An Xbox Win is a Win for Everyone

E3 has come and gone, our last two podcasts have revolved around it, as did our weekly wrap up. We've had about a week to digest all the news and so I can finally say Microsoft were the big winners of this year's E3. Aside from Bethesda announcing Fallout 76, which is almost guaranteed to be better than Fallout New Vegas (Fallout New Vegas was the worst of the Fallout games), no one came close to matching Microsoft. And yes, I already hear the PlayStation fanboys banging on my door like a horde of Ghouls , but wait there's logic in my argument.

Xbox needed a win this year. Their lack of exclusives for the Xbox One along with the lackluster initial announcement of said console has left them in a dire need to play catch up to Sony. Contrast this generation to the one before where most people would agree (except Jorge) that the Xbox 360 was the superior console as it sold just over one million more units than the Playstation 3’s 83.8 million*.

*A Sony press release reported 80 million Playstation 3’s sold as of November 2, 2013. 3.4 million were shipped in 2014 and 0.4 million in the first quarter of 2015. Xbox 360 sold 84 million as of June 2014 although starting with Microsoft's fiscal quarter ending June 2014 (Q4), the company stopped divulging individual platform sales in their fiscal reports. The reasoning behind this was that Microsoft stated its intent was to shift focus to the amount of active users on Xbox Live starting in late 2015. 

When the Xbox One was announced in 2013, there was a slight uproar regarding the “always connected” idea, and that games would be locked to your console. Initially, all games, including those purchased at retail, would be bound to the user's Xbox Live account. Gamers could trade games at "participating retailers", and could also transfer a game directly to any Xbox Live friend on their list for at least 30 days, but only once. To synchronize licenses, the console would be required to connect to the internet once a day. In the event the console could not connect, all games would be disabled until the console was connected again.

Sounds like a car crash of an idea, and it was. Gamers moved quickly to distance themselves from this NSA sponsored console and Sony welcomed them with open arms by doing almost everything Microsoft wasn’t. Within a month, Phil Spencer (the Executive President of Gaming at Microsoft) came out and assured the gaming world that the company had listened to the fans and would revert back to the ways of the Xbox 360. Meaning you wouldn’t have to connect to the internet to access your games and once you bought a game you could trade it, use it as a Frisbee or build a bird house with the discs. It was yours to own.

People were obviously unsure of this sudden change. I for one was hesitant before buying an Xbox One. What was stopping them from reverting to this new regime of telling me I couldn’t trade in a game?

What would stop the inevitable "Jerry Smith" in the corporate office at Microsoft from instilling his “Hungry for Youtube?” marketing plan? Which would probably be a "new feature" where, when you unlock an achievement you are greeted by an unstoppable Michael Bay ad in which he proceeds to tell you how good the next Transformers movie will be (It won’t be good Michael, at best it will be softcore robot porn, why pay $18 to see it in IMAX when I have the Internet?).

Coupled with the price hike which was the result of EVERY Xbox One being included with a Kinect, the first year of sales were not great and Microsoft was forced to play catch up to Sony. Slowly Xbox One sales have improved, but with the end of this console generation in sight, the mad dash to the finish is already underway. After a slow and rocky start to this generation Xbox found itself in a must win situation for this E3. Fortunately and by the grace of Marcus Fenix did they ever come out swinging.

Case in point, Phil Spencer gleefully announced five new studios under the Microsoft umbrella:

(All information is courtesy of Xbox Wire https://news.xbox.com/en-us/2018/06/10/xbox-e3-2018-briefing-recap/)

  • The Initiative. Based in Santa Monica, Calif., The Initiative is a brand-new Microsoft game development studio headed by industry veteran Darrell Gallagher that is working to create groundbreaking new worlds, characters and game experiences.
  • Playground Games. Microsoft has acquired U.K.-based Playground Games, a development partner since 2010 that has helped lift the Forza franchise to new heights. In addition to its work on this year’s Forza Horizon 4, Playground Games will have a team dedicated to bringing their open-world expertise to an entirely new project.
  • Ninja Theory. The relationship between Ninja Theory and Microsoft started in 2000 when Kung Fu Chaos was in development for the original Xbox, and culminated in the release of Hellblade on Xbox One earlier this year. Microsoft’s intent to acquire Ninja Theory will help ensure their creative team has the resources and freedom to bring more ambitious games like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice to fans.
  • Undead Labs. Seattle-based Undead Labs is the creator of the popular State of Decay franchise, enjoyed by millions of fans worldwide. In the first two weeks since State of Decay 2 ’s launch, more than two million fans joined the fight to survive and took down more than two billion zombies. By entering into a letter of intent to acquire Undead Labs, Microsoft is signaling its commitment to growing the franchise and taking the zombie survival-fantasy genre to new heights.
  • Compulsion Games. As We Happy Few nears its full, multiplatform release on Aug. 10, Microsoft has entered into a letter of intent to acquire Montreal-based Compulsion Games. By joining the team at Microsoft Studios, Compulsion will have the resources, platform, and freedom to take even bigger creative risks and create even more ambitious worlds with its future projects

Five studios from five different locations, is impressive for a couple of reasons. 

My favorite reason is that these acquisitions should in theory allow us to experience five different styles of game. It’s a safe bet that concentrating all your creative studios is one place could lead to a repetitive feel. Incidentally having all your developers suffer with the MTA to get to work could lead to games with grumpy environments and dollar size mini games shoehorned in. I can say this as I live in New York, so direct your complaints to @fanboyinthehood. (Side Note: To be honest I wouldn't mind a Showtime Breakdancing for Bottlecaps minigame one bit. It would give me the best reason ever to use my Kinect!)

The Xbox Game Pass library also grew, with the promise of adding more games and the continuation of adding Microsoft studio games to the Game Pass on the day they are released. We covered my fears regarding this is a previous podcast; 

(https://radiopublic.com/the-og-files-GZpRpX/ep/s1!bba4e6b4e18f4b9347c75db53f10655cea4278f0)

But with my fears aside Xbox continued to kick down doors with the Xbox Adaptive Controller, a first-of-its-kind controller designed for gamers with limited mobility. This is by far my favourite thing EVER! Now anyone and everyone can play, and isn’t that what gaming is? A community of like minded people that just want to enjoy their free time by driving a car, kicking a football or reclaiming the wasteland (along as its not Fallout New Vegas. That is a literal wasteland unfit even for birds)

Then there are the exclusives, three new Gears of War properties, new Cuphead DLC, Ori, Forza Horizon, Sea of thieves DLC, Halo Infinite. Add to this 220 titles enhanced for Xbox One X, the world’s most powerful console, which will compliment upcoming new releases which will utilize the full potential of the platform. Two big examples are Fallout 76 and Cyberpunk 2077.

So why is this a win for everyone? Well competition breeds innovation, meaning Sony can’t sensibly rest on its success from the past four years. They now have to compete with what Microsoft is bringing to 2019. Crackdown leads the way in February and from that month on, Xbox will continue to drop exclusive after exclusive, in the hope of getting your attention. 

I’m a 32 year-old child with a love of games as strong as when I first played ET on the Atari. This past week has done nothing but stoke the fire in my gaming heart. While 2019 is still months away and I probably won’t have my hands on a new Gears game for another year, I am excited to see how Sony combats Microsoft's barrage of new games, new ideas and most importantly, new ways to keep us gaming.