The future is going to be very bright for Xbox.
by Jade King, The Gamer
I can’t blame anyone saying that Xbox doesn’t have any games right now. In terms of killer apps to sell the Series X and S. However, it feels like Microsoft has outgrown this basic definition of what it means for a platform to ‘have games’ in the traditional sense. It doesn’t care about the console wars anymore, and neither should you – since attaching your self-worth to a brand is a bit sad.
If you’re a subscriber to Xbox Game Pass, it has loads of games, perhaps too many, and this number is only set to grow larger in the coming months and years. While at the time of writing it’s filled with third-party efforts and a handful of ageing exclusives, that environment is going to change, and when it does, Microsoft will have built one of the strongest gaming ecosystems on the planet. The value for money is extraordinary, turning a hobby that is often far too expensive into one that can be enjoyed by all, with the console, device, or service you’re playing on being little more than a delivery mechanism.
Sony has shown with the release of PS5 that it’s sticking to the old ways, opting for a handful of blockbuster exclusives each year that cement it as a prestige platform. It’s the HBO of gaming, with each new series or sequel selling millions of copies and attempting to push the medium forward with more mature examples of storytelling alongside technical showcases of visuals and mechanics we’ve never seen before. It’s clearly working, so the company has little reason to change its trajectory, but it’s one I feel will ultimately be its downfall when Xbox Game Pass reaches its full potential.
Paying £70/$60 for a new game when you can shell out significantly less for a month of Game Pass with hundreds of games packed in feels like an easy decision even now, and that will only become more and more apparent as the likes of Redfall, Starfield, Psychonauts 2, Halo Infinite, and other blockbusters arrive in the coming years. I adore Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart, Demon’s Souls, and Returnal – but the average consumer isn’t able to shell out £70 every other month for the next big thing. It simply isn’t economically viable unless you’re rolling in dough, which many younger players – and even most older ones – aren’t. Xbox Game Pass offers an alternative, one where you won;t be priced out of the biggest games purely because Sony isn’t willing to get with the times.
Microsoft received a bit of flack at E3 2021 for a lack of concrete exclusives outside of Halo Infinite, Starfield, Psychonauts 2, The Outer Worlds 2 and Redfall, but firstly, that’s still a lot of games. Secondly, many of its major studio acquisitions are still toiling away at projects that likely won’t break cover until 2022 at the earliest. Obsidian Entertainment, Playground Games, Ninja Theory, Compulsion Games, Double Fine, and goodness knows who else are working on either announced games were eager to see more from or hidden titles that are yet to even be unveiled. All of these will be exclusive to Xbox and PC, and more importantly – they’ll be on Game Pass at no additional cost. There’s no Disney+ premiere access bulshit here, you pay a fixed price and get access to everything. No strings attached, just as it should be.
When this ambitious vision becomes established normality, it will almost be hard to believe. I’ll always be a console girl first and foremost, but knowing I can open my laptop or pull out my phone and jump into a match of Halo Infinite within mere moments thanks to Cloud gaming and my Game Pass subscription still feels like a form of gamer witchcraft. It’s the inclusive future that this medium needs, especially if it hopes to remain sustainable as we edge towards a landscape that will be predominantly digital and leave physical media behind. Microsoft is allowing all of us to come along for the ride, while Sony is ensuring we’ve bought a ticket for the event and are dressed nicely enough to enter.
I’m not ragging on Sony, I’ll likely always prefer its brand of exclusives and their library does far more for me, but that variety is slowly morphing into a homogenous mixture of third-person narrative experiences that bleed into each other far too easily. On the other hand, Microsoft is seemingly abandoning its trusty mixture of Master Chief, Marcus Fenix, and the car from Forza (it might have a name I dunno) in favour of a far more diverse selection of games. This is the right way forward, even if I had a hard time accepting it at first.