Gears, Forza, Halo
To understand this and in order to give some context, first you have to know where all this came from.
Microsoft was riding high back on the mega successful Xbox 360 era. All they had to do to continue on the top was to launch an ‘Xbox 360 2‘ if you will, but what we got instead was a huge step back; online check-ins, awful party chat, low power compared to the competition, Kinect, TV, and more TV. The Xbox One’s launch months were a disaster.
Almost 5 years on, as this generation draws to a close, you would be forgiven for thinking it’s a totally different company that launched the Xbox One. The fact is you’d be right as far as the execs and teams go. Former Head Don Mattrick left not even a year after the console launched, this in itself was the first and probably the most important decision Microsoft made this entire generation.
Enter Phil Spencer
Mid 2014 was when Spencer was made the Xbox boss, and within months, Kinect was unbundled from the console and given a price drop. On every interview and press release he gave, he insisted the gamer was the centre focus of Microsoft’s plans and that things would turn around, ‘games, games, games‘ was his new focus. 2 years later at E3 2016, the Xbox S was announced along with the most powerful console ever, the Xbox One X. Phil was determined to never lose the power argument ever again. It’s unfortunate, however, that the competition in that time has been pumping out critically acclaimed titles. God Of War, Uncharted 4, Spider-Man, Bloodborne, Horizon Zero Dawn and the list goes on, as PlayStation continues to dominate right now in what matters… and that’s games.
The Xbox One X launched in 2017 to very positive reviews and fan hysteria as Microsoft had regained the power advantage. No longer would Xbox be dulled to ‘720p’ and subpar multiplats compared to the less powerful PlayStation 4 Pro.
One thing was still missing though; Microsoft’s first party was still severely lacking. Phil and the team had promised that this would change, games like Sunset Overdrive, Gears Of War 4, Halo 5, came out with mediocre success. The highest rated games for Xbox is the incredible Forza Horizon series which continues to be the best racer on the market along with its sister game Forza Motorsport. Fans and gamers demanded more.
E3 2018 blowout
It was at this years E3, after Phil Spencer had been promoted to a head of Microsoft, that the real intent was shown by the company; no more empty promises, no more ‘wait until next E3‘. They delivered. Phil on stage announced the acquisitions of the magnificent Studios of Ninja Theory, Compulsion Games, Undead Labs and the incredibly talented Playground Games, in addition to building a studio from the ground up called The Initiative, headed by former Crystal Dynamics boss Darrell Gallagher. An incredible show of intent and commitment to the brand after a lot of uncertainty. Rumours of budget cuts and selling of the brand were long gone as he also mentioned that the company was hard at work on the next generation of consoles that we know is codenamed Scarlett.
Laying the groundwork
Microsoft is ready to end the generation on a high and will be glad to see the back of it. With a rumoured Fable in development, Gears 5 and a new Halo coming next year presumably, in addition to the other studios they are finally on a level to be able to compete with the competition. Add that with all the pro-consumer moves they’ve been making such as backward compatibility and Xbox Game Pass.