m not sure how much longer they can go without a strong games offering before they start suffering. I hope I’m proven wrong. Luckily, the wait is almost over, as E3 is right around the corner! So stay tuned for all our coverage, and remember: