Xbox One X Is Powerful, But Microsoft Still Need More Exclusives

Putting more X into Xbox.

We’ve known for a long time that Microsoft’s Project Scorpio, now called Xbox One X, was going to be an awesomely powerful console, and as they kicked off their E3 press conference, they got off to a good start.

They unveiled the form factor, a rather sleek looking box that keeps the Xbox One S form as a whole, but slims it down even further. This isn’t just the most powerful Xbox model to date, it’s also the most compact, with high end manufacturing and cooling techniques that go some way to justifying the cost. They also gave it a name that, while it doesn’t exactly give the greatest distinction, at least keeps the Xbox One branding intact, ensuring that these are viewed as siblings in a console generation.

However, an uber powerful games console is meaningless without games to play on it. Again, Microsoft started well, leaning on the tried and true Forza Motorsport 7 to lead the way with simply sublime graphics and the next iteration of the sim-like racer. OK, so they probably spent a bit too much time taking about a new Porsche that’s going to be in the game, and they do love to bring these cars out onto stage, but graphically, it had that wow factor that the Xbox One X needs.

The second punch of a 42 hit combo of games that Phil Spencer promised us – 22 of which would be console exclusives in some form – was something new and exciting, a third game in the Metro series, Metro Exodus. Instantly familiar to fans of the series, it’s clear that there’s a major tonal shift from the first two games. Naturally it opened in an underground setting, but what surprised was that the open outdoors areas weren’t the same uninhabitable cityscapes of the first two games.

Then came the heavily leaked and yet much anticipated Assassin’s Creed Origins, with a good lengthy gameplay demo showing some incredibly pretty graphics and tasty assassin action. It was at this point that things started to slide, however.

Don’t get me wrong, having games like Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds on console and for it to be an exclusive/timed exclusive to Xbox One? That’s big news, given the crazily popular Early Access version on PC. It’s even great to see Microsoft fostering indie developers on their platform, with Deep Rock Galactic, The Last Night, The Artful Escape and plenty more being paraded in the form of quick fire, back-to-back trailers.

There was a certain Sony-like quality to the way that Microsoft decided to simply bombard us with trailers, a form that the Japanese giant has perfected over the last few years, keeping fans on the edge of their seats and games journalists frantically typing and publishing news stories as quick as they can. What Microsoft couldn’t match, however, was our insatiable desire to see lots of brand new and blockbusting titles exclusively for their platforms.

Microsoft’s first and second party studios are struggling at the exact time they need to be firing on all cylinders. You’ve got Forza 7, a much prettier Minecraft, an Xbox One X launch day release of Crackdown 3 – made all the more bombastic with a swearing Terry Crews – and a long awaited release for Cuphead this year. In 2018 we then have Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2, and we expect to see Ori and the Will of the Wisps and… that’s it? Really? Xbox One X needs to come out of the blocks feeling like a new console generation. It’s anything but.

Microsoft have had to lean upon timed exclusivity deals and exclusivity of convenience that allow Early Access games onto Xbox One. That’s not necessarily bad or actively nefarious, with a number of these games coming first to Xbox One simply because of the console’s early access scheme, but after the fuss and negativity that surrounded the Rise of the Tomb Raider exclusivity, it’s disappointing that Microsoft had to trot out the “Xbox One console launch exclusive” phrase so regularly. When they do it, Sony disguise it much better.

Those pointing to Microsoft’s backward compatibility and scoffing that the only reason they support it is because there’s “no new games” on the console will delight in the fact that Microsoft are now plundering the original Xbox and adding backward compatibility for their first console as well. Laugh at all those suckers buying $500 consoles so they can play upscaled games from fifteen years ago! In truth, it’s actually a great move for all Xbox owners, and it’s going to revive a number of absolute gems not deemed worthy of a remaster. It should just feel like a sprinkling of something extra as opposed to one of the main reasons to own a console.

Microsoft just needed one, maybe two new blockbuster exclusives to announce. They’ve been hurt over recent years through not building up their internal studios and through both first and second party game development not panning out as they’d hoped, most recently with the cancellation of Scalebound this year. Sadly it seems that they’re struggling to find and commission more games to fill those gaps in their portfolio, and that’s now become a real concern. They can’t continue to rely solely on their three core series of Forza, Gears of War and Halo. Ironically, it’s a Halo 3 Anniversary announcement that would have been ideal for the launch of Xbox One X, bringing lapsed Xbox gamers back in their droves to revisit what’s often seen as the series’ high water mark. Instead, Halo was completely absent this year.

Of course, Xbox One X will be made more enticing by the sumptuous 4K gaming that third parties will deliver on the platform – BioWare’s newly announced Anthem looks visually stunning, and was a great way to close out the show and demonstrate the power of this console – and it certainly helps that Sony went first with the PlayStation 4 Pro, getting developers to think and cater to 4K gaming (or near 4K as the case may be) in their development plans. It’s true that Microsoft have tended to rely on the strength of that third party catalogue more than their in house efforts, so you certainly won’t be starved for 4K games, but is that going to be enough this time?

When the price at the door is $499.99/€499.99/£449.99, I’m not so sure it is. There’s such a vast gulf in price between the Xbox One X and the Xbox One S, which is roughly half the cost, or you can get the “usually not true 4K, but still looks very pretty” of the PS4 Pro for a hundred quid less. When Sony announce new games for fun at both E3 and their own PSX shows, you’d be buying into a console that just feels that bit livelier and exciting right now.

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27 Comments

  1. Yesterday conference was so underwhelming. You have this amazing console but you are trying to sell me minecraft, how does that justify 499 price tag.

    The fact they said they had 42 exclusives games to show last night & 35 of those looked like timed exclusives while the rest was well cuphead, pixels & that pirate game. I will wait till upgrade. The original Xbox BC wasn’t enticing at all considering the library wasn’t big enough

  2. Has anyone counted up the exclusives yet? How many of those 22 were timed exclusives?

    And more importantly, how many of the real exclusives were actually real exclusives, and not MS lying about it again, like with Tomb Raider?

    And has that £449.99 price been confirmed? It’s less than the $500 price should be. And quite possibly significantly less than it should be by the time it launches. How much are MS going to be losing on it?

    • Where they’re timed exclusives or exclusives of convenience, they’ve been called “Xbox One console launch exclusive”, otherwise it’s “Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive”, or something like that.

      £449.99 has been confirmed, and I’m sure that Microsoft are banking on the pound recovering somewhat. Same reason why the PS4 Pro is £349.99 versus $399.99.

      • So if you ignore the things that aren’t exclusives, because they’re timed or coming to PC as well, that leaves about half a dozen games.

        But at least it’s powerful. It does 6 TFLOPS! And has 12 RAMs. And 1.21 gigawatts of something probably.

        And in a novel twist, updates to the old games are free. Unlike the PS4 Pro updates. Oh, wait. They’re free too.

        It’s just like that car they dragged out on stage. Was it a Porsche? One of those cars with wheels and stuff anyway. Yes, it’s all shiny and fast, but it’s also expensive, and most people are probably quite happy with something cheaper that does the job perfectly well.

      • You shouldn’t point fingers too much. One of the main criticisms of the PS4 Pro at its launch was that it didn’t have any real new exclusives to take advantage of it. Everything at that point was being patched to support it, but Sony’s only exclusive from the last few months of 2016 came a month later in the form of The Last Guardian. So they too relied on patching up older titles, new third party games and the promise of games yet to come, it’s just that they’re promising a lot more games.

        Also, it’s easy to dismiss console exclusivity because people with £1000 PCs can play them as well, but they are still a factor as an awful lot of people will buy a console but balk at the thought of a gaming PC. If Microsoft can get hugely popular games like Battlegrounds onto their console first, then that is absolutely a big deal… it just doesn’t feel as new and exciting as a new announcement.

      • PS4 Pro still doesn’t have any games really utilizing its power (maybe the Wipeout collection now) so it’s really hard to get behind a piece of hardware with no real support (and I own a PS4 Pro and 3 4k screens).

        I have a PC that can play games easily (not 4k but still), but if I had Battlegrounds on a console, I’d still play it on a console. I just don’t like the KB + Mouse combo and the complete lack of standardization on PCs where people can have an advantage because of having better hardware or a mouse with a 100 buttons and macros.

  3. I don’t really understand the argument. Surely everyone can agree that exclusives are not good for consumers? Imagine if last night Microsoft turned up and announced they had bought true exclusivity (not just timed or launch) to loads of highly anticipated games, such as Destiny 2, Red Dead 2 etc. Think about the fallout on the internet of players now not being able to continue playing their favourite franchise without shelling out for a new Xbox.

    The lack of XBO X exclusives just means there’s a lot of great games coming out that everyone will be able to enjoy, regardless of which console is sitting in their living room.

    • Surely that’s the point of the article though? MS have just tried to sell us a £450 console with no real reason to buy one over an XBO S, a PS4, or a PS4 Pro, all of which can be had for a lot less money…

      Plus, I wouldn’t expect or want them to buy exclusivity to an established, highly regarded, multi format title, that’s just downright devious, but surely they should be investing in the development of their own must-buy franchise, to give people a reason to buy Xbox.

      • Yeah, i meant homegrown first and second party exclusivity, as opposed to timed deals. Microsoft’s wells seem to have run dry as Sony’s feel like they’re overflowing with new games.

        Depending on your point of view, there’s plenty of reasons to buy an XBO X thanks to patched older games, third party games and one or two new exclusives in Forza 7 and Crackdown 3, it’s just that these are relatively known quantities and there weren’t any new first party announcements to get gamers salivating and eager to get either version Xbox.

      • But just because it doesn’t have exclusives, doesn’t mean the console isn’t worth buying for some people. 4k gaming, 4k UHD Blu-Ray player, backwards compatibility – there’s plenty of stuff there that Sony can’t answer to. On the other hand, there’s plenty of stuff that Sony has that MS can’t answer to (VR etc.).

        What I’m trying to say is that today’s consoles shouldn’t be judged on exclusives as the only ones who suffer are gamers.

    • Exactly. Plus it’s not like anyone is actually going to run out of games to play. Exclusive or not, there are more than enough upcoming games and games that are out now. And the way people are spinning backwards compatibility to be a bad thing is tabloid style commenting.

    • Microsoft don’t have then marketshare to lock in exclusives. Look how badly of ended for Rise of the Tomb Raider.. If you got pee poor marketshare like xbox has right now, no amount of money can compensate for that.

      • Yet in the UK they sell more games per console than ps4. It sells plenty enough.

    • Why do they have to buyout sequels to franchises that already exist? Why can’t they create new IPs like they used to do (and Sony has been doing quite consistently)?

  4. Wonderful choice of name, “Xbox One S” and Xbox One X” hardly sound the same in most English accents.
    #SarcasmOff
    Other than that, a bit pricey but looks promising. Smallest form factor of all the One’s might mean external power brick :-(

  5. All that smoke and mirrors with the word ‘exclusive’ seemed a bit desperate. But it’s not a new generation of console so they couldn’t actually do exclusive games for it. Everything has to run on the base XB1 too.
    And with the emphasis seemingly on all the footage being XB1X, 4KUHD, base XB1 owners must be left wondering how the games are going to look and run on their hardware, ie Anthemn.

    I think Microsoft may have overstepped what was needed to stay in the game. Their best option now would be to find a time machine and go back 12 months, release something cheaper to match the PS4 pro specs and then we could all see out the end of this generation with dignity.
    All the work with BC is commendable but there’s an old saying .. out with the old and in with the new . And ultimately i think that’s going to temper enthusiasm for these half-generational cycles. Oh look here’s a brand new gaming experience enabled by the power of XB1X/PS4Pro – oh and btw it’s also coming to XB1/PS4..

  6. Watched it – the killer apps were missing. The green team will be underwhelmed as there wasn’t anything that stood out and ‘wowed’. Console is a stride forward for them though.

    Shame for them really, I think Sony will come out guns blazing tonight…

  7. I disagree. Who need’s new exclusives games when you have a huge library of original XBOX and 360 games to play on your £449 4K games console. After all, that’s the main reason we buy new consoles… to play 5-10 year old games upscaled.

  8. Don’t like the name but it makes sense I guess.

    Man does Forza look pretty. Insanely jealous of Xbox owners for that one.

  9. That’s a great price for the power you’re getting.

    I’ll take a copy of Forza 7 thank you very much.

  10. No games there at all i’m interested in that cant be played on another console or PC. Looks like me existing xbox will continue to be used as a media player and nothing else. I see no reason to buy an upgraded xbox after that show.

    What amazed me was the biggest cheer of the whole Xbox show was for original xbox games, and it was by far the biggest cheer, way bigger than the scorpio announcement. Someone please tell me why a scorpio is even needed, what happened to all that processing power in the cloud?

    Is it me or does the fake cheering and whoop whoop really piss any one else off? I even noticed a few guys fist pumping and jumping up down when original xbox games were announced. There are some very easily pleased folk out there in xbox land.

    • “Is it me or does the fake cheering and whoop whoop really piss any one else off? I even noticed a few guys fist pumping and jumping up down when original xbox games were announced. There are some very easily pleased folk out there in xbox land.”

      I completely agree, they’re Microsoft staff that they have there deliberately to try and build up some interest.Notice how Sony dont ever resort to this as they have titles that genuinely make you interested.

      In regards to the “X”, cool tech shame theres no exclusive titles worthy of it.

    • It’s even more funny since Microsoft revealed last week that only around 1% of users are using the BC feature ;P

      • ***********Correction Alert!*******************

        Microsoft revealed that approx. 1.5% of time spent on Xbox One was using the BC feature.

        It was later announced that approx. 50% of Xbox One owners have used the BC feature.

        Personally I’m not fussed one way or another about BC, but at least use the supplied figures!

      • Correction of the correction:

        It was Ars Technica that came up with the 1.5% not MS.

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