I feel bad for the Xbox. I mean… we all have a past. We’ve all done some things that we’re not proud of. Okay, so the Xbox had a fling with this guy ‘Don’ a while back that ended pretty badly but they’ve made every attempt to put that chapter behind them. Unfortunately those mistakes seem to follow and loom over them like a dark cloud that they just can’t seem to shake. No matter what they do or how many positive steps they try and make to move on from those early days, they just can’t seem to shake this bad reputation.
The launch of the Xbox One was obviously a perfect storm of poor planning and bad messaging, but since Phil Spencer took the helm in March 2014 I would argue that they’ve made a steady stream of positive moves to earn back the trust of their fans. They immediately dropped the price and removed the controversial Kinect device, that was followed shortly by the decision to bring Xbox 360 backwards compatibility to the Xbox One. Instantly there was a huge back catalog of games to play on your new system, and they were free if you already owned them! These were great first steps, but they obviously still had a long way to go to turn things around in the public eye.
Over the course of the first couple of years of the console, the Xbox One had a pretty impressive selection of exclusive games for the system. Titanfall, Sunset Overdrive, Halo 5, Dead Rising 3 and the Forza series were just a few of the great games that were only available on the Xbox One. It was an impressive list (especially compared to the fairly lackluster early days of the PlayStation 4 ) but they were hurt by reports that many 3rd party games were running better on the PS4, with better resolution and framerate often being the examples given . It was becoming clear that the PlayStation 4 had an edge (although not tremendous) when it came to raw hardware power, and for many people that graphical difference was a big deciding factor when choosing a console.
Microsoft took more steps to try and win over players, one of those being the Play Anywhere program. Now you could purchase select Xbox games and have access to them on either the Xbox One or a Windows 10 PC. You were essentially getting two copies of the game for the price of one and if you played on both platforms you could share your save file between devices so that you could switch back and forth. It seemed like the kind of program that every gamer should be able to get behind… except now people were complaining that if the games were also on PC, that meant the Xbox didn’t really have many true exclusives anymore.
So next they took an even bigger leap by announcing Project Scorpio. This evolution of the Xbox is being billed as the most powerful home console ever to hit stores and is designed to address any concerns that players and developers have about the Xbox being underpowered. They recently showed off the final hardware specs to Digital Foundry and it seems to be just as powerful as promised. So assuming that they can find a fairly reasonable price tag for it, this seems like a great system for those who…. wait… what? Now power doesn’t matter and it’s all about the exclusives? *sigh*
Okay… so just so I have this right, when the Xbox has great games but is underpowered it’s the power that matters. When the Xbox library is light on big exclusives but are releasing the most powerful system ever then it’s the exclusives that matter? Another oddity I’ve noticed are several media outlets already writing the obituary for the Xbox One. I’m constantly reading headlines such as “It’s Game Over For The Xbox One” from outlets such as Forbes, even though sales numbers show that the Xbox One is keeping pace with (and often times outpacing) sales of the Xbox 360, which if memory serves me right was a pretty popular console. So what gives??
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Microsoft fanboy who’s crying because his favorite console isn’t “winning”. In fact I use my PlayStation 4 (and recently my Nintendo Switch) a fair bit more than my Xbox, but I am a fan of their current philosophy and the way they’ve been conducting business and it just seems like nothing that they do seems to make a dent in this perception that they are struggling. Yes, they are obviously lagging well behind the PlayStation 4 in terms of sales, but since when is anything not in first place instantly labeled a flop? While criticism of the Xbox One is obviously fair and often times warranted, the dismissiveness and eagerness to label it as a failure is silly.
In recent weeks they’ve announced even more initiatives that should prove quite popular including Xbox Game Pass which offers a large selection of games to download and play for a reasonable monthly price, as well as now offering refunds for games purchased digitally within 14 days if you’ve played less than 2 hours. These are great programs that show that the folks at Xbox really do care about their customers. Will the Xbox One ever be able to catch up with the PlayStation 4 as far as sales numbers are concerned? Most likely not. I’d just like it if they got a little recognition for the amazing 180 they’ve done and the effort that they’ve put into doing right by the gamers.