Be forewarned this post is about Xbox. The next two are also going to focus on gaming. So if you’re not interested, then I’ll see you next week.
I’m going to use Xbox and Microsoft interchangeably.
I’ve had an Xbox 360 for a while. Only recently did I upgrade to an Xbox One S. It’s mainly a £300 paperweight. I use it to play Cuphead now and then. At some point, I could have switched over to PlayStation but I like Xbox.
I don’t play games as much as I used to but I’ll go through periods where I’ll play consistently. Then after a while, I’ll get bored and won’t touch a console for months.
I’ve been playing more due to the Games with Gold giving away Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. As I’ve been playing more, I’ve been more interested in Xbox. I looked into what they are up to, and I realised that Xbox hasn’t got a clue.
I like the console and want it ti succeed but the way it’s conducting itself is worrying.
1: They have good ideas, poorly implemented
It’s not that the company is entirely clueless. Part of the frustration that I have with the system is that there are many good ideas, just not well done.
Games with Gold
Games with Gold offers two free games every month. These aren’t indie nonsense that you’ll never play, these are often good top tier releases. If you’re patient you’ll never have to buy a game which suits a casual gamer like me.
Occasionally you’ll get something that isn’t good. Recently there was The Witness which I played for five minutes before uninstalling. Despite the occasional dud the good thing about Games with Gold that in the long run, it balances out with some top titles.
There have been several Assassin’s Creed Games as well as Mass Effect. In fact, sometimes the indie games that they give you are hidden gems that you would never think to get. The bullet time puzzler Super Hot is a good example.
What I’m trying to tell you is that the Xbox Games with Gold programmes is one of the best deals for consumers. All it costs is an Xbox Gold membership which is £40 per year. Even if all you use Gold membership is for Games with Gold that works out at £1.70 per game.
Xbox Game Pass
Xbox also has a game pass feature. For £7 a month you have unlimited access to a library of games. It’s the Netflix of gaming, and it’s a good idea.
Unfortunately, it’s still just that, a good idea. The problem, the library is limited. They had the gorgeous yet tedious Mad Max game. There is also a Tomb Raider game on there, but aside from that, it’s older arcade games that are available on Xbox 360.
Xbox Game pass releases system exclusives like State of Decay 2 and Sea of Thieves directly to Game Pass. Wanting to play State of Decay 2 was what made me sign up in the first place.
Having played State of Decay 2, I’m going to cancel my membership.
Xbox Game Pass is a good idea now that has potential to be great in future.
2: No exclusives
Having no exclusives is a more significant problem than I realised. PlayStation has way more exclusives than Xbox. There have been so many games that have been PlayStation exclusive it’s kind of sad.
That’s just a recent example.
The PlayStation exclusives kick the shit out of the Xbox exclusives. Halo has lost a lot of prestige since Bungie handed the reigns over to 343 studios. The series peaked at Halo 3, and it’s been a gradual decline ever since.
Xbox has few exclusives and let’s talk a bit about the ones that they do have.
3: The exclusives they do have leave a lot to be desired
Sea of Thieves
Xbox bought Rare studios the guys behind some of Nintendo’s best games in the 90’s. Xbox bought Rare, and as soon as they did, they turned them into garbage. That hasn’t been any different with their release Sea of Thieves. I have played this and to be honest, I hated the game. There’s nothing to do.
All the game appeared to be is a series of fetch quests with other people I couldn’t talk to.
Imagine Zelda: Windwaker only with more sailing. You have to manage all the minutiae of sailing, like rigging and sales.
State of Decay 2
The other big exclusive is State of Decay 2. I have to tell you that I loved the first State of Decay. It showed up randomly in the arcade store and was £20. It was a pleasantly surprising action RPG set in rural America overrun by zombies.
There is no way to get around this, but the game is dull. I enjoyed the dullness.
You manage resources, kill some zombies and make sure survivors are happy. There was permadeath which added tension to missions. It was repetitive, but it was fun. The game was buggy as hell. Zombies would glitch through walls you would bounce all over the map. For the gameplay, you got from the price you paid the problems were forgivable.
The problem with State of Decay 2 is that it is the same game. State of Decay 2 is State of Decay 1 with a fresh coat of paint. The only thing that has improved is the graphics. Somehow the bugs have gotten worse. The bugs would be fine had the game been released for the same £20 with no fanfare; however, this is not the case. The game is broken
Now State of Decay 2 has been pushed from second tier to top tier. State of Decay is not a top tier game. The amount of money and publicity Microsoft has thrown at this game is embarrassing.
Xbox may have noticed that they have nothing coming out for a while, so they pushed State of Decay 2 to front and centre. This was an error.
4: Xbox needs to get it’s house in order if it is going to compete
Microsoft needs to work on it’s relationships with studios. Xbox can’t control their developers.
This has always been the case since 360 days.
Alan Wake was supposed to be an open world survival horror game. The development overran, and Xbox prematurely forced the game out. The final game was a hybrid between straight shooting sections and empty open world segments.
Today is no different. Crackdown 3 should have been out ages ago but it’s still in development. Crackdown 3 a game in a series that wasn’t that popular to begin with is now two years late.
Get your house in order Microsoft.
5: Xbox are running a risk of becoming Sega
I see patterns repeat even though that may not be the case. Xbox is following a path that appears similar to Sega in the 90s.
Sega won the Mega Drive/ Super NES battle in the same way that 360 won the battle against PS3.
Victory has made Microsoft overly analytical in the same way as Sega. Both were successful in their respectful generations however I have a saying; you learn nothing from success. Microsoft and Sega are proof. When you reach the top the only way is down.
Sega after the success of the Mega Drive developed a load of peripherals. Sega developed the Sega CD, 32x and the next generation Sega Saturn in quick succession. These peripherals were expensive, oversaturated the market and that put gamers off.
The failure of these three hardware items made Sega rush out the Sega Dreamcast. The Dreamcast ensured their exit from the console market.
Do I see Xbox bowing out of the console market? It’s hard to tell. I consider myself a casual gamer, so am not the most informed on the matter but here’s what I see.
Xbox has three different versions of the one console. There’s Xbox One, Xbox One S and Xbox One X. Aside from terrible names, it’s the same system with different cosmetic qualities. There was also Kinect which Xbox has finally taken the hint and given up on. Don’t forget that they were also going to try and set up their version of Netflix. A company who make games were going to move into film production. Let that sink in.
The console is lucky it’s part of Microsoft. Sega only had itself to rely on which is why it exited the market early. Xbox will be around for a few more years, but if they keep making dumb decisions, it’s not going to matter.
Hopefully, Xbox, the underdog, are learning from their mistakes and course correct.
I want them to do well so whenever I next get an urge to game I won’t be stuck for choice.