XBF Daily: Is the Xbox One a Dead Horse?
The Xbox One is only 2 years old and already looking in danger of becoming an irrelevance this generation. Sales are so far behind the PlayStation that not even the mega AAA Exclusive Halo 5 can ‘tclose the gap. The PlayStation 3 was in a similar position during the first few years as it struggled to gain any real traction in a market dominated by the Xbox 360 but it’s superior hardware and the 360 installed base hitting max enabled it to catch up in the last few years. This time around the Xbox One feels so inferior hardware wise that a recovery seems very unlikely indeed.
Microsoft made numerous references to the Xbox One lasting for 10 years i think that’s madness from a gamers perspective. PC gaming is surging forward, bringing High Resolution gaming to the mainstream at ever lower costs and seeing how 4k or UHD displays are now the norm in retail outlets with 1080p TV sales on the slide now it makes sense for Microsoft to cut their losses with the Xbox One and start planning for it’s successor. Consoles always need to have that WOW factor typically that has always been a level of graphical capability that the average PC simply cannot match at launch and this advantage typically lasts for some time before the inevitable cycle of PC hardware improvements catch up and eventually surpass consoles. This time around it feels like from day 1 the PS4 and Xbox One were lacking in ambition, scope and most importantly power.
Hardware is only one part of the story of course and on the software front things are certainly in the Xbox One’s favour. This Xmas we have 2 enormous exclusives in Halo 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider whilst Sony is holding everything back for next year. Next year again looks excellent for Microsoft with a new Gears of War, Crackdown, Scalebound & Quantum break and even more Xbox Backwards Compatibility titles to be announced yet the momentum seems to be all with Sony.
The missteps Microsoft made when announcing the Xbox One have really had a massive impact on consumers but for me it’s the disappointing hardware that is killing the console. Even Halo the platforms biggest asset, hall mark title whatever you want to call it was a disappointment. A muddy, visually bland shooter that offered very few upgrades over Halo 4. Sure the Multiplayer is utterly superb and a technical triumph but the campaign felt strangled. Constrained by a poor hardware design that is simply not providing a premium experience.
Constantly having negative reviews and unfavourable comparisons with the PS4 can’t be ignored forever & they are clearly having a direct sales impact which in turn could explain why so few multi format titles are optimised for Xbox One. I’ve yet to see any review that shows the Xbox One going toe to toe with the PS4 they all paint the same grim picture of lower resolutions, frame rates or both in many cases. When Microsoft Premier Franchise has to compromise on something as controversial and public as resolution than you know there is a serious hardware limitation involved. Knowing Halo 5 runs at a sub 1080p resolution was a real kick in the nuts if 343i can’t get the Xbox One to the benchmark performance does anyone else have a chance?
If Microsoft and Sony admit this generation has been underwhelming and both go for early replacements of their respective consoles what should we as gamers expect? For me whatever successor they come up with it should be capable of native 4k at 60fps and made with the magic £500 price tag with the cost of development heavily subsidized by the profits from games and micro-transactions over the lifetime of the console. Even the move to a part subscription based system could work if Microsoft bundle in the Xbox Live Service along with it’s various content delivery services.
Consoles have always been at the real cutting edge of gaming anyone remember seeing Halo CE on the Xbox and thinking MY GOD? I haven’t had one of those moments on the Xbox One and nothing I’ve seen on the PS4 has blown me away either. This generation seems to be 2 years late to the party seeing PC running off into the distance offering higher resolutions at ever lower costs. Gone are the days where you need to thrown hundreds of pounds at a high end GPU to get any decent visuals even you average i3 based system with a mid spec GPU can offer a superior gaming experience and add in the Steam Box and consoles days certainly look numbered.
Consoles will always have that turn on, tune in advantage but my Xbox One takes longer to boot that my PC does and even longer to get to playing a game. Price is another killer for Consoles especially download titles that often cost more than retail copies and have no resell value. Factor in the lifetime spend on games and services and the days of consoles offering exceptional value over their PC counterparts is no longer accurate. Add in the implications of Valve’s SteamBox platform that offers some seriously impressive value and you can see why the 2 main console manufactures must be feeling the pressure. The entry level model starts around £449 and packs more punch than either current gen consoles and in a similar form factor with a a console like Operating System. You can of course upgrade the device when you desire adding a degree of future proving that consoles don’t have and you can see a compelling console replacement device. How Valve and it’s hardware partners manage to get their devices under the TV is the real challenge and away from enthusiast to the ordinary gamer who may go into Argos and buy a console. Marketing them right seems to be the killer and making them accessible is going to be critical to any future success but it’s interesting more and more gamers are looking into the benefits them as opposed to Consoles. Maybe others are as disappointed as me or they are a half step between consoles and a fully fledged gaming PC.
I wouldn’t be at all opposed to an early replacement to the Xbox One well ahead of it’s proposed 10 year life cycle. Consoles either move early and take a big step or face irrelevance in the face of a resurgent PC gaming ecosystem. The Xbox One has been on the defensive from the day it was announced and there is no sign of Microsoft turning the battle in it’s favour.
Time to throw in the towel, regroup and blow the competition out of the water.