The Xbox One is the underdog this generation. It’s that simple. When the Xbox 360 launched in 2005, the system became popular on the market and further solidified Microsoft as a major player on the console scene. Not only did the Xbox 360 have fantastic first-party console exclusives like Gears of War, Halo 4, Viva Pinata, Blue Dragon, and Alan Wake, there was also a solid lineup of third-party exclusives that helped the Xbox 360 ecosystem thrive. Some of the best third-party exclusives on Xbox 360 were Condemned: Criminal Origins, Ninja Blade, Tales of Vesperia, and Uno Rush. There were so many excellent video games on the console, and it’s a shame that the Xbox One doesn’t seem to reach the heights of the Xbox 360. There’s no doubt that a new generation is inevitable. It makes me wonder if the next Xbox can have a legacy like the Xbox 360.
In a recent article, I talked about how Microsoft should focus on existing IPs instead of developing new ones. Dwelling on the past usually never ends well, but that’s precisely what’s needed for the next Xbox to survive. Sure, the hardware itself will be more advanced, but the company’s strategy in the Xbox and Xbox 360 era made the brand much more successful. While first-party content is essential, third-party is honestly more important. In a good year, Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo will try to put out 3-5 exclusives on their respective consoles. What happens during the downtime between first-party games? Third-party games. Look at Sony. In February 2017, the company released the brilliant Horizon Zero Dawn. In March, Platinum Games released Nier Automata while Atlas launched Persona 5 in April. Two of the most critically acclaimed games of 2017 launched between first-party exclusives Horizon Zero Dawn and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy which launched in August. Not many third-party exclusives launched for Nintendo Switch last year, but there was a lot of third-party support for the console. This resulted in plenty of games coming to Nintendo’s new hybrid machine and PlayStation 4 instead of the Xbox One.
It’s a shame, but something I’ve come to expect as a fan of Xbox One. There needs to be strong third-party support going forward. It almost seems as if the Xbox One is a lost cause for the foreseeable future. I’m hoping that the next iteration of the Xbox will have third-party developers and publishers flocking to put their games on Xbox One. The past few years have seen Microsoft build towards a brighter future. From backwards compatibility (Original Xbox and Xbox 360), Games With Gold, and Xbox Game Pass, there have been so many consumer-friendly policies make their way onto Xbox One. Finding good-will with the current userbase will only help pave the way for what’s coming later. If third-parties see how fans and consumers respond to the company’s decisions, it might make them want to do more business down the road.
There’s no denying that Xbox 360 was a successful console. In 2013, Microsoft sold 76 million units, and that number has undoubtedly risen since. The Xbox 360 had a reliable online service and games that made the console worth owning. That doesn’t mean the PlayStation 3 wasn’t worth owning either. The exclusives like Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Resistance: Fall of Man, Killzone 2, God Of War III, and The Last Of Us are all fantastic video games. While Sony’s console excelled in first-party content, there were a lot of games that ran better on Microsoft’s console because of the difficulty to develop on PlayStation 3.
Phil Spencer needs to come out swinging during E3. This generation is no longer about third-party. If I were Spencer, I would be focusing on announcing and releasing first-party exclusives and acquiring new studios. Honestly, third-party exclusive support seems like a lost cause. This feels like a “cut your losses” scenario. Microsoft should be looking to invest in the future of the brand. If they come out in E3 2019 and say we’re working on a new console and these are developers we’re partnering with, the reception is guaranteed to be a success. It worked for Nintendo. When the company officially revealed the Switch, I remember feeling pumped when they showed each developer that was putting video games on the latest Nintendo console.
Nintendo learned from its mistakes and made the Switch a hit. Sony took the flaws from the PlayStation 3 and knocked it out of the park with PlayStation 4. Microsoft, on the other hand, took a different direction with Xbox One and didn’t embrace what people loved about Xbox 360. Though the graphics were stunning, and the launch games were great, the lack of support, terrible UI, lesser quality controller, and the sour taste left in players’ mouths from the reveal plagued the console from the get-go. So far, Microsoft has done everything it can to salvage the wreckage. The Xbox One X is a stunning console, and it’s currently the most powerful one on the market. That’s cool and all, but as a mid-generation upgrade, Xbox One X is really only servicing fans of the brand. It’s most likely not converting new people to the Xbox camp.
The central question is whether or not Microsoft can make a console that can be as successful as the Xbox 360. While Microsoft doesn’t reveal sales numbers for Xbox One, it looks like 19 million consoles were sold in the first three years of release. I doubt that two years later, Microsoft has reached 76 million units sold. The next step is interesting for the Xbox brand in general. A lot needs to be done for Xbox to take the top spot. PlayStation 4 is still going strong, and the Switch is a powerhouse that doesn’t look like it will slow down anytime soon. Microsoft is in an unlikely position where it could find itself being on the bottom of the console chain in the next few years. I’d say that the company has set itself up for a successful follow-up console, but third-party support is key. Waiting years for first-party titles will become tiresome. In the end, looking at the past consoles will help Xbox succeed next generation.