Right, I’m starting to get sick of this.
While it’s great that within 5 years, Microsoft and Xbox have managed to regain their status as a competitor to the PlayStation, mainly thanks to the big man Phil Spencer, as 2018 goes on, it’s becoming harder and harder to see the glimmers of hope that Microsoft’s console provides, and it feels like it comes down to an issue of not caring.
Let’s cut back to E3 2018 real quick, with Microsoft pulling out all the stops for an unbelievable show. Sable, Ashen, Forza Horizon 4, Devil May Cry 5, Gears of War 5, and blowing people’s mind with the first trailer for Cyberpunk 2077. That’s an A-Star performance, but there was one thing they didn’t necessarily showcase throughout: a reason to buy an Xbox One.
Not to say they aren’t giving it a chance, what with the releases of Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2 providing somewhat moderate success. Yet, what about PS4 on the other hand? Well, there’s God of War, Spider-Man, Detroit: Become Human, a Shadow of The Colossus remaster, and a huge boost of its VR counterparts with games like The Inpatient and The Persistence. All of these, and more, are only playable on your Playstation 4 and PSVR headset.
Most of these have only come out recently, mind you. Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2 both came out before and after the blast that was God of War, respectively. What else do we have to show for our dark-green machine? An unbelievably crap port of PUBG? An inevitably inferior port of Black Desert Online, when it comes down to its release? Yeah, we might have Forza Horizon 4 and Crackdown 3 on the way, but those are going to be playable on Windows 10 anyway, and therein lies the problem.
This whole “Play Anywhere” schtick? This isn’t selling the console. This is merely making the console a much more negligible choice than what it already was. Saying that these games are “playable on Xbox One” is like saying “your thirst can be quenched with Tesco Cola”. Why would I when there are better brands out there, not just for exclusives, but for definitive ways to play those games?
For all this talk about the Xbox One X, there’s not a single concrete reason to purchase one. Ooo yeah, the endless valleys and sand attempting to penetrate the barren landscape of ReCore looks great on an Xbox One, but GODDAMN! Look at German YouTuber rechyyy playing it at Max settings on PC! Yeah, that motion blur might be a joke, but look at how smooth it is compared to the Xbox One X, where it’s still capped at 30FPS, as opposed to the uncapped potential it can achieve on PC.
Going on from there, we have Forza Horizon 3, another “Play Anywhere” title that pales when you put the Xbox One X version against the PC. On Xbox One X, the sun-scorched roads of Australia do look lovely as you barrage through them with a Lamborghini, and almost every frame of gameplay can be considered a breath-taking vista. Going to the PC version however, you see motion blur that isn’t as prominent, environments that have much more definition to them, and that uncapped frame rate that we all longingly desire.
Sea of Thieves sees a swashbuckling adventure through gorgeous oceans on an Xbox One X in 4k, but the PC version runs at that all-important higher frame rate, along with what looks like a wider render distance. The moody and visceral atmosphere in State of Decay 2 is retained on an Xbox One X without sacrificing anything, but the PC version not only achieves that, it also removes the muddy visuals that are still prominent in the Xbox One X version.
Alright, while I may be cheating here, and I have to put a disclaimer saying that these games are being compared to a PC running it on Max. settings, my point is that the option shouldn’t be there in the first place. I shouldn’t have to say through gritted teeth that “Aw yeah, these games look great on an Xbox One X, but they look marginally better, and sometimes even play better on a PC”. I should be saying, “Wow, these Xbox One Games– The only way to play these games– look and feel great , and they’re a pretty good reason to get an Xbox One. Maybe even an X.”
Giving consumers more purchase options is great, but that’s mostly going to only benefit consumers who already exist, and it only works if your competitors show the same restraint. Sony’s cross-purchase options only affect consoles and devices Sony can massively benefit from, and the Switch just has a massive back-catalogue of previous exclusives they can re-release. Nintendo have kept a form on consistency throughout all of their generations.
The people who claim exclusives harm the industry, are only blaming greed along with hiding their own greed. You grab the console that entices you, that’s that, you don’t buy all 3 and act like your opinion on the matter holds more weight because you’re stinkin’ rich. While it would be nice to live in a utopia where only one platform of gaming matters (something that Microsoft seem to believe), we don’t, and Xbox needs to show up with a strong hand that can’t be refuted by anyone else.
What’s that, you got Three-of-a-kind, Xbox? Well, so did Steam, and his hand isn’t covered with a crap user interface.
I understand that Microsoft is still making money by selling games on both the Xbox One and the Windows 10 storefront, but this carefree attitude to the console that had a hard-enough time already, is degrading. Not just to the consumers, but the brand name itself. It’s almost as if Xbox and Co. are keen to say “Well, there’s always next generation!”
Well yes, that’s true, with “Scarlet” and “PS5” already undergoing development, but what if you don’t make it that long? What if this negligent behaviour to your console strays more people away from your arms? The end may very well be in sight, and I see no other options if Microsoft don’t force the Xbox to be an actual legitimate force to be reckoned with next year.
For context, I am an Xbox owner, not by brand loyalty, but because it’s what all my friends own. While I do make jokes about never owning a PS4, I do see the possibilities of better games and hopes arriving on that console. Damn, even a Switch seems like a more viable option than an Xbox at this point, and if I’m going to see a lack of proper console-exclusive titles because it’s “all aboot inclusivity!”, then I give up with Microsoft.
At the end of the day, with a new console generation looming on the horizon like a David Lynch film ready to invade your psyche, I beg Microsoft not to start this new generation handicapped. There’s still a lot of time to start over and fix the mistakes, and at the very least, leave this generation with a bang, not a whimper. Don’t surrender to better consoles, clench your fist in defiance.
Owner of the largest collection of indie games in the Western Hemisphere, and TimeSplitters’ biggest fanboy.