It’s no secret that Xbox has some of the biggest franchises in gaming history. It’s also no secret that over the years Xbox has suffered from some high profile game cancellations and delays.
Let’s go back to 2013, the year Xbox One was announced and launched. While not without controversy, some pretty cool games were showcased that gamers could look forward to in the near future. Or so we thought.
Let’s start with Below by Capybara Games: Below was announced at Microsoft’s 2013 E3 presser and was well accepted. Many likened it to a mix of The Legend of Zelda roguelike gameplay and the difficulty of Dark Souls combat and it featured permadeath. While not likely to be a tentpole game, it did look to bolster the variety of games found only on Xbox.
No definite date was ever given but the game looked fairly well developed and was expected to release soon. Over the next couple years less and less was heard about the title and in mid-2016 it was delayed indefinitely. Fans tweeting the official Twitter account of Capybara Games have received responses saying no more updates will be given on the game until it’s ready to be released.
Then there’s Fable Legends: Unlike Below, Fable Legends was a first-party project by now defunct (another issue) Lionhead Studios. Legends looked to change things up in the Fable series by offering a multiplayer centered action/strategy gameplay style. This one wasn’t as well received by the community overall, most would have preferred a new traditional style Fable entry, but at least it was another exclusive Xbox could hang its hat on and was something different.
The game continued development and beta/alpha testing for years before finally being canceled in early 2016 around the same time Lionhead Studios was shuttered.
Let’s move to E3 2014.
Phantom Dust was a 2004 exclusive to the original Xbox. While not a commercial success it enjoyed a welcome reception and garnered a cult following. at E3 2014 Microsoft announced that the game would be receiving a reboot as part of a larger effort to capitalize on older exclusive titles they owned. Development ran into snags, with disagreements between Darkside Game Studios and Microsoft, and budgetary issues also abounded.
Eventually, the plug was pulled in 2015 on the next-gen reboot and a remaster of the game was released instead. While the rerelease has also been well received, the fact that Microsoft and the studio they were partnering with couldn’t get along shows there are behind the scenes issues at work.
The Xbox brand has always struggled in Japan(last week the Xbox One sold fewer units than the last-gen PS3) and with Japanese developers. Xbox has managed to not be hampered by this, with the Xbox 360 being a top selling console despite little success in Japan, but fans have always wanted more games from the Far East.
Scalebound excited many for this reason. It was being developed by famed studio PlatinumGames(Bayonetta, The Legend of Korra, Nier: Automata) and would have offered Xbox One fans a new flavor of the game while possibly being able to lure in those who may be on the fence about the console. With massive dragons, realistic graphics, RPG elements, and the developer pedigree, there was a lot of potential.
It was supposed to release for Holiday 2016, was delayed until 2017, and in January 2017 was officially canceled.
Then there’s Crackdown 3. The Crackdown series launched in 2007 on the Xbox 360 and became an instant favorite among Xbox gamers for it’s open world, over-the-top action, fun traversal gameplay, and the hilarious hijinks players were able to get into while playing with friends.
Crackdown 2 released in 2010 and nothing was heard from the series until the announcement of the third game for Xbox One at E3 2014. Fans of the series were elated and it looked like Xbox One might have another one of its key franchises returning on the still-new next-gen console.
A massive world, fully destructible multiplayer environments, and the much-loved gameplay would all be featured.
Again, after years of development, and sometimes scarce updates, the game seemed to be troubled. When it was shown again at E3 2017, with a release date of Holiday 2017 to coincide with the launch of the new Xbox One X console, the excitement returned. But complaints about graphical fidelity, people wanting to see the promised multiplayer and its destructible map, and a series of PR missteps began to draw new questions; Would the game be ready for launch? Why are we not seeing the whole game? Why are these celebs who obviously know nothing about videogames showcasing it?
And then, you guessed it, on August 16th it was announced that the game would be delayed until Spring 2018. This is probably a good thing, as even some of the most hardcore Xbox and Crackdown fans expressed concerns about that game, and probably shows that Microsoft is willing to take feedback and actually do something about it. However it cannot be ignored that similar issues have been around since the launch of the Xbox One and have caused not just consternation with the core fans, but confusion in the media and the general audience about just what the deal is with Xbox and it’s the development of exclusives.
While the Xbox One X will enjoy a pretty good launch lineup this Fall(only one of which is first-party) with games like Super Lucky’s Tale, Cuphead, Forza Motorsport 7, and Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, it would have been nice to have a more well-known exclusive franchise to bring the big guns. What’s really missing is a diversity of genre. Xbox could do to have some more unique titles such as Scalebound, Below, or Fable around to bolster its public image and bring in gamers who may not just be looking for this year’s big shooter or racing game. Games such as these keep a console selling after the holidays and hype have died down, and Microsoft has shown they have a problem filling that niche, and for the sake of their fans and longterm success of the brand, it’s something I feel they must improve.