Back in the olden days when libraries weren’t just a novelty, my brother awoke one birthday morning to unwrap a grotesquely colored Microsoft console, complete with a smattering of new and interesting games. From then on, my brother and I spent our respective high school afternoons playing Halo 2 — a game considered revolutionary sci-fi in the eyes of every 10 year-old who hadn’t played Warhammer 40K or read Dune.
When the Xbox released in 2001, it stood for innovation. Never before had we seen a console with a built-in HDD, or played online on a console that lasted longer than three years (sorry, Dreamcast). The Xbox was a revolution; it showed Nintendo and Playstation that they could do so much more than just single-player experiences with 8MB memory cards. Above all, Xbox was a challenger, and it had to prove itself worthy of taking on the big boys. Sony had killed it with the Playstation, and Nintendo was a seasoned veteran, still chugging after four generations of battle.
That was then, and this is now. As of this writing, it’s been mere hours since the E3 Microsoft press conference started, and all it did was leave me with a bad taste in my mouth. The first-party offerings they showed were rather dull: two new IPs were shown, two re-releases were announced, and the rest were either sequels or spin-offs.
Nothing jumped out at me — it was all, “been there done that.” I’ve played Forza, I’ve played Halo, I’ve played Gears of War. I never once sat up to go, “wow.” Nothing was niche. It was all very safe, and I’m sure you, dear reader, will agree this is an ungodly contrast to what they offered with the original Xbox.
The first two years of the original console saw the release of Halo: Combat Evolved, Mech Assault, Crimson Sea, Project Gotham Racing, Blood Wake, Gunvalkyrie, and Phantom Crash. What did the Xbox One get in its first two years? Killer Instinct and Sunset Overdrive.
Microsoft has grown comfortable and stagnant in its veteran status. Unlike in 2001, Microsoft doesn’t feel they need to prove anything. They are trusting in the power of their brands, rather than selling them on their own merits, and I feel very much that this will be the catalyst for their downfall.
The average consumer of games is well informed. They watch Let’s Plays, read articles, and talk about games on a regular basis. They take their time making a purchase, thoroughly contemplating it beforehand. The reason games like Gears of War and Halo succeeded was because there wasn’t much like them at the time, but now we live in an age where many of the systems pioneered in those games are commonplace.
Microsoft, much like Activision with their Call of Duty franchise, needs a change in scenery. D4 was a start, Scalebound is a continuation, but their “killer apps” need to follow those rabbits down the hole. They need the formulas to be mixed up.
Microsoft can’t stay safe forever. Interest has been dwindling rapidly since the inception of the Xbox One, and the only way to bring it back is to do something truly interesting. Make an open world action-RPG Halo spin-off, or a high speed, anti-gravity Forza.
Xbox One should be Microsoft’s video game renaissance, an opportunity to go mad with creativity. They should move away from being a product for reiterated media consumption, toward a platform for new experiences.
Article by contributor Mark Maher. You can yell at him on Twitter or through email for being morally and factually wrong.
7 thoughts on “The Tired Old X-Bones of a Dying Beast”
The entire industry has become for the most part, most of the same. It’s not just Microsoft. Hell Nintendo which has franchises like F-Zero and Metroid doesn’t utilize them and just re-releases old games. Sony is banking on remakes of a 20 year old game and sequels. The entire industry is based around iterations of the same formula. Hence why the current gen has been for the most part re-releasing last gen games. I think it’s a case of, it’s all been done and there is just an industry wide lack of creativity when it comes to new ideas. There are of course exceptions to this rule but overall I feel there are very few new ideas.
Agreed, the only new IP that left any impression at all are “For Honor” and “Horizon Zero Dawn”, other wise, yeah its mostly just retreads and remakes.
But you know what?
Some of those retreads and remakes are going to be a hell of a lot of fun.
It is easy to bemoan the downfall of this or that, or the lack of originality in movies/tv/video games, but does it actually matter all that much if we are still getting stuff that we enjoy?
Sure there might be a lot of mediocre or crappy coming out of those retreads, but there is also going to be a lot of greatness like Mad Max: Fury Road or a FF7 remake (by the way, if you are under say… 20, why do you care about that?), or another solid Halo game. Just because something is a remake of something that came before it does not guarantee its mediocrity.
For example, and Grimm might disagree, Ferrari has made a very similar car for the last 20 years… the 430 begat the 458, which is now begetting the 488. These cars are all VERY similar and obviously the later models just build upon the earlier. Does that mean these later models are crap? Nope.. they are still Ferrari’s, and they are still glorious.
I guess my point is… sometimes its just about what is fun. I feel like we forget that too much over what is new and shiny.
Agree with you not OP. Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo have been pushing hardware peripherals to get users the ability to be able to play games in new ways and then let developers make new kinds of experiences. The new peripherals don’t sell or become gimmicky – What press conference got it right this year with new IP’s that sound interesting and arriving in 12 months… None I watched. Most gamers aren’t as intelligent as OP states saying they research, pay attention, or heck even want new experiences… look at how Call of Duty sells, and GTA and each of the Nintendo Sequels – it’s because users don’t care – they want to get that same high they once got on those games but want that one extra feature. Microsoft did a lot wrong with Xbox One – they lost the marketing war to Sony (the always online thing isn’t that big of a deal and MS had some nice features that came with it that were scrapped) then MS delivered an OS on Xbox One that was a step backwards in a lot of ways. I think MS has realized a lot of their mistakes and realize the console crowd they can get, that Sony can’t, are the elitist ones that consider themselves the PC Master Race. I am hoping / Praying that once Xbox One gets a Windows 10 OS that they will allow PC’s with Windows 10 play Xbox One Digital Games – not just stream. I would love to play a Halo with the graphic fidelity my PC can deliver. Microsoft is more about services now than ever… and the best move for MS would be to move Xbox (as a console -not just live, or music, or vide) to a service – you bring your own hardware that meets a minimum spec with Windows 10 and then use “Xbox” on it. Microsoft is playing more friendly with everyone else at this point and I think if they continue things will get much better for Xbox division.
I think this looks like a great year for strong sequels. Fallout 4 looks insanely good, Halo 5 has the designer of republic commando and is trying some new squad combat, XCOM 2 looks great. I’ve been going insane waiting for a new Mass Effect. Don’t fear the sequel. I’d trade 4 new IP’s for new Mass Effect if i’m being honest with myself.
Don’t fear the sequel, they’re giving you what you want.
Weird. This is what I thought of the Sony press conference.
Yikes. I’m not even an Xbox guy, but I feel you’re pretty ill informed on the subject. This article doesn’t really say much of anything except that maybe games aren’t for you.
You also make it sound like the original Xbox launched with Xbox Live. That it did not.
Dude, are you high?