To say the Inside XBox livestream yesterday was underwhelming would be an understatement.
The lack of first-party software was a definite mistake. Microsoft has done some solid work in the last couple of years working with smaller studios and third-parties, as well as the Game Pass concept in general, but where Microsoft has been weak is in pillar first-party software or actual timed exclusives. Because third-party software comes and goes with the tide, there’s no long-term glory in a “World Premiere” reveal when the games will be out on other platforms. Yes, you snagged a video to show off to pad out your event – but that does not translate to sales unless you’ve tied that down to an exclusivity deal or made it a genuine cornerstone of your systems line-up.
It wastes time. Valuable time. And contrary to popular belief… people notice that sort of thing.
So yesterday’s Inside XBox live-stream was pinned largely on third parties again. This, for me, was a critical error of judgement; predominantly for the reason that this was held up as our first proper, no-holds-barred look at next-gen gameplay… only to not only lack much in the way of gameplay, but also that most of it looked… surprisingly current-gen.
Hell, two of the games in the showcase ARE current-gen.
Scorn looks lovely, but it always did. The alpha demo did the rounds a couple years back, and the H.R. Giger-inspired art style was beautiful and eerie. But it was running on current hardware, and on relatively modest hardware at that for some people. Scorn is one of those games that sure can broach the cross-gen divide; but Scorn is also a remarkably niche title. It has a small following. Yes, I’ve been trying to keep tabs on it but that’s how I know Scorn isn’t exactly the sort of game that will hold up to sell new hardware. It just won’t, sadly.
As for Yakuza: Like A Dragon… well… that’s been out in Japan for a bit already. Sure, it’s lovely to see it coming West – but it doesn’t quite shake the feeling that it was there as padding.
In general, I felt the showcase was entirely padding for the Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla footage – again, not entirely gameplay-orientated, but it looks good enough and I think the shift into Action RPG has certainly helped the series to be more adventurous.
But still… I can, and probably will, buy these on other platforms.
This is what Microsoft absolutely, categorically needs to stop doing; promoting other platforms. Whilst their co-operation with Nintendo is cute and charming, and their drive for PC Parity is admirable, the overriding thought going into these XBox showreels isn’t, “Wow, I want an XBox for that!”, but rather… “Wow, I might need to get that for PS4/PC!”
If Microsoft wants to take notes – take them from their friend Nintendo. Look at the first year for the Nintendo Switch; lots of smaller, interesting games… but all held aloft by massive, undeniable big first-party exclusives. Zelda, Mario, Splatoon 2, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Nintendo and UbiSoft even got Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle in there.
And those games helped get people through the doors. Once they were inside the ecosystem, then Nintendo could tickle their fancies with indie content and more moderately curious fare.
The challenge for Microsoft is getting them, if you’ll excuse the pun, “Inside XBox”.
Until then, they’re just doing promotion for other platforms.