I love my Xbox One X. I use it every single day. Whether I’m trying to clear another game from my backlog, watching Funhaus videos on Youtube, or binging through the stellar My Hero Academia, Xbox One X is a crucial part of my life. While I enjoy playing Gears of War 4 and Halo 5: Guardians with my friends, I mainly find myself enjoying matches of Overwatch and Fortnite: Battle Royale over anything else. In a world where Microsoft released Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2 this year, I think it’s surprising that I’m still not playing these games. Unfortunately, this is the tale for recent Xbox exclusives; I don’t have the desire to come back to them.
I adore State of Decay 2. When the review published in May, I gave the zombie game an 8/10. This is part of what I said about the game at the initial review.
“State of Decay 2 is everything I wanted from in a sequel. The world is big, the gameplay mechanics are deep, the simulation aspect is broad, and the open-world is bleak and fascinating. State of Decay 2 makes up for its lack of narrative by having players make gameplay decisions that truly matter. Every action has a consequence and each breath could be your last.”
In the last sentence, I said I would “be exploring this apocalyptic world for months to come.” I thought that would be the case, but last month, something happened. I grew tired of a game I loved. State of Decay 2 lost my interest, and I haven’t played in a few weeks. This has nothing to do with the game itself, but none of my friends are playing. I’ve done everything I want to do solo, and prefer to play with others. Unfortunately, that hasn’t worked in my favor. Even with State of Decay 2 being on Game Pass, I can’t convince the people closest to me to boot up the game.
Sea of Thieves is another game that I thought I’d be playing for months. When I tried the demo at E3 2016, Rare’s pirate adventure blew me away. It was the most fun I had playing a video game with a group of random people in my life. I laughed uncontrollably, almost to the point of tears, and I couldn’t wait for the final product to hit store shelves. With the announcement that Sea of Thieves would be launching on Xbox Game Pass, it excited me that so many people would have the opportunity to play the game at launch. A bunch of friends and I all played together over the first few days and had an incredible time. Unfortunately, like most online-only games, content was bare during the first few weeks. Rare has added new content since launch, but I haven’t found the desire to come back. The studio created a lush world, full of vibrant colors, realistic water physics, interesting quests, and a sense of adventure, but it lacks any real reason to keep playing. The online community is abrasive, and the quests are repetitive.
Both of the games have a lot to do, but after a while, their luster was gone. Two of Microsoft’s big exclusives for the year came and quickly died out for me. The saving grace here is Forza Horizon 4. I’ve spent countless hours playing these games. Races are exhilarating, and the inclusion of the new seasons mechanic appears to add more life into the open world racer. As with all the other games in the Forza series, I expect the community to be active, and full of replayability.
Outside of Forza Horizon 4, Microsoft has a problem with games that keep players active. Let’s be honest, how many people are still talking about Sea of Thieves or State of Decay 2? I don’t know a single person clamoring about any of these. Next year, we’ll see Battletoads, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Crackdown 3, Gears 5, and the inevitable Forza Motorsport 8. Two of these games should be replayable, but Microsoft has a problem keeping people talking about their games. I understand that multiplayer is integral to keeping a video game going, but when it becomes the focus, something is lost in the fray. There are exceptions to the rule. Overwatch surpassed expectations and has had an active community since the game launched two years ago. Blizzard has done a fantastic job, and it’s something that Microsoft can learn from. Going forward, Microsoft needs to focus on releasing quality games. Similar to Sony’s God of War, I rather have a stellar single-player experience that I’ll never touch again (after completion) over a game that features multiplayer that loses steam after some time.
Luckily, Microsoft has invested in studios that will hopefully make memorable games that Xbox fans will remember for years. Ninja Theory is an expert studio that created astonishing games like Enslaved, DMC, and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. There’s also Compulsion Games, a team that created the fun Contrast, and the promising We Happy Few, a game that intrigued me at E3. The acquisitions that Microsoft made (and the founding of their new studio, The Initiative) seem to look like the company is trying to steer the ship towards single-player gaming.
This is something that Microsoft desperately needs. As a fan of the Xbox brand, I’d be crazy to deny that there is a problem with the current catalog. Nintendo has released ports of Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. Octopath Traveller launched last month, and fans still have Super Mario Party and Super Smash Bros: Ultimate to look forward to. Sony launched God of War and Detroit: Beyond Human earlier this year. In September, console owners can look forward to Spider-Man. There’s so much rich content on the other consoles, but Xbox owners only have Forza Horizon 4 to anticipate. While I fully expect it to be great, what will Xbox be remembered for in 2018? Let’s be honest, there’s nothing particularly memorable on the platform this year.
Xbox needs to change in the future. Don’t focus on the multiplayer. Sometimes, single-player experiences with little replay value can be just what the ecosystem can benefit from. WIth Xbox Game Pass, subscribers will get all of these games on launch date. There’s no doubt that the company is investing in the future of the brand. Unfortunately, it’s tough to defend the current state of the games on the console. I’ll keep using my Xbox One X every day, but when it comes to the games, it looks like I’ll be sticking to third-party for the foreseeable future.