The Xbox One Games Store has come a long way since its inception. Indeed, for the first few months of Xbox One ownership, gamers were hugely limited in their playing options, stuck with spending time with just a few titles over and over again. But as the weeks, months and years have gone by, the library has expanded to a mammoth degree, with both indie developers and worldwide blockbusting publishers living in harmony, side by side, vying for our cash.
The latter months of 2016 has seen the store expand even more than previous, and in amongst the likes of Battlefield 1, Forza Horizon 3 and Gears of War 4 are indie gems, with The Bug Butcher, Mantis Burn Racing and Manual Samuel all shining. As a gamer who is more than happy to check out the smaller titles alongside the big Triple-A behemoths, I welcome them with open arms. They are well priced, they come with a decent amount of gameplay and their overall production levels are high; three things that contribute massively towards a game’s success.
But unfortunately not all of them are of that quality.
Now, I’m not saying that I don’t want to see the Xbox Games Store continue to expand forever more. In fact, it is quite the opposite and the more games that are available for gamers to splash the cash on, or at least consider as titles to tide them over as the cold winter months hit home, is a good thing. I’m not sure everything appearing is helping the overall quality though.
You see, I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone when I say I don’t welcome those games which have appeared on the Store as nothing more than a money grabbing exercise, with the development team behind them either lacking the skills, the time, or the required nous, to allow for a game to have the quality needed for it to drop onto the marketplace without any fuss.
You only have to look at two recent releases to understand fully what I’m talking about.
Speedboat Challenge arrived on the store in North America a few weeks back to nothing but a slow hand clap. With visuals that look like it would just about feel at home on the Xbox 360, and gameplay that is nothing short of boring, glitchy and tired, it was always going to struggle. It also has a $13.99 price tag to boot, and so it’s supremely hard for anyone to recommend an Xbox One gamer picking this up. That difficulty is multiplied over and over again when it comes to light that you can pick the same game up on a mobile device, for nothing; in-app purchases aside. If you put it alongside another recent indie release, that of the rather brilliant, and super cheap, £3.99 Castle Invasion: Throne Out, then you’ll understand my annoyance at how some ‘mobile centric’ games are welcome whilst others drag everything else down.
Thankfully it seems that the majority of the globe may never have to put themselves through the turmoil it brings, as it is looking highly likely that our North American friends will be the only ones to have to be put through the speedboat wringer. But that in no way helps them.
Similarly, this last week has seen the release of the creatively named, Horse Racing 2016. Now, I’m not going to knock something on looks or lack of titular originality alone, and I have to admit that we’re a little short of ‘horse racing’ games at this moment in time. But when you combine something which is so obviously struggling with decent gameplay mechanics, shooting way over par in terms of visuals and comes with a £23.99 price tag that instantly pushes it above the vast majority of other digital only titles, then it’s quite easy to see that we’re going to struggle to back this as a winner.
At least there’s a free trial available to ensure you don’t waste your money too easily, but I still struggle to see how something that is so lacking in visual quality warrants a place on the greatest games console ever created.
The Xbox One Games Store may have increased a hundredfold since its early days, but in amongst the stand out titles really are a few games that threaten to bring the whole house down. I’ve singled out two for the biggest criticism, but could quite easily drop a number of others into the fray as well with both Rock ‘N Racing titles and the utterly strange, Perfect Woman being prime candidates for focus. It only takes a quick glance at the overall Metacritic scores for the Xbox One games library to see that there are a number which really shouldn’t be commanding a place on our favourite digital store.
Xbox One, and the good old games store itself, is a great place to spend time and money. The vast majority of the games on offer are more than welcome, but unfortunately there are those sad few which have somehow slipped through the quality control net. We can but only hope that the ridiculous pricing structure and poor visuals that usually accompany them will put any gamer who is tempted off immediately.
Or at least see things sharpen up a bit before the Store itself begins to get a bad name.