If you cast your mind back to the year 2001, Microsoft revealed the original Xbox to the world. A large black box enclosing what was basically off the shelf PC parts. The behemoth American company, which dominated computer desktop operating systems and office software was about to tackle head on an industry historically dominated by Japanese giants. Nintendo, Sony and to a lesser extent Sega were about to get a new challenger in the console gaming business.
Over the years since that time, Microsoft would follow up their original Xbox release with that of the hugely popular Xbox 360 and the initially controversial Xbox One. With the lacklustre unveiling of the Xbox One in 2013 under Xbox head Don Mattrick, Microsoft were heading towards an underwhelming launch. The focus on TV and media services turned many gamers off, including long time Xbox fans. This was a gaming machine but it seemed like an afterthought.
Even with the exit of Don Mattrick and the introduction of fan favourite Phil Spencer in charge of the Xbox division, it was clear something needed to happen. Sony’s PS4 console was flying off shelves even without many of their exclusives not even released yet. Microsoft was still fighting a battle to let potential customers know just what the Xbox One was and what it wasn’t. The “features” of DRM and not being able to play used games, features that wouldn’t even come to be, were still haunting Microsoft’s third console generation even years after its launch.
Much was expected of Microsoft at E3 2016. Gamers already had a fair idea that a newer, slimmer Xbox One console would be announced and they didn’t need to wait long to find out with the announcement of the Xbox One S. The complete redesign showed a large shift away from what many thought was an ugly Xbox One design. The Xbox One S was slimmer, sleeker, was now white and, overall, looked like a step in the right direction.
The Xbox One S was not the only hardware Microsoft would reveal at E3 2016. Rumours were already rampant of a much more powerful console that would play all Xbox One games including the backwards compatibility titles. On stage, Phil Spencer would announce Project Scorpio for a late 2017 release. A console that had gamers excited. A console to put Microsoft back on the map.
This was the console that Microsoft needed to make. A console to bridge the divide between PC gamers and what many felt was an underwhelming console generation that was struggling to reach 1080p resolutions with high frame rates. This was a console that would have power over its competitors – just like the original Xbox did. With the reveal of the final specs in 2017, it had many PC gamers sitting up to take notice. Could Microsoft deliver on the promises of 4K games running at a consistent 30FPS and even 60FPS for a US$500? Based on the specs, this was a machine far beyond the capability of Sony’s mid-gen upgrade, the PS4 Pro.
Later renamed to the Xbox One X this was the first part of Phil Spencer’s plan. Provide a powerful piece of hardware to give gamers incredible graphics and performance, and provide developers with the tools and ease in updating their past games and making it easy to create new ones.
Microsoft needed the Xbox One X. It was losing the “power war” against Sony and, in the eyes of many gamers, Sony had the games catalogue as well. Whilst many of the games remained unreleased, gamers knew these were quality AAA instalments of their favourite franchises. Now that Microsoft had the hardware to take them into the future, they needed the first party games to go along with it. Microsoft needed to break away from the perception that it was only offering “Halo, Gears & Forza”. Phil Spencer has stated that there are more unannounced games in development that aren’t ready to be shown off just yet.
Having the most powerful console will only last so long and no doubt Sony will look towards a PS5 over the next few years. What Microsoft must make sure of is that new games are shown off but also give gamers confidence that the game will be released – we don’t want another Scalebound fiasco. Although delays and cancellations are a part of the games industry, these need to be kept to a minimum, especially for Microsoft who already has an image of not delivering enough new games.
It has been a tumultuous generation for Microsoft thus far and it takes times to rectify the mistakes that were made. In this writers opinion, Phil has made many right moves this generation even if some have not sat right with gamers. Reviews and impressions of the Xbox One X at launch have been highly positive and Microsoft need to use that positivity to help the console sell to consumers, to persuade developers to utilise its power and to keep the momentum upto and beyond when new games are announced and released.
Microsoft threw away the momentum they had from the Xbox 360 generation. It was a console that many millions loved but who then felt let down by the initial steps from Microsoft leading into this generation. With Xbox One X, Microsoft is looking to lure them back. The hardware is in place, let us hope it is utilised to usher in sequels to our favourite games and to introduce gamers to new, beautiful, incredible worlds not previously possible.
“It’s a monster” was what Microsoft said at E3 2016. Time for gamers to see it attack.