Xbox has come under a great deal of scrutiny over the past few years for its lack of blockbuster exclusives. Huge franchises such as Fable, Gears of War, Fallout, The Elder Scrolls, and Perfect Dark lie dormant, while more recent mega releases such as Redfall and Halo Infinite have failed to live up to expectations.
Pressure is mounting on Xbox to deliver these major titles, with many pinning their hopes on the upcoming Starfield to “save” the brand. However, such a view is largely dismissive of Xbox’s smaller releases. While it’s true that Xbox hasn’t had a good major first-party release in a while, it’s also important to note that the likes of Pentiment, Immortality, and Hi-Fi Rush have all been critical successes. It might be time for Xbox to shift its focus toward these smaller gems if it wants to maintain Game Pass’ high reputation.
Xbox’s Major Releases Are Stuck in a Vicious Cycle of Self-Destruction
Xbox’s recent lack of first-party blockbusters is becoming increasingly frustrating for fans, especially given the high-profile studios that Microsoft owns. This continued disappointment has led to extra pressure being heaped on each new AAA Xbox exclusive, as each one is seemingly holding the weight of the entire Xbox brand on its shoulders. However, these almost unobtainable expectations might, in fact, be the games’ undoing for several reasons.
Firstly, such huge expectations mean that developers feel pressured to set the bar too high and add too much to their games. As a result, they not only struggle to deliver what was promised, but they also lose the focus that made their franchises and games so great to begin with. Additionally, the games are being rushed to ensure Xbox has continual releases, meaning they’re often launched in an unfinished state, lacking content, or with numerous bugs, continuing the self-destructing cycle of major Xbox releases.
There have been several high-profile examples of Xbox’s underwhelming AAA releases, the most recent being the highly-anticipated Redfall. Sadly, despite great promise, the game launched in a horribly broken state, letting down fans who were excited about Arkane’s next release. Xbox’s flagship franchise, Halo also suffered a similar fate when Halo Infinite finally launched at the end of 2021 after several delays. Although its gameplay was stellar, it lacked a huge amount of content on launch. As a result, player numbers dropped rapidly and the title has now been pretty much forgotten by the gaming community.
Smaller Quality Titles Are the Future of Xbox and Game Pass
Smaller games aren’t under the same pressure as Xbox’s AAA exclusives, so developers can be given the time they need to perfect their games and release a quality product. Such an approach is far better suited to Xbox right now, so it can restabilize the ship, release top-tier games, and take some pressure off the big hitters so that when they do release, they’re in the best state possible.
Game Pass will be key to this strategy as the subscription service is the perfect host for these types of games. It offers players fantastic value for their money despite its lack of AAA exclusives, largely thanks to the inclusion of smaller day-one releases, such as Hi-Fi Rush, Immortality, and Pentiment, which have all been huge critical successes.
It’s likely that these games might not have existed without Game Pass, as the subscription service allows developers to be more creative and experimental, knowing that they have a ready-made audience willing to try their game without the pressure of a $70 price tag. Such games are therefore perfect for the platform, and it’s important that Xbox focuses on these diverse, smaller gems instead of simply trying to get the biggest games possible on Game Pass through acquisitions.
Xbox needs to shift its focus towards increasing the frequency at which these smaller games are dropped to ensure that Game Pass remains a good value for the money. For example, if players knew they’d get a quality smaller title every month, then it’d elevate Xbox’s standing massively. If players are constantly looking forward to these smaller releases, or knew they could be suddenly surprised with one as was the case with Hi-Fi Rush‘s impressive shadow drop, then it gives them strong motivation to remain subscribed to the service.
Following this strategy and putting smaller, quality video games at the forefront of Xbox could be the key to its success. Not only would it be fantastic for gamers who would get more creative and fun gems to enjoy, but it’d also take the pressure off Xbox’s major AAA releases, allowing them the time to release in the best state possible to eventually rival the successful first-party output of both Sony and Nintendo.
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