Xbox and Microsoft have not been in the conversation as much for the last few months– this is something we have covered before. A lot of this has to do with Microsoft’s greatly diminished first party output, which has caused them to not be able to keep pace with Sony pumping one highly desirable and successful exclusive hit after another- but equally important is the fact that of the games that Microsoft still is keeping in its portfolio, nothing remains that can catch critical attention the way a new, ambitious, single player game could.
There is a reason that of Xbox exclusives, games like Scalebound, Quantum Break, and ReCore got the most attention- while multiplayer games generate revenues over sustained periods of time, single player experiences are what garner gamer attention, and mindshare for your games and systems. All games that Microsoft is currently working on are multiplayer, games as a service style games- Forza, Halo, Gears of War, even the upcoming Sea of Thieves. It’s actually hard to remember the last time we got a good, ambitious single player IP from Microsoft.
"The frustrating thing is, they have brands in their portfolio that could fill in as Zelda or Horizon counters- let’s sidestep the Scalebound cancellation, for a minute."
This means that Microsoft was ill prepared for the double punch of Horizon: Zero Dawn and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild– both are highly ambitious, extremely accomplished single player games, that were incredibly acclaimed, drew a lot of attention to their respective platforms (the Nintendo Switch has been Nintendo’s most successful launch ever, all on the back of Zelda), and sold a lot. These are things you don’t hear about Microsoft games anymore- because Microsoft is not putting out these kinds of experiences at this point.
The frustrating thing is, they have brands in their portfolio that could fill in as Zelda or Horizon counters- let’s sidestep the Scalebound cancellation, for a minute. Even so, what about Fable? Fable‘s star has fallen a bit in recent years, due to ill conceived gimmicky spin offs that were either terrible, or never got to the market, but back in its day, Fable was actually good- not great, sure, but Fable and Fable 2 hinted at genuine potential that could have been realized had Microsoft stuck with the IP and developed it. A full fledged open world next generation Fable would have been more than enough to be able to give Microsoft its own viable contender against Horizon and Zelda– I don’t know if it would have been as good as either of those games, but at least Microsoft would have had something.
"Really, it all comes back to the fact that Microsoft needs to cultivate highly engaging single player focused games and brands. I do wish they would bring Fable, or something like it on the Scorpio."
One even struggles to understand why Fable Legends was canceled at all- Fable consistently sold in the range of 3-5 million copies per instalment- the franchise was successful, and given the love for RPGs in the wake of Skyrim, would have been a valuable addition to Microsoft’s arsenal.
Really, it all comes back to the fact that Microsoft needs to cultivate highly engaging single player focused games and brands. I do wish they would bring Fable, or something like it on the Scorpio. In the wake of Horizon and Zelda being successful, that is something they could surely use. Lionhead is gone now, so we don’t know who’ll get to make it- but it’s not like Microsoft hasn’t handed its franchises to other studios to continue them before, either.
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