A little over a month ago, I pondered the question: is there still room for the Xbox brand in console gaming? Back then, I stated that the Xbox will always have a place in the console market as long as they continue to improve and innovate. I still feel that way today. However, as a Xbox fan I cannot ignore the fact that Microsoft has a games problem with the Xbox One.
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the Xbox “has no games,” which is an objectively incorrect statement. The early months of 2017 have seen Resident Evil 7, Sniper Elite 4, and Mass Effect: Andromeda release on Microsoft’s console, to name a few. Certainly, Xbox fans have had several great games to enjoy this year. The problem is that third-party releases have been holding the console afloat in the early stages of 2017. Microsoft has done little to support their console with exclusive games since Gears of War 4 launched around six months ago.
Yesterday, Microsoft announced that a new tactical-themed Xbox One controller would be releasing in April. January also saw the announcement of two controllers, and a military green controller was announced this year as well. They’re cool looking, sure. But should this really be Microsoft’s focus at this juncture? So far in 2017, Microsoft has announced at least four new styles of Xbox One controllers, yet they have only released one noteworthy triple-A console exclusive game in Halo Wars 2.
It’s very disconcerting to see Microsoft focusing more on announcing controllers when they could be focusing their attention on more pressing issues at hand. Xbox will always have a place in gaming, but they are becoming less and less relevant with each passing day.
We’re only about three months away from E3 and we still know next to nothing about Project Scorpio. More crucially, 2017 is a wasteland when it comes to exclusives on the Xbox One. If not for strong third-party support, Microsoft’s 2017 lineup would be Wii U-esque. Meanwhile, PS4 owners have been exposed to an onslaught of quality titles in the early stages of 2017. Games like Nioh, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Nier Automata have made PS4 owners very happy indeed. Sony will use this momentum in the early part of the year to build towards E3 2017, where they typically always treat gamers to an amazing presentation.
Then there’s Nintendo’s latest console, the Switch. Current numbers state that Nintendo has sold 1.5 million Switches in just the first two weeks since launch. Nintendo is riding high on the successful launch of new hardware and their Game of the Year contender, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The lineup for the Switch for the remainder of 2017 looks strong as well.
Gamers are buzzing about what exclusives they’re playing on their PS4, or about the new Switch they just picked up. One thing they aren’t really talking about is Xbox, unless it’s just more blind speculation about Project Scorpio. This is a problem, and one that Microsoft needs to fix.
What are some things that Microsoft can do to stop the bleeding and help restore the Xbox brand to relevancy in the face of such stiff competition? I have three suggestions.
Hold a Scorpio Event Prior to E3 2017
As I’ve stated before, Microsoft should hold a separate event detailing Project Scorpio prior to E3 this year. This event could be used to explain what its specs are and what it can actually do. Microsoft can also use this opportunity to have a question and answer session with the press, which would ensure that gamers are adequately informed about their new console.
This will accomplish two things. For one, it would create genuine excitement and buzz among Xbox fans that has been missing for months now. Secondly, it frees up time for Microsoft to talk about games at E3, which leads into my second suggestion.
Show Xbox Fans What Games Are in the Pipeline
It’s time for Microsoft to pull back the curtains and show us that they’re actually working on something besides Project Scorpio and controllers. I’m not doubting that they are; it’s just that we haven’t seen any of it yet. When was the last time we heard anything about Crackdown 3? Now would be a perfect time for some more information on this exclusive title. Show some of the next Forza game to counter the Gran Turismo Sport beta. We all know there’s one coming this year.
At E3, assault Xbox fans with game after game. Surprise us, and give us some of the fan service that longtime fans of the brand will appreciate.
Do Something Different…Like Steam?
Lastly, Microsoft needs to do something different to set them apart from the competition. I propose working out a deal with Valve to get Steam games onto the Xbox One. I’ve mused about the possibility of Steam or at least its games on Xbox for a while now on Twitter. As outlandish as that idea may sound, hear me out.
Let’s think about the Xbox One. At its simplest level, it is a low-power Windows 10 gaming PC with a custom console UI. If Steam games can run on a Windows 10 PC, why couldn’t they be tweaked slightly to run on a standard Xbox One or Scorpio?
Imagine being able to play Counter Strike: Global Offensive and mod-friendly versions of Half-Life and other Valve games on your Xbox One. You could have access to the entire library of content from both the Xbox and Steam digital marketplaces on one device. This would be a game-changing feature in the console space. I think it would be a selling point over the current experiences on the PS4 and Switch.
Is the Xbox One dead? Of course not. It’s still a great console with great games available to play. Microsoft just needs to change their thinking with how they’re currently managing the console. With these suggestions, I think the Xbox can become the talking point in the console industry, as opposed to just a footnote.