A lot of gamers gave Microsoft a hard time for the reveal of the Xbox One, whether it was for its original digital-only concept or focus on the Kinect’s technology. Although I always understood why these factors could be concerning for consumers, I spent much of my first couple years with the console distracted by how much fun I was having with its early exclusives and neat features; the few things it did right resonated with me.
I’d argue that Microsoft has been overly scrutinized this generation, and executed better than many give it credit for. In this sense you could call me an Xbox fan. However, given that I haven’t used an Xbox in more than six months, that probably isn’t an accurate label.
My growing disinterest in the Xbox brand is a commonality shared among many gamers who two years ago would have stuck up for Microsoft when it was scorned on social media. Unlike its original Xbox One announcement, where it’s faltered isn’t necessarily in making any specific bad move with its gaming brand. If anything it has made huge strides with backward compatibility, continued support for its operating system, and response to consumer feedback, which was best demonstrated with the Xbox One S’ design. Rather, it’s how it has invested in software that has unraveled any progress it has made in the past three years.
At this point the Xbox brand’s software library is arguably the worst in the industry. While the PS4 struggled during its early years, it has since become a king with titles like Bloodborne and Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.
This became particularly troublesome for Microsoft during March. Despite being one of the three most important months of the year in the gaming industry, the Xbox One was practically devoid of any widely appealing games. In-fact, its top three highest rated titles of the month were Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands (75 Metascore), Mass Effect: Andromeda (77 Metascore), and The Inner World (77 Metascore), all of which are multiplatform.
Meanwhile, every other platform had something strong to show during the month. The PS4 had MLB The Show 17 (85 Metascore), Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 11.5 Remix (85 Metascore), and NieR: Automata (88 Metascore). Switch had Snipperclips (81 Metascore) and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (97 Metascore). Even mobile had great games, including Card Thief (89 Metascore) and Death Road to Canada (91 Metascore).
Most of this comes down to investment. Microsoft has always been the most risk adverse of the big three when it comes to new IPs, going as far as canceling the development of Platinum Games’ Scalebound. So while Sony was birthing games like Until Dawn and Bloodborne, and Nintendo had Splatoon on the way, Microsoft demonstrated that it had confidence in sequels for franchises like Gears of War, Halo, and Forza.
It’s true that the battle for the number one spot in market share is over, but there is still plenty to fight for. Microsoft needs to foster a strong brand identity, especially given that Xbox is a much newer brand when compared to Sony and Nintendo. That is, if it wants a presence in the future.
It’s likely that Microsoft is holding out on major announcements for E3, at which point it’ll perform a full reveal for its upcoming Project Scorpio. Rumor has it that Microsoft is treating the mid-generation upgrade as a fresh slate, and whether or not it can be successful will rely heavily on software, an area that it is currently struggling with.