Microsoft- has not had the best year this year. While they managed to rally somewhat by the end thanks to the launch of the Xbox One X and some unexpected good console exclusives such as Cuphead and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, on the whole, this entire year has been marked by one stumble after another for them. While the Xbox One X’s early success may have given them a bit more breathing room, the fact of the matter is that they desperately need to start coming up with a longer term strategy going forward, especially on the exclusives and marketing front- otherwise, they risk ceding the entire market to Sony and Nintendo.
Here are the five biggest mistakes they made this year that they cannot afford to repeat in 2018.
Let’s start off with how Microsoft started off 2017- arguably emblematic of everything that went wrong for the company this year, the Scalebound cancellation. An eagerly anticipated first party Microsoft game, exclusive to Xbox and Windows 10, from Platinum Games and the legendary Hideki Kamiya, and starring giant dragons. What was not to like? Sadly, Scalebound had been in development for years, and Microsoft pulled the rug by abruptly announcing its cancellation- in the process, killing one of the most anticipated exclusives in their arsenal, leaving their portfolio looking grimly empty, and also possibly alienating the community of Japanese developers, players, and fans all in one fell swoop.
"Microsoft pulled the rug by abruptly announcing Scalebound’s cancellation- in the process, killing one of the most anticipated exclusives in their arsenal, leaving their portfolio looking grimly empty, and also possibly alienating the community of Japanese developers, players, and fans all in one fell swoop."
Not content to take out one big game from their lineup, Microsoft also proceeded to delay Crackdown 3, a game that was announced all the way back in 2014, mind you, to 2018. This meant not only that Microsoft was left without many exclusives launching this year, but also that the game that could have best showcased the Xbox One X was suddenly pushed into next year. Of course, the delay was also probably necessary, because the game has looked incredibly rough and unimpressive in all of its showings so far- hopefully this extra development time lets them at least push out a desirable and compelling product in the end.
CEDING TO THE SWITCH
To be fair, no one was prepared for the Switch– including Nintendo. I can even understand Microsoft being caught off guard with just how big it became. But that’s not the point- Microsoft not just began to lose marketshare to the Switch, but also mindshare, which they had already lost a lot of thanks to the PS4. This entire year, the conversation has been dominated by the PS4 and the Switch, thanks to their high sales and their relentless releases of high quality exclusives, and because Sony and Nintendo didn’t rest on their laurels, and kept announcing major new games for their systems. Microsoft, on the other hand… actually, this leads nicely to my next point, which is:
E3 AND GAMESCOM
Look, unlike Sony, who attend E3, TGS, PGW, TGA, and also have the PSX, and Nintendo, who do E3 and TGAs, and have a Nintendo Direct every quarter, Microsoft really only attends two major gaming events a year- two gaming events, where hypothetically they should have a lot of stockpiled announcements to generate excitement for their console, since it’s not like they’re making those announcements anywhere else. But this year, not only did Microsoft fail to release major exciting games, they failed to announce them, too, leading to major concerns about exactly what the future of Xbox’s first party lineup might be. Their big announcement at E3 was that Xbox Scorpio is called the One X, and will be launching on November 7 for $499; for Gamescom? That you can pre-order it. When Sony is announcing things like Ghosts of Tsushima, and showcasing stuff like God of War and The Last of Us, while Nintendo is announcing Metroid Prime 4 and Pokemon, and showcasing stuff like Super Mario Odyssey, that is… really not a good look. It leads to the question- does Microsoft actually have anything to offer in the coming months beyond three games that were announced years ago?
"Microsoft not just began to lose marketshare to the Switch, but also mindshare."
XBOX ONE X PRICE
Let’s go back to that Xbox One X price for a moment, though- because it is not a good price. Look, the Xbox One X is a fantastic machine- I’m going to harbor no arguments there. And yes, it has done well so far- but looking at its early success to extrapolate larger trends is short sighted and a fool’s errand. Every console is successful to begin with– even the Wii U, the PS Vita, and the $599 PS3 ended up launching very well. The trouble comes afterwards, and that’s where the price kicks in- given that the mass market can pick up a PS4, Xbox One, or Switch for $300, who exactly is expected to spend another couple hundred of bucks to pick up an Xbox One X that will play the same games as the cheaper machines, but slightly prettier? The Xbox One X’s price is prohibitive to any larger mass market success- and if the future direction of Xbox is banked on this machine, then not altogether encouraging.