Microsoft’s “Exclusive” problem

Back in 2013, Microsoft had revealed their latest console but its confusing message left consumers divided. But with promises of new Halo, Gears of War, and Forza games the console persevered. Fast-forward to 2017 and we are looking at just two AAA exclusives throughout the entire year. Leading us to another divisive consumer base and while games like Cuphead and Super Lucky Tails will round out the year, those are far from AAA releases.

The Xbox Scorpio – now known as the Xbox One X – was fully revealed this year after its year-long build up. While the console reveal was exciting and held up its promises of being the most powerful console of all time. We couldn’t help be feel like something was missing. Where are the launch exclusives?

The Promise of Exclusives

I have been an Xbox fan since the 360, I bought my Xbox One and exclusively played that while my PlayStation 4 piled up dust.  But at some point in the cycle, everything shifted. The promises of amazing exclusives came and went. Halo 5 released with a mediocre story that made hardcore Halo fans were angry about the shift of focus from Master Chief. Gears of War 4 and  State of Decay while fun, released to a mediocre reception. Sure Halo 5 has found its place in the E-Sports community and has some of the most fun multiplayer to date and Gears of War 4 may find the same success.  Forza Horizon 3 was extremely well received but is far from a mass appeal type of game.

I am not saying that Microsoft is doing terribly, far from that. They are selling reasonably well, have hardcore fans that love everything they release, and a multiplayer service unrivaled by other consoles. But I am having a difficult time seeing the overall vision for the company. They keep stating over and over again that they want to be the place you play third-party titles and that’s all good but at some point that feels like a cop-out.

It seems like these “great exclusives” are always just on the horizon and waiting a bit more will solve the issue. The problem is we’ve waited a long time for these exclusives. Honestly, we do have some exclusives in the pipeline, games like State of Decay 2 and Sea of Thieves look amazingly fun but these aren’t the heavy hitting titles Xbox needs or even has had in the past.  Crackdown 3

Take a look at Crackdown 3, which has been in development for years and was finally given a release date. We were originally given a release date of November 7, 2017, to release along side the Xbox One X. After the absolute chaos of the Comic-Con stream, it seems Microsoft is pushing Crackdown 3 back until spring 2018. For those of you unaware, Microsoft set up a live stream, allowing celebrities to play Crackdown 3 and hype the game. This had the exact opposite effect, showing bugs, collision detection issues, and people who clearly have no experience playing games. This was a PR nightmare and caused a lot of the Xbox community to turn on the game, creating Crackdown 3 memes and rightfully holding Microsoft’s feet to the fire. This is a title that seems to have been sabotaged from the beginning. It was over-stretching a lot of its goals, only realizing late in the cycle that the cloud-processing may not be capable of exactly what it was promising.  I love the idea of a game reaching for the stars and trying something new, but when it hinders a project such as this, that’s not good for anyone.

The Party Lines: First vs Third

What I am saying isn’t anything surprising and I am not trying to complain for the sake of complaining. Like I said earlier I am absolute Xbox fan at heart. I love how Microsoft involves their communities,  shows real passion, and seem to be constantly trying to push the industry standards forward. However, part of the issue seems to be that Crackdown is even still part of the conversation. Why is this our biggest First-party exclusive?

The focus for Microsoft seems to be First-Party and Third-Party multiplayer games. Maybe that’s where the problem lies. Sure there is money in loot boxes, games like Overwatch have absolutely dominated the marketplace with competitive multiplayer and extremely lucrative microtransactions. But looking over at Sony, games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Nier: Automata, and even future releases like Detroit: Become Human and God of War 4 show us that the single-player experience is still alive and thriving.

Now, this isn’t to say that Microsoft hasn’t had big AAA, single-player exclusives in the pipeline, but there has been some turmoil lately. Games like Fable Legends and Scalebound were hyped for some time, with many fans excited for their release. That is, they would if Microsoft didn’t pull the plug on both projects. I could write an entire article on the Scalebound controversy on its own: a cancellation that made Microsoft out to be the bad guy when it’s rumored that Platinum Games just wasn’t making progress. I am sure Microsoft would have loved to release Scalebound to critical acclaim. But when a developer is juggling another AAA title on the side and not making the necessary leaps forward, tough decisions have to be made.

The issue may lie with Microsoft itself not wanting to shell out the money to risk captivating single-player-only experiences. Who can honestly blame them? Single-player games are notoriously expensive, have long development cycles, and pose a massive risk if they aren’t the next Horizon: Zero Dawn. It’s much safer to invest in a 6-8 hour campaign with a multiplayer focus, but that’s not necessarily what all fans want, especially if that’s all they’ve been getting for a while.

With the announcement of their recent Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds partnership, Microsoft seems to have a real hit on their hands. Based on rumors, the game seems to be slated for a Winter (December) release window and could be the huge winter hit Microsoft needs. With the game has sold an insane 8 million copies it’s a huge get for Microsoft.

The problem is that we are not sure if this is a true exclusive for Microsoft. Currently, it seems to be up in the air and could very well move to other platforms in the near future. With that said, I don’t think they will let this IP out so easily and I wouldn’t be surprised if this changes. It’s best to remember that these are only rumors and Bluehole studios are focused on making their monster hit work on the Xbox One first.

Looking Towards the Future

Microsoft is in an interesting position with their lack of exclusives. They can come out of the gate with little expectation and shatter peoples preconceived notions. But the main thing we need to know is that those games are coming. If Sony has taught us anything it’s that you can announce huge single-player epics with no release date (or even real gameplay) and people will lose their minds.

Microsoft needs to look towards the future and obtain existing IP exclusives or resurrect dead exclusives that we may not be thinking about. Once Phil Spencer took over control, Xbox started to move in the correct direction. Phil Spencer has been the best thing to happen to Xbox and I honestly feel it’s just taken this long for his vision to start coming together. This is part of the reason I want Xbox to do so well, Phil Spencer and his team have done an absolutely fantastic job on the hardware and community over the last couple of years. But now it’s time for the software, we need to know what’s coming and we need to know it’s worth waiting for.

For all we know, Microsoft could have a ton of partnerships lined up and are gearing towards the next generation to announce these exclusives. As an Xbox fan at heart, I want them to succeed and I am tired of having this exclusive conversation with non-Xbox fans. But at some point, we have to accept that this generation has not been great for Xbox exclusives and I hope they all blow us out of the water in 2018.

While games like Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2 look amazing, they’re clearly doing nothing to cause hype for the console outside of its already existing fan-base. What do you think the answer is? Do we need to resurrect an old First-Party exclusive? Or does Microsoft need a partnership with a developer like IO Interactive to bring Hitman to Xbox and Xbox only? Let us know in the comments below!

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