Welcome to part two of our mini-series – part retrospective, and part crystal ball. This time we’re looking at the curious case of the Xbox Platform. As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or tweet us @square_xo.
The Xbox finds itself in a curious position at present. Its exclusive output has been limited, but it promises more next gen. Its operating system is a mess, but it has received enough upgrades to suggest Microsoft is learning. It is building an array of services for the future, but it isn’t quite there yet.
In the immediate term, the Xbox One X is the “World’s Most Powerful Console” and as such is the place where the majority of your third-party games will look their sparkly best. Whether that’s Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Red Dead Redemption 2, or exclusive racer (and Game Awards Winner) Forza Horizon 4.
What you WON’T be playing on Xbox One are things like God Of War or Spider-Man. The exclusives that HAVE shipped have underperformed to varying degrees – Sea of Thieves is still active, but most players jumped ship realising a dearth of meaningful content. State of Decay 2 had its charms, but between looking like something from last-gen at times and a litany of bugs, it too was seemingly dead on arrival. With all of these available on PC (with Play Anywhere) as well, it’s difficult to justify buying the Xbox One just for exclusives.
The ID@Xbox lineup for indie developers is beginning to come into its own – Capybara’s Below was shown way back in 2013, and finally launches this month, while Winter of Arcade also lands this month offering multiple new experiences at a discounted rate.
Where Microsoft has excelled in 2018 is their forward-thinking service infrastructure. Xbox Game Pass is a revelation – a smorgasbord of titles available for a monthly fee, with an impressive number of titles cycling in and out each month, plus discounts. What makes this even more impressive is that first-party titles now launch WITHIN Game Pass – meaning your monthly subscription will give you access to the next Halo or the next Gears.
Aside from Game Pass, Backwards Compatibility continues to grow with more games added seemingly every week. When you consider that this now includes original Xbox titles such as Knights of the Old Republic and costs nothing provided you own the game, it’s a decision that may not shift systems but certainly leaves long-time fans feeling all warm and fuzzy.
The Adaptive Controller is a revelation – allowing for those with disabilities to be able to enjoy gaming, and is compatible with the Switch too. Speaking of which, Microsoft’s exuberance for cross-play (and being the best place to play) has painted Sony into a bit of a corner this year which they have only recently begun to recover from.
The aforementioned Play Anywhere seems like baby steps into Microsoft’s dream of streaming the Xbox to as many devices as possible, so expect a big push there in 2019. But what else?
A disc-less Xbox One has been mooted, and Crackdown 3 seems destined to finally launch – now a case of morbid curiosity following so many delays. There doesn’t seem to be a lot else, however, aside from Gears 5 and Ori and the Will of the Wisps (both of which will launch on Game Pass). It also seems very likely we’ll get the next instalment of the Forza franchise.
With the Xbox One X, Microsoft has the best place to play all the big third-party releases like Anthem and The Division, but it seems it may be more of the same. Microsoft’s acquisition of a number of studios may be a huge step to rectifying their lack of exclusives, but that likely won’t bear fruit until 2020 – by which time we could be playing them on the next console generation.
All in all then, a quiet year for Xbox – albeit one that potentially lays the groundwork for something bigger next generation. For now though, back to the Wild West in 4K.
What have been your Xbox highlights from 2018? And which games are you most excited to play there in 2019? Let us know in the comments below!