Despite the bright colors of Microsoft’s advertising, the grass is definitely not green over on the Xbox One’s side of the fence. The last console to enter the 8th generation race roared out of the gate this past November with an impressive launch, but its momentum has since petered out; now it’s being left behind by its chief competitor, Sony’s PlayStation 4. So why have Microsoft’s fortunes reversed so dramatically, and what have does the future hold for the Xbox One?
The problems currently plaguing the Xbox One actually started when the system was first revealed. Alongside the initial announcement, we were also greeted to a slew of radical rules and restrictions that would be standard on the new system. Things like needing a constant internet connection, the inability to share games with friends, and an always-on Kinect were all things that Microsoft said were integral to the Xbox One and would make for a better gaming environment. Then E3 happened.
At the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, Microsoft’s top brass took the stage to officially reveal the Xbox One to the world. What no one expected was that they would (almost) fully recant all of the system’s previously mentioned policies. This led to a huge amount of confusion within the gaming media; since then, the general public has been confused as to what exactly they are buying when they purchase an Xbox One. Add to this the fact that Sony took the opportunity to publicly ridicule the Xbox One’s restrictive policies on gaming’s biggest stage, and what was supposed to be a crowning moment for Microsoft turned out to be a PR disaster.
It’s hard to argue against the Xbox One’s launch lineup. Featuring great exclusives like Forza Motorsport 5, Dead Rising 3, and Ryse: Son of Rome as well as perennial non-exclusive heavyweights Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty, the system carved a name out for itself right out of the gate. But since that night in November, the system has suffered from a veritable drought of software – only six new retail games have been released for the platform since the 22nd of November, none of which are exclusive to the Xbox One. And while we have practically no idea what E3 2014 will look like for Microsoft, it’s clear that if the focus is not on games rather than the system, the Xbox One will be left in the dust.
March 11th will definitely be a big day for Xbox owners and fans of shooters, as the hotly anticipated game Titanfall will be released. But even this supposed “savior” of the console comes with some caveats. For starters, the game is not exclusive to the Xbox One – it’s also releasing on the Xbox 360 and PC. Secondly, both the publisher (EA) and Sony themselves have been dropping rumors that the game will eventually find its way to the PlayStation 4. Beyond Titanfall, the Xbox One doesn’t have many exclusives to tout beyond mysterious new entries in the Halo and Gears of War franchises. The following chart details each major system’s currently announced lineup of exclusives, both downloadable and retail.
|Kinect Sports Rivals||Driveclub||Block Drop U|
|Fable Legends||Lily Bergamo||Mario Kart 8|
|Gears of War (Untitled)||N++||Adventure Thru 8-Bit Land|
|Halo (Untitled)||Ready To Run||Bayonetta 2|
|Sunset Overdrive||Velocity 2X||Fast Racing Neo|
|Quantum Break||Basement Crawl||Hyrule Warriors|
|–||Dead Nation: Apocalypse Edition||Art of Balance|
|–||inFamous: Second Son||Arc Style: Baseball SP|
|–||Earth Defense Force (Untitled)||Blossom Tales|
|–||Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture||Cosmic Highway|
|–||Joysound Dive 2||Dusty Raging Fist|
|–||Mobile Suite Gundam (Untitled)||Fit Music for Wii U|
|–||Nikoli no Puzzle 4: Sudoku||Flavoured Cats|
|–||Phantom Breaker: Battle Ground Overdrive||Gaiabreaker|
|–||Pure Pool||Mad Men Football|
|–||Rime||NES Remix 2|
|–||Shadow of the Beast||Scram Kitty and his Buddy On Rails|
|–||Uncharted 4||Super Smash Bros. for Wii U|
|–||–||The Legend of Zelda (Untitled)|
* Note that not all of these games have been announced for a North American release.
We know that the Xbox One isn’t the most powerful system on the market and that it doesn’t have the most games, and yet the system is priced at a full $100 more than Sony’s PlayStation 4 and $200 more than the Wii U. The reason for this? Kinect. Forcing the seldom-used peripheral onto gamers has hurt the system’s value perception among consumers and makes the console look like a poorer choice when compared to its competitors due to the hefty price. Sony made an 11th hour decision to cut the PlayStation Camera from their bundle in order to bring the total cost down, and so far it seems to be working, as consumers have been much more receptive to the PS4 than the XBO so far.
But hardware isn’t the only thing the drives the price of the system up. The Xbox One is a machine that is extremely dependent on an active internet connection to be experienced to its fullest. This has the consequence of commanding a hefty bill from internet service providers (ISPs). Massive (13GB) patches, video streaming, constant updates, and online play have already forced some to either upgrade their internet packages or scale back the amount of time they spend connected, which is definitely a setback considering most of what the system promises requires online.
Now I’m not saying that other consoles don’t offer internet-centric options that might impact your internet bill, just that these issues seem more prevalent on the Xbox One than on the PlayStation 4 or Wii U. That being said, the Xbox One definitely offers a very impressive array of online capabilities – just expect to pay a little more to access them.
The 8th generation console war is definitely heating up. Sony’s PlayStation 4 just recently overtook the Wii U in lifetime sales figures thanks to a very successful Japanese launch. Nintendo has announced a new vision for the company, but also that it is doubling down on the Wii U thanks to an incredible lineup of games in 2014. And the Xbox One? Well, the Xbox One is seemingly standing pat. Microsoft has been steadfast in their proclamations that the future is bright for their console, but the lack of new announcements and public struggles have seriously impacted the perception of the system when compared to its rivals. The following figure details the sales number for each console’s first four months on the market.
* Sales numbers courtesy of vgchartz.com.
At the end of the day, we are still very early on in the Xbox One’s life to call whether or not the system will be a success. In many ways, it already is one. The system has already brought us many innovations, and Microsoft has always been a company that’s not afraid to take risks. That being said, the system is facing a serious uphill battle against the PlayStation 4 and Wii U if it ever wants to be the one wearing the crown when this generation closes out.
Editor’s Note: The views presented in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of 3GEM Studios.