I’ve been an Xbox fan for over a decade. The company hasn’t always made the best decisions; let’s not forget the abysmal reveal for Xbox One. I believe it’s why the Xbox brand has been stumbling this console generation. Fortunately, the past few months have been great for Microsoft. In November, the Xbox One X launched, and recently, it was announced that Xbox Game Pass would add AAA titles on release day. It’s an impressive, bold, and consumer-friendly decision that is unprecedented in the industry.
I’m so happy with the way that Xbox has been slowly making a comeback over the last few months. With console exclusives like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and upcoming exclusives like Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2, and Sea Of Thieves, it’s great to see some fresh experiences coming to the Xbox platform. While Xbox is currently trying to come from behind in this race, there’s something I think will hold the brand back. I’m talking about a true second-screen experience. Xbox dabbled in a second-screen experience with Smartglass, but you couldn’t actually play anything with Smartglass. Although the Nintendo Switch isn’t technically a second-screen experience, the fact that you can take your console on the go means that you don’t have to be stuck in the room where your console is. Sony allows remote play with the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita. As someone who plays with my Switch and Sony consoles on a regular basis, I really appreciate not having to play every game in my room. Sometimes, I like playing my PS4 games via remote play while watching TV.
Xbox, on the other hand, doesn’t give me the option to play my games when I’m out and about. I think that this is something that may hurt the brand in the long run. If you’ve been on the Internet since last March, you probably have heard people say “bring it to the Switch.” It’s a phrase I read often, and it’s a sentiment that the video game community seems to share. Despite the strides that Microsoft is making to redeem itself for the terrible Xbox One launch, there are always ways to improve. PlayStation 4 is the first console to implement VR and Xbox doesn’t have that yet. It’s cool that the Xbox One X is the most powerful console, but is that enough?
Xbox needs a true second-screen experience to keep up with the times. Imagine playing Halo 5: Guardians, Fable: Anniversary, Forza Horizon 3, and other Microsoft games on the go? I know that a portable console is something that probably won’t happen, but I think it’s a necessary move to stay relevant alongside the other companies. I’ve been so spoiled with Switch, that I desperately crave an Xbox experience that I can play on the bus, train, airplane, passenger seat of my car, work office, and any place that’s not my house. Microsoft has shot down the portable console many times, but maybe it’s the right moment to reignite the conversation. Consumers are already flocking back to Xbox. Why not try something bold and unexpected?
Second-screen experiences may not seem revolutionary, but they truly are game-changers (no pun intended). Xbox needs innovation. 4K is great, but that’s nothing next to a way to actually play your video games. It’s time for Microsoft to reverse its stance on portability. Making a portable console for the sole purpose of linking it to the Xbox is something that I think fans of the brand will flock to stores to buy. Fans are loyal to their brand. Look at phones; how many people will only buy Apple products? How many people are strictly Android users? The Xbox One X sold quite well at launch, and that was because the Xbox fanbase is strong.
Xbox has been on an upward trajectory for a while now, but that can eventually stall. Xbox needs to throw a curveball. Virtual reality is a new piece of hardware, but I don’t think the company necessarily needs to make a VR headset. Why not give consumers more ways to play their favorite games? It seems like a no-brainer, but that’s not the situation we’re in. It doesn’t matter how many fantastic decisions Phil Spencer and his team makes; there needs to be something mind-blowing in store for the Xbox community. I expect E3 2018 to be full of new game announcements, Xbox backwards compatibility titles be added to the program, and maybe an acquisition or two, but the hope of a new peripheral or hardware seems unlikely.
Can Xbox survive without a handheld console or second-screen experience? Sure. The brand has been going strong for over a decade, with no signs of slowing down. I think that Xbox should come up with a device or new program to make a true second-screen experience a reality. Smartglass was a mediocre concept and streaming to your laptop isn’t really idea. The world is looking at Xbox. With so many excellent consumer-friendly choices over the past few months, what else can the brand do? I’m not sure, but there needs to be something that either revolutionizes the gaming industry or pleases the Xbox fanbase. While I often say that Xbox needs games, a true second-screen experience is something that will keep people coming back for years to come.
Andrew Gonzalez is the Co-Editor-In-Chief of Xbox Enthusiast. When not writing about Xbox, he’s usually reading comics, talking about Taylor Swift, and dreaming of the perfect Jet Force Gemini Reboot. You can follow him on Twitter. @AJGVulture89