With just over a month to go, Xbox finds themselves in a weird position right before their annual E3 conference. The successor to the Xbox One is on the horizon. Last year they acquired a handful of new studios to combat their first party problem. On top of all this, their main competition is going to be a no show for the first time at the year’s biggest stage. You could argue that the ball is in Xbox’s court. It’s now their E3 to lose. They can come out this year, announce a plethora of new single player first party games along with their usual big three, show some third party love and reveal the specs for Xbox Lockhart and Anaconda and drop the mic. E3 over, Xbox wins.
Not so fast. As much as I, along with other fans (or enthusiasts, wink wink), would like to see this happen I don’t see it happening. Yes, Xbox has new first party games in the works. But they’ve only been in the works for a year. The past few years, Xbox has reiterated they don’t want to reveal anything too early, lest they have another game canceled, a la Scalebound, or met with mediocre reviews like Crackdown 3.
The Long Game
Since Phil Spencer took the reigns in 2014, Xbox has been more interested in the long game. Making the ecosystem as consumer friendly as possible. Some might even say that despite the “lack” of first-party support Xbox is the more consumer-friendly option at this point. They introduced crossplay. Added Mouse and keyboard support. And even developed the Adaptive Controller. Throw in backwards compatibility along with the reliable Xbox Live service and Xbox is set up for next generation and beyond.
Even though Sony revealed the specs of what everyone assumes is going to be called the PlayStation 5, there’s no point in revealing the rumored more powerful Scarlett while they can still tout that games play better on the “most powerful console ever” Xbox One X. Phil has said that they want to evolve beyond console generations. So it makes sense to be in no hurry to jump into the next generation. I’m not saying Xbox needs to rest on their laurels. Far from it. They still need to hit a home run at E3. Competition or no competition, they don’t necessarily need to swing for the fences just yet.
Take Your Time
Good games take time to make. Sony didn’t magically put all these hit games into production right after they announced PS4. This work started back in the PS3 era, which had a similarly shaky launch back in 2006. Coming to fruition on the PS4. What we’re seeing is years of them playing the long game, along with a few too early reveals of their own. The slow burn strategy is paying off. Sony is delivering hit after hit. With a follow up to one of the best games of last generation (The Last of Us 2.) A game from revered director Hideo Kojima (Death Stranding.) And a game from beloved Sony studio Sucker Punch (Ghosts of Tsushima) still to come. Although the belief is that these games will be cross-generation titles.
Xbox just released the Xbox One S all-digital edition. Of the two rumored next-generation Xbox consoles, one is to be an all-digital edition as well. One thing is certain. Xbox is putting a lot of their eggs into the digital future/streaming basket. Gamepass is the best deal in gaming right now. EA Access has also been a big hit on the Xbox One and is now slated to hit PS4 later this year.
One thing Microsoft has been mum about is Project xCloud. Keeping their cards close to the chest. Public trials are rumored to be coming this year. E3 would be the perfect place to unveil more information. Especially if they believe in the all-digital future. Xbox jumped the gun into the digital age with the Xbox One reveal, but we’ve progressed in that direction throughout this generation. The streaming/digital/VR future is closer than ever and Xbox seems poised to be at the forefront. Now for the love of all that is Holy, Phil, bring back that blade dashboard.