Microsoft came out at E3 looking like a lost dog stuck between a transition of generations that desperately wanted to talk about a new generation, but they couldn’t. So what we got instead was a few random announcements, teases we should say, and questions about the future of Xbox. I mean they had to show Halo to get the excitement going, but there were very little details between games, and follow up shows proved that games (such as Halo) were not even on a current release schedule. It is a surprising route to take when they gave Sony some flak for for doing a similar thing last year (announcing games years out to make their line-up look robust), but they had no choice. Xbox literally hit a wall and Microsoft knows it, now they are looking for ways to fix it.
Microsoft seems to have been battling trouble this entire generation. Sparking some fans rage early on by making Xbox One more about entertainment than gaming, and then following it up with a lot of twists and turns that has changed the Xbox One over years of retail. Xbox One has probably evolved more than any console in the industry during it’s short time on shelves and Microsoft is clearly learning where they want to go. Fans are being listened to, and clearly Microsoft is setting up Xbox for a new direction in the close future.
With concepts like Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Play Anywhere, cross platform play, stellar streaming with Windows devices, and a few other additions to the family, Microsoft has learned how to bridge gamers with technology. We could even say the Xbox One X would be a groundbreaking mid generation leap with rather great performance, and true 4K support. This console was nothing but a pure gamer request that came true. They took no limits in trying to give gamers what they want.
But then comes more trouble. Xbox has all these great ideas, great tech, but a library that lacks the ability to show anything off. Xbox has been rather lonely on the exclusive front and due to publishers needing to create games for the general audience, the use of high performance hasn’t been necessary. This is where relying heavily on third parties becomes an issue. I’m not sure why Microsoft hasn’t turned to their exclusive studios to make Xbox One X look godly, but nothing has really been noticeably better on the console. Third parties not only need to cater to standard Xbox One console, but PS4 as well, meaning a game can’t be noticeably “better” on a single unit that less than a quarter of people own. I personally have not even bothered to turn on my Xbox in a while, and there hasn’t been a reason to beyond jumping in Halo with a few friends. Which makes me question why Microsoft is such a huge supporter of cross platform play because the only reason to turn on a Xbox lately is to play a third party game with friends. Take that aspect away and you are no longer forced to play Xbox to play with those friends.
But this is where Microsoft is learning and clearly taking notes to go in the right direction. I can talk about all the negatives some more, but we got it, MS fell behind this generation and it honestly was probably the healthiest thing to ever happen to them, and the industry. Now they are prepping to not let it happen again. First, again, they have been announcing leading new features for all gamers at almost every turn. There hasn’t been a single conference that involved Xbox lately that didn’t include a new addition of a service for gamers. The addition of “Day 1” Game Pass titles is a huge deal considering gamers can only afford so many games in a given month. We have new engines being built, new streaming services in the works, all kinds of back end things are happening. Xbox is evolving beyond the box itself and Microsoft is doing a great job of makng sure gamers are the focus, while they fight to achieve becoming a hub for home electronics. At the end of the day Xbox is the gateway Microsoft needs to enter homes. They thought Windows could perhaps overtake Xbox, but it hasn’t been working and their new re-geared thought process shows Xbox is back to being their focus. With a fight between Google, Amazon, and Apple to enter homes and become a hub of electronics, Xbox is exactly what Microsoft needs.
The biggest announcement for gamers is the fact Microsoft purchased 5 new studios recently and announced them at E3. Initially I wasn’t too fond of the idea because these studios were already making games basically only for Xbox, but then some of their plans started to leak out. Fable is on the table back there with one studio, another has some story driven content coming, and a brand new studio is trying to grab talent from the same pool that brought us titles like God of War. All 5 studios have nothing scheduled to release any time soon that isn’t already on the market (besides the typical Forza, where not even half the team was used to make it). All these studios are clearly gearing up for something new, and Microsoft is exploring new ideas. It’s very clear Microsoft is gearing up for something new, perhaps a new fight with next generation consoles.
Business wise it makes sense because Microsoft is again spending money on Xbox. Purchasing studios isn’t cheap, and they are a long term committment to the brand. We were curious where Microsoft was going to start spending their new found money due to the latest tax breaks, and Xbox is taking a good chunk of it. This is good news for gamers, but a striking blow for anyone trying to compete with them in home electronics.
Then we also look at the Halo announcement. While it may have been used to make up for a rather lackluster line up at E3, the behind the scenes is really showing the direct attack Microsoft is taking. For starters the game isn’t set to release soon, and probably won’t release on Xbox One. It’s using a new engine, and already is playing to the fans with a name that honors that of Bungie titles in the franchise. It was like a big sign Microsoft held up to say “look, we are listening!”
It may be time for Microsoft to simply cut the loss of Xbox One and step into the new light they discovered. E3 showed they are excited to move forward, and as gamers, regardless of what console you are a fan of, we should be excited to go with them. A new fight where Microsoft can push back on Sony without being stomped on is a winning battle for gamers. Competition is healthy.