We all know that Microsoft started this generation poorly to say the least.
They produced one of the worst press conferences in the history of video games when they first revealed the Xbox One to the public back in 2013. The somewhat innovative vision surrounding TV and using your Xbox as your main entertainment hub couldn’t save Xbox from lagging behind PS4 for a consistent five years, and to a large degree. Meanwhile, PlayStation 4 became one of the greatest selling consoles in history while Xbox fought towards repairing the brand and supplying only solid, not excellent sales to Microsoft.
There is much fascination to be found within the games industry. Specifically, the decisions made by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo who are all main competitors in the home gaming console market. They’re particularly interesting to study and observe because of the different avenues they take with their hardware and the different strategies behind their marketing campaigns.
With such a big move in organisational culture and ethic within the Xbox and Microsoft teams moving forward, one has to wonder whether Head of Xbox Phil Spencer and his team are building, or have perhaps built, the foundation of what will be an extraordinary line-up of software and hardware for the Xbox brand in the coming generation/next few years.
There are many signs that point to a wonderfully prosperous, consumer-friendly and developer-friendly future within the Xbox eco-system. You can see this with the change in direction since Phil Spencer has taken over as Head of Xbox.
Updating the Xbox One with many monthly hardware and UI updates to slowly improve the dashboard manoeuvrability. Releasing, what is for lack of a better word, a patch which allows backwards compatibility with not just Xbox 360 games, but Original Xbox games also. It’s an incredible feat that allows me to buy, play and complete an Original Xbox copy of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic second-hand on my Xbox One. That is an experience I never thought Xbox would be able to provide for me.
Just recently Xbox released an update on the Xbox One platform which allows you to sync Amazon’s Alexa voice-command functionality to your console. Having released the Xbox One X and the Xbox One S last year, Xbox’s hardware has never been better. Finally removing the gigantic and ridiculous power brick along with releasing the smallest Xbox consoles we’ve seen, not mentioning the fact that the Xbox One X is currently the most powerful console in the world.
The culture and ethic of Xbox has illustrated itself enough over the past few years to, at the very least, point to a promising console generation, with this beginning, if the rumours are correct, late next year. And after the Xbox conference we witnessed at E3 this year, it seems that the culture and ethic driving forward this ever-growing and ever-learning brand is also manifesting itself with the business decisions Xbox have been showcasing recently.
Specifically, acquiring many talented studios to produce exclusive titles for the Xbox platform for the foreseeable future. It was perhaps the most powerful business move of E3 this year when Phil Spencer highlighted the acquisitions that Microsoft had made recently. Acquiring Undead Labs (State of Decay), Playground Games (Forza Horizon), Ninja Theory (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice) and Compulsion Games (We Happy Few), this move illustrates how the ideology driving the Xbox brand into the future of the gaming world is also driving the business decisions Microsoft is making to support its multi-billion-dollar home console.
Furthermore, creating a brand new studio – The Initiative – with the mission statement of developing a ‘AAAA’ franchise suggests that the only way that the Xbox platform’s missing exclusives situation doesn’t improve in the next few years is if Microsoft are extremely unlucky.
And with the recent but unsurprising news of Xbox hosting its very own press conference/event called XO18, riding alongside the Xbox FanFest in Mexico City, it’s all but confirmed that Xbox is finally going to show some promising future developments coming down the pipeline on its platform. A mirror to Sony’s PSX, which incidentally isn’t being hosted this year, this is a move from Xbox I’ve been waiting years for them to make. I hope they deliver the goods.
Of course, all we can truly do is speculate on whispers at the moment. But considering the information I have highlighted within this article, it does not seem too radical to claim that Xbox could have an extremely strong exclusive roundhouse of games available for the next generation, alongside the best Xbox hardware, perhaps home console hardware, the world has seen thus far.
In short, coming from the view of a hardcore Xbox fan, I believe that Xbox is more than capable of dominating next-generation. That being said, there is definitely a gap of understanding and/or strategy when it comes to Xbox not being able to produce not just a vast quantity of exclusive titles to their platform, but unleashing their studios’ artistic talent and expression to produce games of the highest quality.
Games like God of War and Marvel’s Spider-Man. Games like Horizon: Zero Dawn and Detroit: Become Human. Games which almost reach a ‘AAAA’ level of quality in terms of establishing a long-term lucrative and critically-promising franchise. Sony clearly have techniques and/or the financial capability to produce games which blow us away.
I hope Microsoft can create a different, better method of providing a space for their first-party studios to create truly excellent experiences for the gamer. If not, I can’t see outstanding hardware and free software updates driving the Xbox brand to the next level.
At least not of their own accord.