Well, it's been a while, hasn't it!?
After that whole Gamergate mess, I rather became disillusioned with games media in general, and really just kept away for a few years, just to clear my head. Hopefully I'll be able to get back in the groove, but it seems that, outside the fringes at least, we can get back to talking about video-games again, and that's what I'm in for.
And what a time to talk about games! Microsoft has announced that they're bringing Xbox Live services to Android, iOS and Switch, and while it's VERY unlikely that you'll be able to use their services to play online on Switch in lieu of Nintendo's, it does seem a portent of things to come.
It's no secret that the Xbox One has not enjoyed great success worldwide, only selling 41.4 million units since it launched in late 2013, putting it in a pathetic spot against the PS4 (92.2 million), and with the Switch, a console that came out in 2017, looming closer in the rear view mirror than Microsoft would like (30.3 million).
Let's not mince words here, the Xbox One is a failure, especially outside North America. While it's no surprise that Japan laughs at the idea of buying a Microsoft consoles, Europe isn't exactly embracing MS either, and the market that carried Sony through the tough first half of the PS3's lifespan has remained a stalwart ally during this generation as well.
Honestly, I'd go so far as to say that the Xbox 360 was a fluke. Had Sony not essentially sacrificed the PS3 to win the HD movie format war, the Xbox 360 would likely have sold somewhere between the OG Xbox's numbers and the numbers the Xbox One has now. The PS3's initial failures allowed MS to leapfrog Sony in North America and actually hold onto Europe for a while, forcing Japanese third parties in particular to stop ignoring the platform, which gave them a whole lot more parity in game selection.
Now? That parity is gone. Microsoft's mostly getting only the surefire hits from Namco, Square-Enix (with the obvious exception of the Eidos games, where MS still gets parity) and Capcom, while the rest of the Japanese development community focuses mostly on the PS4 and Switch, with the occasional token Xbone port. And make no mistake, even if you don't play Japanese games, this is a big issue, because it highlights the real issue with Xbox One - a DIRE lack of reason to buy the thing.
You're not going to get Activision and EA to make games exclusively to Xbox One OR PS4, so they're not really a reason TO buy an Xbox One instead of a PS4. Halo is in decline judging by 5, and Gears 4 suggests we've seen that franchise's peak as well. There's Forza, yeah, but it's not like quality racing games are hard to find on either platform, and Crackdown? Crackdown 3 is NOT showing what the prolonged development period was for. Meanwhile, Sony and Nintendo are pumping out exclusives that keep knocking sales and perception out the park, with Nintendo finally getting it in their heads that they actually have to make games and not just party favors. Say what you will about Nintendo, they've learned at least that lesson from the Wii U's failure well.
So that leads us to today. While Sony does have PlayStation Now, they're not pimping it NEARLY as much as Microsoft is pimping Xbox Game Pass. Instead, Sony continues to amaze and astound with new and established IP alike, while Nintendo returns to making stellar evergreen games. Microsoft? It seems every bit of good news about them involves other platforms, be it playing Fortnite and Minecraft with PC and Switch players, or indeed their Xbox initiative for the rival Nintendo switch. Sea of Thieves was a hot mess, State of Decay 2 was a non-event and Crackdown 3 looks like the best Xbox 360 game of the year. Where's the excitement for playing Xbox games on Xbox, that you can't play on platforms that aren't Xbox?
There just seems to be this overwhelming feeling of... surrender. Microsoft just looks like they're ready to wave the white flag. The company as a whole is profitable, but it's no secret that the Xbox division has been an albatross around the company's neck for most of its existence. With PC having reached maturation as a market and MS Office remaining the dominant office suite, Microsoft's issue isn't profit, but growth. The Xbox hasn't really helped the company grow, and while I personally like Bing, let's not act like it's putting a dent in Google's hold on the search engine market. While it moves into cloud services to fight Amazon, I'm not sure it can keep this game console lark going for much longer.
Unless the next generation Xbox lights the world on fire, what does Microsoft really see happening? Do they just turn Xbox into a PC game streaming service? Not sure how viable that would be for fast-paced action games outside of the US' major coastal centers, but it's not like Xbox has really ever been a global phenomenon. Honestly, I can see them turning inward, making more PC games, putting out the surefire stuff on Sony or Nintendo platforms while the rest is just PC/Game Pass. Maybe put out a game pass streaming box, try to be Onlive 2.0. However, Microsoft can't just keep making consoles that lose money the way they've been doing.
Personally, I hate the idea of losing a manufacturer, and the competition that it brings. While MS' contributions to gaming have sometimes been detrimental (pay for online, microtransactions, et al), they proved to be a successful check against Sony's hubris, keeping core gaming going while Nintendo went off the deep end with the Wii. However, for the Xbox, as a distinct bit of hardware, to be a viable contender, they need to make their own platform exciting again, and that means a massive investment in first/second party games. The Xbox needs its' definitive games, more than just Halo and Gears, that really make people say "I need to get an Xbox."
While they focus on spreading Live everywhere, though, I don't see it happening.