A lengthy opinion piece.
I have been debating writing this entry for quite some time. I am not a video game journalist, and my interaction with the industry is primarily as a consumer. I have written papers about specific games, but I am not interested in participating in the journalistic aspects as a creator (usually). I think the work done by many of the journalists out there is excellent, but here is my op-ed on what I am seeing.
The Xbox-One is a system in trouble.
My birthday was earlier this week(last week actually), and it occurred to me that I have owned a Sony or Microsoft system for more years of my life than not. I am sure this is common for a lot of folks, but I remember the hype for the Xbox—the first one! (I also remember the launch of the Sega Genesis, but ‘membering that makes me feel old). The console war was a bit of fun when I was younger. I found myself in favor of Sony because of earlier Final Fantasy entries, but Microsoft had more power.
There used to be good reasons to buy both systems. Even through the PS3 and X360 there were plenty of excellent games to go around. I never took too much of a side in the long run as I always wanted to own both. Inflated system costs, game costs, online fees, and so forth have really forced folks into picking one system. Further, the advantages of plug and play that consoles always had over PCs is also dissipating. So, there seems to be less reason to buy more than one console.
I think both companies underestimated how many people tend to buy both systems, and many people I know (that is a convenience sample—for you eagle-eyed readers) a decision had to be made about which one to get this time around. I honestly thought the PS4 looked a little better, with Microsoft’s bungling of the release it seemed safer, but more people I know are more loyal to Xbox, so here I am. Do I regret my purchase? Not really. I have enjoyed a steady stream of entertainment (none of which are exclusive), and my enjoyment of videogames hasn’t faltered, I will likely continue to play new ones. However, my investment in Microsoft is perhaps at an all time low.
Without decent (note that I say decent, not great) exclusives there is almost no reason to choose this system over Sony. The paltry list includes a good racing game, but that is about the only stand out. For those nay-sayers (I will go more into them later) who want to say “Well those games are good for X type gamer,” okay, sure, but I am also a consumer and none of these interest me. The two flagship exclusives recently have been Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2. Sea of Thieves is a shit game. I can’t believe the lies told to consumers about what this game would have hasn’t been blasted more. We got an alpha-version of crap that is akin to No Man’s Sky at initial release. Then, the still forthcoming (this probably reveals my blog backlog) State of Decay 2 is already being ripped apart by most critics—yes, we see several positive reviews, but watch gameplay and see for yourself. These aren’t completed games.
Publishers releasing broken, unfinished, and unpolished games have become a norm of the industry, and we should all unify (PC, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft) as one wall of consumers who will boycott this crap. While this is an industry wide problem, exclusives should be an exception. We can all hold hands and fart in EA’s general direction, but when Sony or Microsoft are releasing a flagship product that needs to be perfect on day one. Not broken, not glitched, not bugged, and not empty of anything interesting. Mega-patches on day one are also not acceptable, I think it was Mafia III I bought on day one and could no actually play it until day two due to patches.
I can hear detractors say that I am indicating towards an industry wide problem, so why I am I picking on Microsoft—well, because I own one. I like the idea of there being many options for gamers. Competition will force companies to do better—or at least it should—and with Sony outselling Microsoft this generation at about a 2:1 ratio, it is hard to determine how much competition there really is. Microsoft also wants to embrace the PC half of things, which is fine, but why bother with the console if every exclusive will also be on the PC? Further, we also have Microsoft wanting to create the XBOX as more of a service as a whole—TV, film, music, and so forth—as well as gaming. Gaming doesn’t seem to be the focus anymore, and this seems foolish.
Exclusives don’t make or break a system, but they do help. Bloodborne, The Last of Us, Uncharted, God of War, and others are all contenders for best-game of the year (during their release year anyway). I am more interested in any of these games than Crackdown 3, which who knows if/when that will come out. Exclusives need to help seal the deal—at best they are a bonus. This is the first time I can remember the exclusives being so terribly lop-sided, and it is unfortunate to see this. If my XBOX fried I would have a hard time justifying purchasing a new one—my friends having the system is probably the only draw, but what if we all laterally move? There seems to be little lost in making the switch.
Perhaps the worst part is the rabid fan-base for Microsoft (or any brand) that will dismiss these complaints with “See ya” and “I like my system, so everyone should.” These comments cause more harm than good. Any company that knows it has an army of apologists doesn’t have to worry as much about mistakes, and this is problematic. There is nothing wrong with expecting better from a service or system. Are there stupid complaints? Absolutely. However, this should not make reasonable complaints (“Can you release games that work?”) seem unwarranted or stupid. Further, the more people leave Microsoft the worse the situation might become.
In the last year, EA has managed to mangle a Star Wars release—something I did not think was actually possible. The release and fallout of Battlefront II is so epic that now governments are involved with the microtransaction issue, gamers have boycotted the game and potentially the new movies, and EA’s already shaky reputation is now in the toilet. I am surprised that Disney has not already pulled the Star Wars license from EA, and this would likely be met with approval from most of the gaming community. However, who is to say that Disney won’t sign with Sony? You may scoff at that, but Disney is about making money, as are all corporations—they are not our friends, we enter into a business agreement with them, nothing more. I would be surprised to see Star Wars get console exclusivity, but it certainly could happen.
E3 is coming soon, and I suppose we can see the lackluster exclusives for this next year. I don’t have a strong concluded statement right now, but I think we as consumers need to let Microsoft know we are tired of this crap. They need to get it together. I for one don’t like the idea of brushing our shoulders off and waiting for the next generation for better games.
I would love to have all of my concerns proven incorrect, but I doubt that will happen.