Recently, an Xbox fan took to Twitter to ask Head of Xbox Phil Spencer whether or not Microsoft is going to make any good exclusives for Xbox One. Spencer’s response to the question was professional and encouraging.
“I feel very good about this year,” he said. “Should have more 1P games than last year, great diversity + launching new IP. Good year.”
Even though Microsoft only released a few first party games last year meaning that it wouldn’t be too hard for them to surpass their meager 2016 output in 2017, the response was still comforting.
There’s really just one problem. Microsoft isn’t in a position to save the Xbox this year by themselves.
When I say “save the Xbox”, I don’t mean from bankruptcy or complete failure. I mean that Microsoft can’t save the Xbox from the onslaught of Nintendo and Sony exclusives that are about to flood the marketplace. We’re already seeing it from Sony’s end. Nioh, Resident Evil 7 VR, Gravity Rush 2, and Yakuza 0 are already game of the year contenders and it’s not even March yet. As for Nintendo, they’ve got an entirely new console with a plethora of exclusives coming out in a few weeks alongside a Zelda game that looks like the most promising entry into the franchise in years.
Comparatively, Microsoft’s likely lineup is a bit of a question mark. At present, the major Xbox exclusives are looking like Halo Wars 2, Sea of Thieves, Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2, and Forza 7. That’s not bad, but it’s missing a true heavy hitter. Halo Wars 2 is a bit of a niche title, Sea of Thieves has yet to really blow anyone away, and games like State of Decay 2 and Forza 7 are going to have to be pretty impressive to really sell systems. As for Crackdown 3, its development process has been littered with red flags.
It feels like what Phil Spencer really wanted to say is, “We know that we’ve had some third-party setbacks, but we’re confident that people will buy an Xbox for our games.” There’d be no denying that first part. The ugly and sudden cancellation of Scalebound coupled with Microsoft’s inability to secure more third-party exclusives has left them with a bit of an empty war chest at the moment. The arsenal they do have is all coming from one source and is loaded with potential duds.
There’s only one company that’s been able to move systems based largely on the strength of their first party offerings, and Nintendo is still trying to find a way to continue doing that. Microsoft hasn’t proven that they have the ability to deliver that quality of content by themselves and it would take a superhuman turnaround for their situation to change.
Microsoft’s situation isn’t dire. They can still make their mark with Project Scorpio and a few surprise hits. Still, the future of Xbox is too heavy for them to lift on their own.