With less than a month into the long-awaited release of the Xbox One X, our attention now has to turn to “What’s Next?” Over the past two years, Microsoft has struggled with offering exclusive content on the Xbox. In fact, one of the biggest criticisms from the Xbox One X release is that there isn’t enough software to justify the upgrade. We aren’t here to argue that statement today, but it’s clear that fans are showing concern. So, what can we expect on the Xbox in 2018 and beyond?
During an annual Shareholder’s meeting this week Satya Nadella, Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft, shared some insight as to where the Xbox brand might be heading. The Xbox One X is estimated to have sold 600,000 units so far this year, and it’s clear that Microsoft wants to ride this momentum into 2018. I want to break down a few key quotes from Nadella and discuss how I think they might impact the Xbox over the next few years and even into the next console generation.
“We’re mobilizing to pursue an expansive opportunity in the 100+ billion gaming market. This means broadening our approach to how we think about gaming end-to-end. About starting with games and how they’re created and distributed, and how they’re played and viewed.”
There is a lot to unpack with this quote, so let’s break it down a little bit. Nadella mentions “end-to-end” and then clarifies with four key words: created, distributed, played, and viewed. These are the words that I want to focus on and hopefully start a deeper look at what he might be talking about. Before we jump into creation, it is important to realize that Nadella claimed a “100+ billion gaming market”. It’s clear that number isn’t Xbox alone, so his sights are set on a much bigger audience.
Create, Distribute, Play, and View
So, the end-to-end process starts with creation. I think the future of development for Xbox is going to resemble what we’ve seen with both Cuphead and PUBG. Were I in charge, I would probably put down the money to purchase both Studio MDHR and Bluehole. Microsoft, on the other hand, is content supporting those teams with both resources and capital to help achieve the company’s vision. What I hear from Nadella is that Microsoft is going to continue working with developers in helping to create amazing and new experiences for the Xbox hardware. I would not expect to hear about Microsoft buying multiple new studios, instead more about Microsoft partnering with developers to bring more content first to Xbox.
Next Nadella mentions distribution. I fully believe this is where Microsoft is really going to start separating themselves from the pack. Microsoft launched Xbox Game Pass in June. Xbox Game Pass gives gamers access to a huge library of games for one low monthly price. Unlike Playstation Now or a service like Netflix, Xbox Game Pass allows members to download full versions of games to play at their convenience. Gamers continue to have access to any or all downloaded games as long as their subscription is current. If Microsoft can grow the Game Pass member base, there is the possibility that Game Pass, much like Netflix, could one day sustain their own game distribution. It might seem like a distant reality now, but imagine Gears of War 5 or 6 launching exclusively for Game Pass members. I believe this is closer to reality than we might want to accept.
Nadella then mentions Microsoft’s approach to playing and viewing games. In the case of playing, there are a few things to consider. First, we know that Microsoft is working on the next evolution of achievements as well as relaunching Xbox Avatars sometime next year. Both of these might actually be related to a user’s experience playing games on Xbox in 2018. The second thing to consider is Hololens and VR. There are several high-quality Bethesda titles released in VR and Microsoft has showcased Minecraft with Hololens. The bottom line is that Microsoft is looking for innovative and engaging ways to expand how games are played on Xbox platforms.
Finally, Nadella mentioned viewing games. Microsoft has already put its money where its mouth is here by purchasing Beam and doubling down on Mixer’s integration with the Xbox One. Even outside of Mixer, gamers can capture footage on their system or external hard drive, edit that footage on the console, and upload to OneDrive or YouTube to be shared. Microsoft is doing a great job giving players multiple ways to share their experiences and interact with a live audience. Microsoft purchased Beam in August of 2016, roughly 16 months ago. In that time they have renamed the service, built new features into the UI of the system, and engaged a huge group of influencers. I only see the integration and interaction with Mixer growing in 2018.
In closing, Nadella also said that Microsoft will work to “grow and engage the over 53 million Xbox Live members more deeply and frequently” mentioning both Game Pass and Mixer. It is encouraging as an Xbox fan to hear both Phil Spencer and now, Satya Nadella speak about their vision for the Xbox platform. If you are an Xbox fan, don’t let your excitement be drowned in the noise saying there are no exclusive games. The Xbox has a bright future and seems to be on the right track. Not just in offering great exclusive games, but more importantly, offering exclusive experiences to its player base in both 2018 and beyond. It’s a great time to be an Xbox gamer.
What do you think about Nadella’s comments? What are ways you think the Xbox can improve creating, distributing, playing, or viewing games? Let us know in the comments below.