Xbox Series X is on the horizon, being the first next-gen console to have an official announcement accompanied with more official statements than the PS5’s current status. Fans have started talking about what this console could mean for the future of Microsoft and Xbox Game Studios.
As many gamers already know, the launch of the Xbox One was lackluster. With always-on DRM and not being allowed to rent or buy used games, many Xbox fans were turned off by the new console. Even though Xbox reverted these changes not too long after they were announced, it was too little too late. Many gamers were already looking into the much cheaper PS4 because Xbox was charging $100 more for the mandatory Kinect.
Another factor regarding the Xbox One’s initial failure was that it didn’t release in Japan or China until almost a year later. Granted, the console not releasing in China could have been due to their own economic system, but the Chinese community isn’t known for console gaming anyway.
How Xbox Series X Will be Better
Now it’s 2020—the year of the next generation of consoles. It should go without saying that Xbox needs to step up their game, if they want to remain relevant in the gaming industry. However, it appears as if they’ve already done that, even prior to the Xbox Series X announcement.
Ever since Phil Spencer took over as the head of Xbox, the outlook for the console has been much better. One of the biggest things he helped do for the system was bring backwards compatibility of 360 games to the Xbox One, followed by original Xbox games a few years later. He has also helped pioneer projects such as the highly-praised Xbox Game Pass and the soon-to-be-released Project xCloud.
Before xCloud even came about, Xbox was running the Xbox Play Anywhere program, which allowed gamers to buy a game once and be able to play it on either their Xbox or PC for no extra charge. Progression even got saved between both versions of the game. The only downsides were that it was not available for all games and was only possible to do with digital copies, but they are still updating it constantly. However, with Game Pass taking over on console and PC, as well as the eventual release of xCloud, this service is starting to take a back seat. That doesn’t change the good it did for the console and Xbox’s image, however.
On top of all of that, with specs and features of the new console now starting to be revealed, the future of Xbox looks brighter than ever. Being able to play all Xbox games in one place will be a huge selling point for people already using the console. Even gamers who switched to PS4 would love to be able to play some of their old classics from the 360 era again. Having access to features such as Game Pass and xCloud would be a bonus for them as well. Note that Sony has these types of features too, but since they were in the lead this entire console generation, they didn’t work as hard as Xbox did to perfect them.
What Else to Look Forward to With the Next Gen
The one thing the PlayStation has always had an advantage over Xbox with is console exclusives, but it looks like that might start to change with this next generation. Xbox has spent the last few years buying up some promising development studios, such as Ninja Theory, Undead Labs, and Obsidian Entertainment.
They also created a new studio called The Initiative, which is led by Darrell Gallagher. He was the former head of Crystal Dynamics—the company that created the Tomb Raider reboot. Xbox has been doing a lot to build up this studio, including picking up talent from PlayStation studios like Erik Jakobsen who was Principal Environment Artist for God of War along with many others.
While some of these studios will still make games for other platforms, Xbox wanted to let fans know that they care about the future of their consoles and want to have developers that will make games specifically for them. However, what it comes down to in the end is Xbox doesn’t care as much about exclusivity as it does about making fans happy. Phil Spencer has gone on record multiple times talking about how he wants to bring gamers together instead of tearing them apart, and that’s been the general mentality of Xbox as a whole.
Look no further than this interview he had with The Verge after announcing Project Scarlett at E3 in 2019 where he talks about how selling consoles isn’t as important as it used to be:
“I don’t need to sell any specific version of the console in order for us to reach our business goals. The business isn’t how many consoles you sell. The business is how many players are playing the games that they buy, how they play. So if somebody bought an original Xbox One from us on launch day, and they’re buying and playing games, I don’t need to sell them an S. I don’t need to sell them an X. If they want to stay on the Xbox One they have and stay as a great member of our community or subscribe to Game Pass, that’s a great business for us. I think it’s easy from the outside to judge the health of our business around how many consoles any company sells. In the end, how many subscribers you have to something like Game Pass, how many games people are buying, those are much better metrics on the health of the business.”
Phil Spencer realizes that sales come from the important parts of gaming, like how and what people play, not what they’re playing on, so that’s why Xbox has drastically changed their business model. They’re making their money from the way that gamers play, and not so much what console on which they’re playing.
What This Means for Xbox Series X
That kind of mentality is what is going to make their new Xbox successful. During the release of the current generation, there was too big of a focus on making money. Trying to actively control piracy, not allowing people to share games or buy used copies, charging $100 for an unnecessary camera—these are all things done with money as the focus. On top of that, they tried to force the console to have mass appeal by making one of the big focal points of the original presentation be streaming services and the ability to watch live TV through the system.
Now with a bigger focus on gamers and what the gaming community actually wants, Xbox is winning again. While they may not have won the “console war,” on some level, they no longer care. Sure, they want to do well enough to make a profit and remain relevant, but Xbox’s focus is giving gamers exactly what they desire, not what brings in the most money.
As long as they keep that mentality strong throughout the Series X’s life cycle, they should have no problem selling consoles and staying in the limelight. It took a lot of time and effort, but Xbox has come a long way since the launch of the Xbox One, and if they play their cards right, they’ll be right back where they were in the days for the Xbox 360.