Head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty recently dropped a bombshell in a recent interview: The Xbox Series X will not have exclusive games for the first one to two years. The games will, instead, be cross-gen across Series X, One and PC. The response was immediate, swift and unsurprisingly divisive. On one side, you had those praising the decision as another pro-consumer move on the part of Microsoft. On the other, the response was two-fold. First of all, you had the concern trolls and console warriors quick to chastise the position as “killing the future of Xbox” and “guaranteeing a Sony victory”, which, let’s be honest, is said about literally any word that leaves the mouths of Mr. Booty and Mr. Spencer. Secondly, and far more vitally, there was a level of genuine concern from fans of Xbox and new prospective consumers devoid of any agenda.
This response is very important, and I’d like, if I may, try to address some of the concerns raised. In order to do this, I must first outline four of the most common talking points among this group and try to bring to light what may be the rationale behind the internal decision at Xbox Game Studios and Microsoft. Please note, I am far from clairvoyant, Mr. Spencer and Mr. Booty are not personal friends of mine, and this is entirely my personal opinion. With all that being said, let’s get started. Shall we?
1) “Making games cross-gen will hold games back.”
This approach is 100% understandable based on historical precedent. In many cases, cross-gen games have not pushed the boundaries of their hardware, and in this instance, this will likely apply to the Series X. Do not get me wrong, Halo Infinite will still look jaw-droppingly good, but it may not quite push the boundaries of what is known Day One the way games like Killzone: Shadow Fall and Ryse: Son of Rome did this gen for the PS4 and Xbox One respectively. That said: is this necessarily a bad thing?
In many instances, games have been rushed to meet the first year of a system’s life-span and push the boundaries of the hardware to sub-optimal results. While games like the aforementioned Ryse and Killzone, alongside others such as Perfect Dark Zero and ZombiU, showed the full capabilities of the hardware they launched on, they took a drop in quality as a result. This is due, in part to short development cycles, last-second changes in dev kits and corporate mandates to flaunt the abilities of the console above all else.
For games such as Halo Infinite, this isn’t needed, and pushing the games to next-gen even gives them more time in the backburner to focus on polish and graphical fidelity above bar-raising. This also allows time for the future Series X exclusives to take their time to push boundaries without compromising on the quality of the core experience.
2) “What reason do I have to buy a Series X if I can just play the games on my Xbox One?”
Another very valid question indeed. In short, what you do with your money is your own decision. Still, there are plenty of reasons to buy an Xbox Series X next-gen beyond exclusives.
If leaks are to be confirmed, the Series X is a beefier console than the PS5, and with the proper optimization, third-party games will likely play best on it. As well, until confirmed otherwise, it sounds as though the Series X will be fully backwards-compatible with Xbox One games and accessories, meaning you can easily trade your old system to help lighten the financial burden of purchasing a new one.
Finally, as our next point will cover, you may not want to buy at launch anyway.
3) “If there are no exclusives in the first year, gamers will just ignore the Series X!”
This is definitely true for the first year or two of the console’s lifespan… but it is also worth noting that this is also true of any console’s lifespans. System sellers are rarely the games released on day one, and the early adopters are usually hardcore fans who intend on buying into the next generation anyways.
Looking back on the Xbox 360, two of the most hyped games, Gears of War and Halo 3, launched around a year and two years after the console’s release respectively. Not only did they sell like gangbusters, but they also convinced others to jump on board. The same could very well apply here with whatever the next big game from Xbox Game Studios could be, be that Obsidian’s next RPG, Gears 6, Forza Horizon 5, The Initiative’s AAAA game, etc.
It is also worth noting that for casual fans and fans that skipped this generation who do not have high-end gaming rigs, Halo Infinite is a massive system seller. Much like Breath of the Wild’s Wii U release interfered little on the game’s Switch successes, it is also likely that fans wanting to join the Xbox family again or for the first time will buy the Series X to future-proof.
4) “Microsoft needs the Series X to do well. They were handily beaten by Sony this generation.”
This is true to an extent, but frankly, the Xbox Series X may not be as vital to the future of Xbox as the PS5 is to Sony. Xbox is less a console brand these days and more a platform, perched atop three pillars.
The first of these is the heavily successful console division. The second is Windows 10 PCs. The third is Project xCloud. While the Series X is still undoubtedly important to Microsoft, it may not be as vital to this upcoming generation than the One, 360 and OG were to their generations. Xbox is a growing community of gamers across three platforms, and sacrificing the sales of a few Series X units in the first few years may not be harmful in the long-run.
To conclude, I understand why there is a concern about this move, but I think in the long run it may not be as concerning as some believe. Agree? Disagree? Please share your thoughts in the comments and let me know: am I on the money or way off base here? Cheers and happy achievement hunting!