As one of the original writers for Xbox Enthusiast, you can probably imagine that I love my Xbox One. I picked up my Day One edition with everyone else on 22nd November. I have since gone on to pick up an Xbox One X at launch, and I also got an Xbox One S. While I do have a PlayStation 4 Pro and the Nintendo Switch, I only use those for platform exclusives, all third-party games I play on my Xbox. As such a devoted Xbox fan this has been a tough console generation. The first Xbox may not have achieved the numbers that PlayStation 2 did, but it was a beast of a console. Coming late to the console market, and halfway through the sixth generation, Microsoft set about releasing the most powerful console (for the time). When it came to follow that up, they knocked it out of the park with the Xbox 360. It may not have had as much raw power as the PlayStation 3, but developers could better use the processing capabilities, and it was also significantly cheaper than Sony’s new console. The Xbox 360 went on to become the most popular console of the seventh generation. Microsoft had gone from being something of a curiosity in the games market to being one of the biggest players.
Things have not been so smooth this generation. The Xbox One reveal event was a disaster. The idea that this was as much a media hub as a games machine was massively misguided. Then there was the bizarre decision to require the console to always be online. This would have meant that all gamers would require a solid internet connection. They also wanted games to be locked to a single machine, removing the preowned games market. And there was the insistence that Kinect 2.0 was an essential part of the Xbox One experience. A lot of these policies were removed before the Xbox One ever hit stores, and it wasn’t long until Kinect 2.0 was dropped. All of this would have been forgettable if Sony hadn’t absolutely nailed it with the PlayStation 4. Sony’s console was slimmer, more powerful, and cheaper.
It’s not just on the hardware front that Xbox One has struggled. If we’re being really honest, the games have not matched the last generation. The Halo franchise (an Xbox tentpole) has seen three entries, and one collection this generation and none of them would be described as classics. Halo 5 reinvented its multiplayer with huge success, but the campaign story was a mess. Halo: Spartan Assault was passable but not much more. Halo Wars 2 was solid but didn’t live up to the first game. As for Halo: The Master Chief Collection the game had so many issues at launch that you have to wonder what 343 Industries were doing. Gears of War has only had the one outing, so far, on Xbox One. Gears of War 4 was a solid title, but you would never describe it as a classic.
In fact, this generation has not created the classic games that last generation did. I mean, what Xbox One games will be remembered in the same light as titles like Mass Effect and Bioshock? Possibly Cuphead could rank up there and maybe Overwatch and Rocket League but what else? Yes, games like Fortnite and PUBG are huge right now but will they have staying power? Destiny looked like it had potential but that series is very divisive right now. Microsoft’s attempts at creating new IPs have been pretty poor. Sunset Overdrive is an amazing game but just didn’t connect with an audience. Quantum Break was very ambitious but pushed the hardware too much (though you really should try it on Xbox One X). Sea of Thieves is another game that divides opinion. Rare has been working hard to address these issues, but it remains to be seen whether it will develop a loyal following.
I really think that Microsoft should just admit defeat on this generation and focus on perfecting the next Xbox. If reports are to be believed, the next generation will probably start in 2020. With this just being a couple of years away, Microsoft should delay any major games from 2019 to launch with the new system. How great would it be for Halo Infinite to launch with the next Xbox? It would really show a sign of intent. Microsoft has also just expanded their stable of first-party studios which is a big marker for next generation. Xbox One is never going to bridge the gap to PlayStation 4, both in terms of numbers and mind-share, so why not focus on getting it right next time. Yes, 2019 would end up being a little barren (apart from Crackdown 3 early in the year and the inevitable Forza Motorsport 8), but it could be worth it. When Microsoft shows off the new system (probably at E3 next year) they could show off a range of heavy-hitter games for the launch window that would excuse a slightly sparse 2019.
It’s not just about games with the next console though. Microsoft cannot afford to be beaten again on power by Sony and really can’t afford to be 25% more expensive. The hardware architecture is likely to be very similar to this generation, just with better specifications. We don’t want any gimmicks, just give us a really powerful system. As I alluded to earlier, the price has to be right as well. I don’t think Microsoft is the sort of company that would sell their new console at a loss, but if they want to challenge Sony, then they should seriously consider selling it at cost. These generations are a marathon and not a sprint, sell the console for the manufacturing cost to start with and then as parts get cheaper, the profits will come.
The next Xbox is crucial to the success of Microsoft’s gaming ambitions. If the new system is once again trounced by Sony’s new machine then the Xbox brand could be in jeopardy. After all, they have only had one successful Xbox. I’m sure Phil Spencer is aware of this and is pulling out all the stops to make the next system their best. As for the Xbox One, I think resources have to be taken away and moved to its successor. There will still be plenty of third-party games coming Xbox One so we’ll still have lots to play. As a solid Xbox Enthusiast I really want the next Xbox to be successful and if that means killing off the Xbox One, then so be it.