It’s not the console you’re looking for.
Microsoft’s sales pitch for the Xbox One X has largely focussed on the potential of the device. Constant reminders that this console is “the most powerful console ever” sound impressive – but without a solid slate of exclusive games and PR talk that seemingly borders on the absurd, I find myself wondering if Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox One X is already dead on arrival.
What strikes me most about the Xbox One X is just how bizarre the build to its release has been. Microsoft just hasn’t been clear in who the console is intended for – instead hoping that by repeating the words “exclusive” and “4K” gamers will be wowed enough to shell out top dollar. The anticipation seems to be that gamers will want this console no matter what – but Microsoft seems to have read the room wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, the Xbox One X is a beautiful beast and comfortably claims the title of worlds most powerful console, but those aren’t enough to justify its existence. A games console lives and die by its selection of games and exclusives – and Microsoft has effectively suffocated both of these before the console even hits the market. Announcing remasters for ReCore, Disneyland Adventures and Zoo Tycoon was a nice touch – but a system seller these most certainly are not.
It’s made worse by Crackdown 3 slipping into 2018, arguably the biggest game Xbox One X had going for it. It’s an announcement that cast a shadow over the company’s Gamescon presence – leaving a lingering sense of directionless meandering that has come to embody the Xbox One X sales pitch. If Microsoft was hoping to create an air of anticipation around its console – they’ll be sorely disappointed with the outcome.
Instead, the Xbox One X is relegated to getting 4K updates for existing games. It’s a baffling decision that robs the console of uniqueness. Imagine trying to sell the console to mainstream users without the use of 4K (something many people don’t have at this point). The fact is that 4K is desirable doesn’t make this device anymore compelling to budget conscious users. Add in the cost of purchasing a decent 4K television set to get that benefit, and many users are looking at at least £800 to get the most out of the new device.
So instantly, Microsoft is marketing this device to people that probably already own Xbox One’s. The argument for their upgrade makes even less sense since everything they experience on their console can be experienced on the new one. Sure there are performance increases for various titles, but that’s not a reason to shell out so much for a whole new console. Rather than address this problem, Microsoft seems bizarrely unaware of its existence. They seem to march on with the insistence that 4K is enough of a gain for their console and I’m just watching asking “what else have you got”?
Without a killer feature, the console already feels like it’s struggling to justify its lofty expense. Yes, those who desperately want 4K gaming might jump into it, but that market is so small right now that it makes you wonder why Microsoft is focussing so heavily on it. Gamers are only just beginning to get over the Xbox One’s horrendous early life. It lacks killer first party games and doesn’t have the same momentum Xbox 360 had. Yet Microsoft insists it does – and this creates an awkward disconnect. When PR people from Microsoft seem deaf to the biggest problem facing their problem, it reminds gamers all too much of the Xbox One launch debacle. A time when the company was immune to gamers feelings that they handed a generation to Sony.
That’s why to, the Xbox One X is already in danger of being dead on arrival. Gamers aren’t impressed and rightly so – it’s a console that has little purpose beyond the vanity of Microsoft wanting to boast it has the most powerful console. Only the hardcore Xbox fan will want this console out the gate – that’s got to be a worry for Microsoft.
I want Microsoft to do well and I want this new Xbox One X to achieve its goals. But it’s hard to get enthusiastic about a device that seemingly exists as a vanity project. A way for Microsoft to boast it has the most powerful console – when for so long they’ve played second fiddle to PlayStation 4. The Xbox One X doesn’t feel like the answer Microsoft need right now and all the attempts to paint it as otherwise serve to make the company feel like it’s repeating history.
Without exclusives or a proper hook, why should anyone rush out to buy the new 4K console? It’s a question that Microsoft hasn’t answered; either in the selection of games offered up or for the roadmap moving forward. The potential of a console isn’t enough to sell units – it needs hard backing. Without a new Halo or exclusives that entice gamers in the door, I worry that Microsoft may find sales figures for their console disappointing.