A reader is unimpressed by Microsoft’s next gen console plans and thinks they should make Xbox Game Pass the sole focus of their business.
OK, enough is enough. I enjoyed the Xbox 360 as much as anyone, it was the only console I owned that generation, but ever since then (ever since Kinect, really) Microsoft has just lost the plot. Xbox One was a disaster before it was even out and now they are making a complete mess of the Xbox Series X as well.
As all the extra details started to come in on Friday, about everything they didn’t dare say during the showcase, it just got even worse: the fact that Halo Infinite was running on a PC, that it wasn’t really open world, and that most of the games probably weren’t coming to Xbox One after all – despite all that stupid talk about no exclusives.
That was just the cherry on top though because even without all that it was still a bizarrely poor showing, with almost no new announcements and even less actual gameplay. Forza Motorsport looked good, I suppose, if you like that sort of thing but Halo Infinite was embarrassing to watch.
It looked, and seemed to play, like an Xbox One game and instantly proved what everyone had feared: that by making games cross-gen developers are unable to take full advantage of the Xbox Series X.
And that’s, of course, assuming that anyone still cares about Halo, which I have serious doubts about. I’m also very confused as to why Fable is being brought back, seeing as none of the originals were particularly good. They’ve also aged like milk and there’s nothing they do that dozens of other games haven’t already done 10 times better since.
This should’ve been easy for Microsoft because, allegedly, they’ve got the most powerful console. Just show some amazing graphics in a new game that everyone can get excited about, that’s all they had to do. I think the general assumption was that Microsoft had given up on the Xbox One early, when Phil Spencer took over, and the reason there haven’t been many first party games out since is that they were concentrating on coming out all guns blazing for the next gen. Yeah, well… that didn’t happen.
Instead, we find out that Microsoft has done nothing in the last five years. They’ve made virtually no games of note for Xbox One (Ori was an external studio, before anyone mentions that), they’ve not got any kind of headstart for the Xbox Series X (Sony showcased more games for the PlayStation 5), and almost all the developers they (eventually) bought to bolster their first party line-up have been no-name studios and second-tier companies at best.
I no longer have any faith that Phil Spencer knows what he’s doing, unless his long-term plan is so long-term it won’t come to fruition until the next-next generation.
At this point we have to accept that Microsoft just isn’t very good at making consoles or managing developers. They got lucky with Halo, with the original Xbox (which they bought half-finished from Bungie before running the series into the ground and having Bungie leave them and the franchise) and with the Xbox 360 (which had the terrible Red Ring of Death problem and was up against easily Sony’s worst home console) and that’s it.
There’s also Gears Of War but that was made by an external developer too, until they bought it a couple of years ago. The only series of theirs that’s been consistently good and is made by a first party developer is Forza Motorsport. Compare that to Sony’s many and varied successes and, well… it isn’t a comparison.
Then consider how bad they are at marketing. The focus on Kinect, the unveiling of the Xbox One, the terrible and confusing names of their consoles, their inability to ever put on a decent E3 show, their inability to attract Japanese companies despite having all the money in the world, and their total failure to get anyone outside of the US and UK to buy an Xbox.
Microsoft has come dead last in the last two generations of consoles (they beat the GameCube by a sliver in the one before that) and they don’t seem to be able to accept that or the fact that all their games and marketing are too focused on the US and online shooters.
But there is a bright side to all this. The one thing Microsoft is very good at is online services. Xbox Live has always been great, and the one reason I’m glad they entered the games business, and everything they’ve done with backwards compatibility has been top notch. I’m sure xCloud will be much better than Stadia and then there’s… Game Pass, which is fantastic.
Game Pass already is the Netflix of gaming. It’s great value for money and it’s got tons of content. The only problem is that instead of the cool first party games of Sony or Nintendo it’s got the rubbish ones of Xbox.
What I would do if I was Phil Spencer (other than quit, probably) is cancel the Xbox Series X and focus solely on Game Pass and xCloud. Getting as many third party companies on board as possible and try and be the place where you can get all the big games for just one single monthly payment.
That would be amazing and I’m sure it’s what they’re eventually aiming for, but the Xbox Series X and its games are distracting people away from that and devaluing the whole Xbox brand. I know, obviously, they’re not going to cancel the console, but they really should. It’s only going to do them more harm than good and the day when Microsoft can put its hardware days behind it will be the moment the Xbox dream finally comes true.
By reader Cranston
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