Microsoft made some big errors at the start of this console generation, but the platform holder has seemingly learned from its mistakes.
The biggest misstep was in putting television at the forefront of its messaging, making games seem like an afterthought. Its second mistake was gleefully announcing the death of pre-owned games - something which was quickly mocked by Sony before being backtracked on.
Microsoft’s third mistake was in being too forward thinking. If a platform holder announced a new console today that was always online, embracing digital downloads, nobody would bat an eyelid. But it was too much too soon for the video game players of 2013. Meanwhile, in 2018, changing discs is an archaic concept.
The final mistake, and perhaps the biggest, was not investing enough into exclusives. Not only did Xbox One have a fairly poor selection of worthwhile exclusives, but Microsoft also had some high profile cancellations (Scalebound) and games seemingly stuck in perpetual development limbo (Crackdown 3).
Looking forward, the future seems much more optimistic for Xbox One. Here are some key reasons why:
Game Pass is the Netflix of video games. For just $9.99 per month, you get access to a vast library of games that you can download and play until your heart's content. Not only do you get access to a huge backlog, but Microsoft puts all its exclusives on Game Pass from day one.
Rather than spending $50 for a new game, Game Pass allows you to play them for a fraction of the price. If you have limited income, it might be the only subscription you ever need. It’s a service I would have dreamed of as a kid. If Microsoft keeps it affordable and keeps pumping new games onto the service, the next Xbox will be the most cost efficient console in history.
Xbox Scarlett exclusives
One of the biggest criticisms levelled at Microsoft this generation is a lack of industry-leading exclusives. While the PS4 has been hitting it out of the park every year, Xbox One has lagged behind in terms of both quality and quantity. It looks like that’s something the company wants to address with Xbox Scarlett. Microsoft has been going on a huge buying spree recently, snapping up new studios all over the place.
First up, there’s The Initiative, headed up by Darrell Gallagher, Crystal Dynamics’ former studio head. This studio is based on Santa Monica, possibly in a bid to tempt over talent from Sony’s studios. Then there’s State of Decay 2 developer Undead Labs, which could well produce a brilliant game if it’s given the right resources - and now it’s fully owned by Microsoft, I doubt resources will be an issue.
On top of those, Microsoft now owns Forza developer Playground Games, who is working on a new open-world RPG, rumoured to be a new Fable game. Microsoft has also snapped up We Happy Few developer Compulsion Games, Hellblade developer Ninja Theory, and RPG masters Obsidian and InXile. Be prepared for a barrage of games along with the next Xbox announcement. Oh, and it also owns a little game called Minecraft - you might have heard of it.
Hopefully these developers don’t go the way of Lionhead and the various other studios Microsoft has closed down in the past.
First to market
Microsoft has already teased its next-gen family of machines, which makes it sound like there will be different versions of varying power. It also makes it sound like Xbox is well ahead of PlayStation in the race to bring out its next console.
Anyone who is eager for the next step will surely snap up the first console to launch. There won’t be platform allegiance if there’s only one choice - people will just go for the new, shiny thing. If Microsoft is the first to market with a new console - perhaps even as early as next year - that could be all the headstart it needs.
With Sony recently announcing that it will be skipping E3 2019, Microsoft could have an open goal at the biggest video game expo of the year.
Recently, Microsoft has made a big push to make sure its platform is open to as many people as possible. The Xbox Adaptive Controller might not be important to you, but it’s a potentially life-changing piece of kit for anyone who can’t use traditional input methods to control their games.
No doubt Microsoft will make this incredible piece of hardware compatible with its next-gen machine.
Microsoft and Sony took two different approaches to backwards compatibility this generation and it’s clear who the winner is. Where Sony embraced streaming older games, Microsoft opened up the Xbox One to play all of your Xbox 360 games, both by digital download and by disc.
Then the Xbox One X came along and blew us all away with its upscaling wizardry, making old classics such as Red Dead Redemption pop in 4K. I don’t own an Xbox One X, but some of the enhanced games look like proper remasters, Final Fantasy 13 being the latest in a long line of spruced up oldies.
No doubt Microsoft will continue with this through to the next Xbox, codenamed ‘Scarlett’, allowing us to play both Xbox One and - hopefully - Xbox 360 games on the new machine. If the platform holder can pull off the same trick as it did with the Xbox One X, breathing new life into older games, it could be on to a real winner.