2018 was a bit of an up-and-down year for Microsoft. It did launch the Xbox One X, the most powerful gaming console on the market right now, along with great games like Cuphead and Forza Motorsport 7; but it also created some controversy with fans with the delay of Crackdown, the flat-out cancellation of Scalebound and Fable Legends, and other things that left it behind Nintendo and Sony in terms of game business.
It had some good moments as well, and now it’s time to build upon that momentum and make 2018 a year to remember on the Xbox front. It’s got some stiff competition with the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch line-ups for this year, but if it could just do a few simple things, it could very well turn the tide back in its favor.
Let’s see what things Microsoft can do to make this the year of the Xbox!
While the Xbox One X is one hell of a console, it’s also very high priced, going for $499 for a basic 1TB model. That’s nearly double the price you can pay on the Xbox One S right now, and a bit ludicrous for just a few teraflops. However, Microsoft can easily justify its worth by doing some small things.
First off, lower the price. The system needs to go down to $399 (at least) in order to show off its value to consumers. That could lose a few bucks business-wise, but it would help put the system in homes – it’s a move that’s helping Sony with the PS4 Pro, even though the Slim is its most popular model.
There’s also throwing in free games. Fans like having games with their system to play right off the bat, and the Xbox One X just doesn’t have these right now. It could easily toss in something like Sunset Overdrive or Quantum Break with the package and help make it more of a value. Or, for that matter, maybe even a few months of the Game Pass, so users could test out multiple games in one shot.
Finally, how about some more special editions? The Project Scorpio one wasn’t bad, but we need some other limited edition models. How about a neon-lit Crackdown system? Or, better yet, a Gears of War bundle that includes the original trilogy along with Gears of War 4, and a bad-ass skull design? Make that hardware really shine.
The Game Pass is a tremendous value for just $10 a month, and perfect for those that are feeling a monetary crunch after the holidays. For that matter, Microsoft’s backward compatible program is also top notch, with a variety of games that are made even better on the Xbox One. But why stop with just bits and pieces of progress?
Microsoft can expand these programs, like introducing more original Xbox games to the Game Pass, like Knights of the Old Republic and Crimson Skies, to show what the power of X can do for older releases. More key first-party games would make it shine as well – has Sunset Overdrive debuted on it yet? There’s a game that deserves a second chance.
As for backward compatibility, more games would be welcome, including some older favorites that could find a second chance at life. We’re talking Split/Second and Blur, and maybe even some Sega classics like Panzer Dragoon Orta and Jet Set Radio Future. By giving us more hits that the fans want, these programs can really take off – and make Microsoft more money in the long run. (Oh, and the wave of nostalgia doesn’t hurt either!)
Microsoft has a great deal of companies making games for the Xbox One, but we see very little oomph when it comes to the marketing side of things. Sea of Thieves deserves to have a huge television ad campaign, along with a beta to get players excited about what’s to come from Rare and company. For that matter, we expect to see more hype for Crackdown 3 once it begins its run to releasing, complete with some terrific Terry Crews commercials.
But that’s not all. The company needs to reinstall faith in its forthcoming games, instead of waiving them off immediately as failures. It canned Scalebound without even giving Platinum Games a chance to recover, and lost its belief that Fable Legends could be a good game. This hurt the company and its fanbase quite a bit, and it needs to turn this thinking around. Give games a chance.
Also, getting more indies. These have proven to be a key to success for game consoles – just ask Sony or Nintendo. The company needs to support these releases more with bigger hype, like Rivals of Aether (yes, that’s out on Xbox) and the forthcoming Ori sequel. Let’s see them tell us why we should be excited for these games, even if we already are.
Remember, it’s about giving love to the gamers and the stuff they enjoy, instead of brushing them aside and insisting the hype will take care of itself – or, worse yet, dumping them because you’re not willing to give them a chance. Oh, we could’ve used Fable Legends and Scalebound something fierce last year.
Microsoft has a pretty good program where it supports its group of Ambassadors, who go out of their way to support the fan base and get some push going behind certain games. But why stop there? The company has been known to throw small fan events in the past, so why can’t we get more of those?
Think about if Microsoft hosted an Xbox event on the same level as Sony’s PlayStation Experience event, where Major Nelson and the gang showed more excitement for forthcoming releases, as well as providing a stage for what third-party developers and publishers can do. Or, for that matter, a special event taking place over the course of E3, giving Xbox fans a chance to connect and have fun with forthcoming releases – without having to bother with what’s happening on the show floor. The E3 presentation is nice, but why not more?
That’s not all. Major Nelson gives away codes every Friday, but why not host more special giveaways, or events that the avid Xbox fans will enjoy? Sony’s done a great job with this in the past, and now it’s Microsoft’s turn to get on board. We could use those spiffy Sea of Thieves controllers in the office.
Signing a third-party exclusive to a console can be tricky business, as it doesn’t always mean the greatest of investments for some companies – especially considering the Xbox One doesn’t have a good audience in Japan. However, sometimes they can pay off.
For instance, Rise of the Tomb Raider built up a great deal of hype for Microsoft before the game’s release, even if it left a few PlayStation 4 fans complaining – well, until they got their own version of Rise a year later. Microsoft should think about working with third-party companies on more exclusives, in the hopes of giving Xbox owners more of a reason to stick around.
Again, it’s tricky, and sometimes companies just won’t feel the vibe, but imagine if Microsoft worked with Ubisoft on an exclusive new Rayman title. Or if they managed to convince EA to bring Battlefield: Bad Company 3 exclusively to the system first. (A long-shot, but hey.) It’s got the money, now it’s just a matter of seeing what it’ll invest in. And we don’t just mean hardware. The games matter too.
Okay, we already know 343 Industries is already hard at work on this sequel, and this is one project that shouldn’t be rushed. But if history taught us anything, it’s that making a key announcement, no matter how far off it may seem, is a great way at building hype. Case in point: Halo 4 was announced a year or so before its final release and got the Xbox community buzzing. Microsoft can easily do that again at this year’s E3, announcing Halo 6 for a 2019 release and making it all about Master Chief. (Sorry, Spartan Locke – it’s what the fans are looking for.)
It’s obviously too soon for a Gears of War 5, so Microsoft needs to play its big card in order to get the Xbox world talking again – and a Halo announcement, even with just a teaser trailer, could do the trick.