We are almost at the end of another generation of consoles. This year will see the introduction of PlayStation 5 and the next Xbox, also known as Project Scarlett. Hopes were so high for Xbox as we transitioned from Xbox 360 to Xbox One. However, I think even the most ardent Xbox fan, or Enthusiast, would agree that the launch of Xbox One was a bit of a disaster. From the mixed messaging to Kinect 2.0 and the lack of power compared to PlayStation 4, it wasn’t good. Since then, under the leadership of Phil Spencer, the Xbox brand has begun to claw its way back. So, what does the next Xbox need to continue this trend and take the fight to PlayStation 5? Let’s take a look.
At the launch of the current generation, the real separating factors between the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were the price and the power. Xbox One cost a little more because of Kinect 2.0 but it wasn’t a deal-breaker. However, the power of PlayStation 4 over Xbox One meant that Sony’s console could run more games at native 1080p. While I defy the average gamer to distinguish a game playing at 900p compared to 1080p while sitting on their sofa at a sensible distance from their TV, the damage was done. Xbox can’t afford to let a similar thing happen with their next console.
Now, you may have noticed that I keep saying “the next Xbox” rather than referring to Xbox Series X. The reason for this is that it is highly rumoured that we are going to be getting two systems at launch with Xbox Series X being the more powerful unit. The suggested specs for Xbox Series X are seriously impressive. And if the rumoured specifications for PlayStation 5 are true, then Phil Spencer has ensured that Microsoft is releasing a massively more powerful system. It also means that if the lower-spec system (the rumoured Lockhart project) could still be on terms with PlayStation 5.
Xbox One X showed that the boffins at Microsoft could still produce a stunning console. The lessons learned in creating that machine has no doubt influenced Xbox Series X. Here’s hoping that it proves to be a true powerhouse and removes any lingering doubts over Xbox hardware.
Since the announcement of Xbox One X, every Sony fanboys criticism of Xbox changed from the power of the system to the lack of exclusives. I would even argue that they do have a point. While the PlayStation 4 was getting games like Horizon Zero Dawn, God of War, and Marvel’s Spider-man, Xbox One fans were left wanting. We still got a fairly regular supply of exclusives but they just weren’t on the same level. Aside from the Gears and Forza franchises, this generation has not been great for AAA first-party Xbox titles. Halo 5: Guardians is a great game to play but the story is a mess. ReCore is a fun little game but is not the kind of hit we had hoped for. Super Lucky’s Tale is a blast but it’s never going to shift many consoles. Crackdown 3, well, we’ll leave it there.
Over the past year, Xbox has taken real strides to combat this problem with the creation and expansion of Xbox Game Studios. Studios like Obsidian Entertainment, Ninja Theory, and Double Fine are now tasked with creating Xbox exclusives. We’ve also seen Playground Games and Compulsion Games come fully into the Xbox fold. The most intriguing addition is the creation of The Initiative. This is the Santa Monica studio that Phil Spencer has tasked with creating a AAAA title for Xbox. Now as silly as adding another ‘A’ to triple-A is, it does speak to the ambition of this project. And with the talent that this studio has been hoovering up, it would be daft to bet against them.
Xbox needs some big hits at the start of this next generation. Halo Infinite needs to reinvigorate that franchise. We have no doubt that the next Forza entry will continue to be at the forefront of racing games. Here’s hoping that the investment that Microsoft has made in Xbox Game Studios will lead to some other heavy hitters that will help to shift consoles.
One of the biggest problems with Xbox One was the marketing. Even before the console was available to preorder, Microsoft had shot the console in the foot with its mixed messaging and unpopular online & DRM systems. Almost all of this was changed before the system actually released but the damage was done. Xbox now has very different leadership with Phil Spencer at the helm. However, there are still plenty of potential minefields for them to negotiate.
I was speaking to some fellow Enthusiasts before The Game Awards and suggested that as Microsoft had said at X019 that they were waiting till 2020 to talk about the next Xbox, Sony ought to share some PlayStation 5 info. My thinking was that it would give them months of people talking about the new system. Well, Phil Spencer clearly thought the same and the Xbox Series X was revealed. This is a good start but they need to back it up with either a press conference in the next few months or a full blow-out at E3. We need to know the price, whether it’s going to be one or two systems, and what the launch line-up is. All three of these things need to be spot-on for Xbox to nail this important launch.
Phil Spencer has been very savvy in the moves that Xbox has made since his arrival. Backwards compatibility, Xbox Game Pass, and the increase in the number of first-party studios have all been good. However, now he needs a marketing team and plan that really put the pressure on Sony and reveal how good a product and platform Xbox is.
This is just the start
Console generations are a marathon, not a sprint. Xbox has recovered from a weak start at the beginning of this generation and needs to push even harder into the next generation. There are some very strong pieces in place. Xbox Game Pass could be a huge selling point going into the next cycle than some people realise. After all, you’ll have a library of games for your new console without spending any more money. The hardware looks like it could have a real edge over PlayStation 5. Xbox Game Studios will need a few years to start producing consistent content but there is real potential there. If Phil Spencer and his team can price the system competitively, get some great exclusives at launch, and nail the marketing, Xbox could be in with a shout of winning the next generation.
Personally, I think it’s more likely that the new Xbox reaches the kind of parity that Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 had in terms of market share. However, until we know more about both PlayStation 5 and the next Xbox, anything could happen. What you can be sure of, is that here at Xbox Enthusiast, we’ll be covering it all and keeping our fingers crossed for Xbox.
What do you think Xbox needs to do to bring the fight to Sony? What are your hopes and fears for the new Xbox? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.