What a difference a handful of years make. During the Xbox 360 generation, Microsoft were bringing in the receipts with second-party games, marketing deals, expanding the library of the 360 era with Gears of War, Left 4 Dead, Alan Wake, and more. If you wanted to play a game that was hailed as great or masterpiece, you just had to pick up an Xbox 360. In 2009, Microsoft had five exclusives that were rated 90 or above on Metacritic, and 13 games rated 85 or higher. The 360 became home to JRPG’s which traditionally were more suited to Playstation.
As we enter the four-year mark of this Generation that began in 2013, the differences are noticeable. Forza Horizon 3 was the only game that cracked the 90 mark on Metacritic, and attempts to energize the platform with compelling and unique games like Sunset Overdrive, ReCore, and Quantum Break all failed or didn’t do enough to warrant a sequel. 2017 looks to be dry for now with Crackdown 3, Cuphead, State of Decay 2, and Sea of Thieves which may struggle to bring new people over to the Xbox One.
At the same time, Playstation is bursting with quality exclusives that are worth your time with games like Bloodborne, The Last of Us, Uncharted 4, Horizon Zero Dawn and the JRPG’s have returned to the system. It’s a notable deficit in exclusive quality, the big gap in install bases and currently Playstation 4 has more than 54 million owners, while the Xbox One only had 26 million as of January.
So, as we head into E3 2017, I will examine some of the participants including Bethesda and Playstation. Let’s get right into it
I feel like part of the problem is investment. Microsoft doesn’t spend as much on first-party titles as Sony does, Sony has 16 studios under the belt including Naughty Dog, Guerilla Games, and Media Molecule. Compare that to the closures and departures of Lionhead Studios, Ensemble, Bungie, and Twisted Pixel, Microsoft Studios only have seven. Microsoft has attempted to bring in games like Rise of the Tomb Raider which is a timed exclusive, but we have yet to see that this particular route is good for Xbox One.
Another issue for Microsoft is the fading light on their most recognizable franchises. Where Gears of War and Halo shined and were benchmark setters for what we see today, haven’t matched the original games like Gears 1-3 or Halo 1-3. Halo 5 was a disaster of a game and Gears of War 4 is by no means a bad game but a lack of something special that made the original games so iconic and legendary. These games are no longer the standard when there’s Battlefield 1 and Overwatch, two games that are continuing to break the mold especially in Overwatch’s case. The only franchise that continues to shine is Forza, which still sits at the top in the racing genre.
The cancellations of first-party games like Scalebound aren’t helping them. Scalebound and Fable Legends were cancelled last year, creating some sort of uncertainty in the lineup that continues until we see what they have planned in 12 days.
Maybe the biggest hinderance to the Xbox One’s prospect is Microsoft’s self-destruction of first party games and the way they’re approaching first-party games. Xbox Play Anywhere requires Xbox One exclusives come to the PC as well. If you can play Halo, Gears, and Forza on a PC then what’s the point of going out and picking up an Xbox One? Gamers will just invest in a PS4 and play on their PC’s.
I’m hoping that they have their situation sorted out when E3 2017 rolls around in a mere 12 days. If Microsoft wants to keep Xbox as a viable player in the war then they must push out first party games because first party games are critical and will always be critical.