Yesterday gamers got excited for Xbox Scorpio – the long talked about 4K console from Microsoft. The reaction was positive mostly, with Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry revealing a console that will likely play high-end console games in full, glorious 4K with no compromises. It’s just a shame that musing over the reveal, it’s hard to get excited when Microsoft’s first party lineup of games has been so disappointing.
It’s hard not to look at Xbox Scorpio and feel that Microsoft has somewhat misread the criticisms being pushed in their direction. Back when the original Xbox One touched down – it was an under powered, limited device that had undergone a huge shift in focus. This was partially down to the fact that Microsoft was so flippant on what their console was. The negative reaction to Xbox One and its online ecosystem trashed the console out the gate, a stench that hasn’t fully escaped the room yet.
The intervening years have shown a company that’s unsure of itself, unable to recapture the momentum it amassed during the Xbox 360 days. Back then Microsoft was able to churn out an endless array of first party titles that made its rivals cold in fear. Forza, Project Gotham Racing, Gears of War, Halo, Crackdown – as well as an endless parade of indie and Xbox Live Arcade titles to re-enforce its dominance.
Yet with Xbox One, these exclusives have simply failed to deliver. Quantum Break was met with mild disinterest from consumers, while the likes of Halo Wars 2 and Gears of War 4 just haven’t captured the interest Microsoft wants. The company’s even resorted to paying third-party developers for timed exclusives, a tactic that seemingly backfired when Rise of the Tomb Raider went on to sell more through Steam and PlayStation 4 than it did on Xbox One. It’s a sign that Microsoft haven’t come to terms with the underlying issues that plague their gaming division – issues that won’t be fixed by throwing more power at the problem.
For most developers, that extra power is only going to be used to improve visual fidelity. It won’t add to the core experience – because doing so would mean cutting off PlayStation users (Which no sane third-party developer would willing do right now). It mean that the power being offered up needs to be used in first-party titles more effectively – and as a way of drawing gamers in. But in recent years, this has proven to be Xbox’s biggest source of frustration.
Showcasing Forza in blistering 4K is wonderful, but ultimately does little to sell the console when the same game can be played on PC and Xbox One already. In fact Forza Horizon 3 already exists in 4K on PC – an awkward fact Microsoft would probably want you to forget when considering your Xbox Scorpio purchase. It’s this kind of contradiction in policy that ultimately hurts Scorpio long before it hits the market – Microsoft has already undermined the consoles existence by tying itself to a bewilderingly silly string of policies.
Microsoft seem to be ignorant of the fact that their roster of exclusives, the titles key to any consoles success, just haven’t been hitting it out the park. Nintendo owners have spent the last few weeks gushing about Breath of the Wild, while Sony’s fans have been treated to Persona 5 and Horizon – three legitimate game of the year contenders. Meanwhile Microsoft fans were treated to Halo Wars 2 – certainly not a bad game but a far cry from the system seller that Microsoft needs to be delivering. If the games aren’t good enough to sell a console now, what hope do they have when the console it’s trying to sell is much more expensive and much more niche in nature?
I just feel that Microsoft haven’t learned from the last few years. That more power will ultimately mean more sales. The reality is that Microsoft have been undermining themselves for a while and until they finally get their house in order and start delivering the kind of AAA-gaming experience consumers want – it’s unlikely that any amount of power boosts will fix the situation.
I look forward to E3, where Microsoft will inevitably reveal the games it hopes can sell Xbox Scorpio to the masses. I’m interested certainly, but this 4K gaming revolution has to mean more than shinier graphics. Otherwise Microsoft’s going to have a hard time convincing users buy into its expensive new console.