Microsoft has been on a bit of a decline in the gaming market as of late. After the cancellation of Scalebound, many people were looking at the Xbox One’s forthcoming lineup with a great deal of skepticism; where was the “killer app”? At E3 2017, Microsoft attempted to mitigate this by announcing game after game during their press conference; a great move, at least on the surface. However, while Microsoft’s acquisition of countless exclusives certainly helped to keep them relevant in the gaming sphere, it didn’t do a whole lot to keep the Xbox One relevant as a console.
The problem is that nearly every game that is “exclusive” to the Xbox One is also coming out on Windows 10. Yes, I know, that’ll probably mean going through the much-maligned Microsoft store to acquire these titles. Yet obtaining these “exclusives” on PC arguably gives players more options; the Xbox is confined to a TV, while PC games can be installed on a laptop and taken on the go. Sure, the “Play Anywhere” initiative is available to allow you to play your Xbox games on PC and vice versa. Unfortunately, it’s only present on select titles. Ultimately, the question is raised: if you already have a PC that can run Microsoft’s upcoming exclusives, why bother purchasing an Xbox One?
I was faced with this exact decision over the holidays. I wanted to dive into the current-gen console market, and was trying to decide between a PS4 and an Xbox One (the Switch was out of my budget range). On the surface, the Xbox One was the better deal; it came with four games for around $250, while the PS4 was closer to $300 and only came with *shudder* Star Wars: Battlefront II. And yet, as soon as I moved past the initial value proposition, the Xbox One rapidly lost all its merit. See, despite it coming up on being three years old, my PC is still fairly beefy; at the very least, it’s been keeping up well with the current releases. Running most of the Xbox One games I’m interested in? No big deal.
Therein lies the problem. I looked at a list of titles that were actually exclusive to the Xbox One, only to discover that there was a miniscule offering. Plus, the only titles that somewhat interested me were Sunset Overdrive and Halo 5; games that people aren’t exactly begging to see more articles about, and I’m not chomping at the bit to play. On the other hand, the PS4 has Uncharted, Killzone, Gravity Rush, Psycho Pass, inFamous, and Journey, and those are just the titles that I picked up shortly after buying the console. If a game is exclusive to the PS4, one can almost guarantee that it’ll stay exclusive, thus incentivizing gamers to turn their attention to the console rather than waiting for a release on another platform.
I understand that there’s an ongoing debate over whether it’s cheaper to buy a console or build a PC, and honestly, with the way prices are in Canada right now, I’m not even going to try and justify things either way. The crux of the issue is, for myself and many of my peers, we purchase consoles and other systems to gain access to experiences we can’t get anywhere else. It’s not just a matter of hardware capabilities and overall cost/performance ratios; it also comes down to just not wanting another box in the house. If I knew that buying an Xbox One would get me more than a few Halo games as real exclusives, I probably would have snagged one when I was console shopping. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s focus on inclusiveness has, in my opinion, backfired on them. It’s removed all agency of the Xbox One, not just compared to the other consoles, but also to PCs.
To close, I would like to say that I’m cautiously optimistic about some of Microsoft’s steps recently. After the Xbox One X came out, countless sites rushed to see whether they could build a comparable PC for a lower price; most, if not all results came back negative. By selling the console at what one assumes is a loss, Microsoft is helping to bring 4K gaming down to a more manageable price range than building a $2,000 gaming PC. Additionally, their updates to the upcoming Game Pass system are exciting propositions, especially for people who already own the Xbox One; giving subscribers unlimited access to titles new and old is a bold move, and one which could set the bar for other subscription services (e.g. PS Now).
Ultimately, I’d just like to say: if you’re the proud owner of an Xbox One, good for you. If you love it to pieces and wouldn’t want another console or a PC over it, I’m happy for you. I’m not trying to say that Microsoft’s consoles are useless, inferior to PCs and other consoles, or a waste of money. I’m just saying that I find it difficult to care about the Xbox One when every “exclusive” is anything but.