The importance of prevalence in discourse.
What a great three months for gaming- it’s hard to think of the last time we had a period of time so jam packed with quality new game releases, or so many developments and announcements in the gaming sphere. After the last few years felt like the gaming market was contracting and shrinking, this year has struck back with a relentless stream of great games one after the other so far.
An interesting trend manifests when you consider this year thus far, however- if you look at the buzz and chatter around these games and systems, you find that discourse is dominated entirely by PlayStation and Nintendo. It makes sense- PlayStation 4 has been on fire this year, and so far has received titles such as Tales of Berseria, Kingdom Hearts 2.8 HD, Yakuza 0, Nioh, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and NieR Automata– six amazing games in almost as many weeks.
Nintendo, on the other hand, launched a brand new console (very successfully), and launched it with what might be the greatest game ever made- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. While PlayStation has dominated conversation due to the sheer pace and quantity of great releases exclusive to it, Nintendo has managed to do so simply because of how staggeringly great this one game has turned out to be.
If you were an outsider looking at the industry, you might erroneously conclude by assessing the discourse and chatter this year so far that there are only two major (non PC) systems in the industry, PlayStation and Nintendo- but that’s wrong. There is a third one, too- it’s just that no one is talking about it.
The interesting thing is that the Xbox One seems to be entirely irrelevant to gaming discourse and discussion right now- it exists, is selling presumably well, and gets third party multiplatform games, that also sell well on it. It’s just that it’s not making any impact on the industry at all, which is a terrible place to be in- just ask Sega with the Saturn, or Nintendo with the Wii U, how irrelevance worked for them. The Xbox news so far this year has all been largely negative- the cancellation of Scalebound, for example, or Platinum’s announcement that NieR Automata won’t be coming on it. The only really big game this year from Microsoft has been Halo Wars 2 and while there is no doubt that it’s an exceptional game it did not manage create a huge impact for the console.
While some ardent Xbox fans may take to the comments to remind me that this ‘buzz’ and ‘chatter’ doesn’t matter in the real world, I’d ask them to consider that statement before they make it- the negative buzz and chatter around the Xbox One when it was announced certainly mattered, and it created a stigma with the platform that persists with it to this day, especially for the more average mainstream customer. If a less informed person were to go online to research buying a new gaming system for themselves, what would they see? They would see coverage dominated by discourse of PlayStation’s relentless stream of exclusives, or by Zelda, being hailed by many as the best game ever made, and incidentally playable only on Nintendo- automatically, subconsciously, the decision would come down to one of these two for them, then. Xbox wouldn’t even be a part of the conversation.
This isn’t to say all is lost, however- for starters, Xbox fans, at least, can be assured of a steady stream of games if they own the console. Even if Microsoft’s own first party output has shrunk (Halo Wars 2 came and went), third party multiplatform games, such as Resident Evil 7, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, For Honor, and Mass Effect: Andromeda are all on it. And certainly, there is a chance that Microsoft comes out all guns blazing this E3, and it turns out that they were only saving their announcements for the impending release of the Xbox Scorpio later this year (this same strategy was adopted by, and worked out well for, Nintendo and the Switch). However, as it stands right now, it’s a bit worrying to see Xbox recede from the conversation more and more as time goes by.
In the past, Microsoft have discussed about the possibility of having a pre-E3 show for the Scorpio reveal and although nothing is set in stone, I think it would be a great idea to reveal the console and it features a few months before E3. This will ensure there is enough talk happening around the new hardware and then Microsoft can announce a killer launch line-up fo the Scorpio at E3 thus ensuring that the show is only about the games. Xbox boss Phil Spencer has stated something similar in the past so at the very least Microsoft seems to be thinking about conducting a pre-E3 show but right now Sony and Nintendo are simply taking away all the limelight and the Redmond based company needs to act soon.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.