The media is blasting Xbox right now, claiming that their first party lineup is weak and that Sony is dominating the console space because of it. Indeed, as it stands for 2017 Xbox will have released a small handful of exclusive console games including the likes of Cuphead, Forza Motorsport 7, Halo Wars 2, and Super Lucky’s Tale. To no fault of any of those games, Xbox needs to have more punch than that over the course of 12 months. Of course, if Crackdown 3 were to release this holiday instead of being delayed to Spring 2018, the conversation wouldn’t be as fierce, but this fall Xbox gamers are left to look at the incredible lineup Sony has released so far in 2017, as for the first time in a long time, the incredible lineup Nintendo has released for the Switch. Both Sony and Nintendo also have a vast library of games announced for the foreseeable future, a situation where Xbox only has a drop in the pond. Xbox has State of Decay 2, Sea of Thieves, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and Crackdown 3 announced for 2018, which is a great start, but beyond that the future is bleak for the exclusive lineup. Sure, you likely have another Forza game, and the possibility of Halo 6, but that’s it. Xbox has some work to do – this article will go over my personal opinion on how Xbox can save its first party situation.
This is a two-part series. The first part solely focuses on what they can do with what they already have. Part two will focus on new IP, refocusing their core pillars, revamping the interface, and unifying platforms.
Bring back long dormant franchises
Nostalgia is king. We’ve seen the likes of Crash Bandicoot and all the games in Rare Replay have massive success coming back in recent years; to bolster its lineup, Xbox should lean on the IP it already owns, but have been long dormant. As well, it should forge new relationships with third party studios and rely on relationships that they already have. Below are a few of my ideas:
Conker’s Bad Fur Day 2
One of Rare’s best games back in its heyday, Conker’s holds a special place in my heart and surely a special place in many other gamers. It’s brash, crude humour and and art style is drastically different from anything currently on the market. Combine that with solid mechanics, platforming, and an absurdly fun multiplayer suite, and you have a hit. It would take some finessing, and the right studio to fully appreciate Conker’s, but if Xbox could pull this game off it would be a major win.
Another Rare game that is one of gaming’s icons in the platforming department, Banjo & Kazooie are a mascot that Xbox has, questionably, not been used properly or nearly enough. Yooka-Laylee and the Crash N-Sane Trilogy have proved that this style of game still has a place in 2017 and for the foreseeable future. Build a solid platformer that stays true to the original two games, and gamers will flock to Xbox. It’s such a pro-consumer and pro-gamer move, I’m surprised that Xbox has not already done this. The good PR alone would make it a no-brainer in my opinion.
The Fable franchise has taken a dark turn since Fable 3 was released. Unfortunately, a string of bad Kinect games and a failed Hero’s vs. Villain Evolve-style game lead to the closure of Lionhead studios. Although a Fable card game has been put on Game Preview, a game like Fable 4 would fill a void that Xbox desperately needs to fill – an exclusive, iconic role-playing game. The Fable franchise used to be one of the core pillars of the Xbox business, it can be that again if done correctly. Have a studio create a proper Fable game, with a massive open world packed full of British humour and deep RPG elements. Fable 2 showed us the potential of this franchise, and Fable 3 never fully realized it. It’s time to fulfill what should be one of gaming’s finest and most unique franchises.
Sunset Overdrive 2
A recent game that was very well received, Sunset Overdrive has a lot of potential to be a major franchise for Xbox. Unfortunately, the game was released at a time where gamers were still getting over the initial message and push of the Xbox One. While sales were respectable, if this game was given the light of day in the current market it would have been a slam dunk. It remains the best game on Xbox One in my world. A vast open city to explore, extremely fun and unique movement, hilarious dialogue and storytelling, an odd-but-charming array of weapons to use, and a really good looking art style that holds up to this day. The multiplayer mode left something to be desired, but still gave the game a bit of a tail to work with. The DLC campaign missions were both incredible and kept me wanting more. A Sunset Overdrive 2 would go a long way in giving those who played the first game more of what they want, and opening up the franchise to millions of new players. If they could change the style of the multiplayer to a raid style, they could be sitting on a cash cow of a game.
Knights of the Old Republic 3
If this happens, it will likely be a timed exclusive – regardless it would prove to be a massive win for Xbox. Star Wars is booming once again with the release of the new trilogy and spin-off movies, and now is the time for Xbox to capitalize on the market before it cools off again (perhaps timing this game with the release of Episode 9?). KOTOR 1 and 2 are some of the most beloved RPGs of the past, offering a unique perspective into the Star Wars universe and allowing players to forge their own stories and become a force to be reckoned with, dark side or otherwise. This game would also fill the void of a massive rpg for the Xbox category, and given Xbox’s relationship with EA and BioWare it is certainly possible to bring this game to PC and Xbox first. They did it with Mass Effect, EA Access is exclusive to Xbox, why not KOTOR 3? Understanding Xbox would probably need to help fund the publishing or development of this game for that to happen, this is an investment that Microsoft and Xbox should not pass up.
343 Industries has announced that Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, and Halo 4 are coming to the backward compatibility program this year (Halo: Reach is already part of the program).This leaves Halo 2 as the only Halo game that you cannot play (not counting the Master Chief Collection) on the Xbox One. An incredible PR and pro-gamer move would be to release Halo 2 not as a backwards compatible title, but pull a Phantom Dust and release the game on Xbox One, complete with multiplayer. Even better, if they could add the incredible Halo 2 Anniversary features (fully remastered campaign and 6 multiplayer maps) that were in the Master Chief Collection to the game, it would be a complete collection of the best Halo game ever. I am confident that Halo 2 would once again be the most popular game on Xbox if this were to happen, and it would be a hell of a comeback story for 343, who in many eyes have mistreated the series ever since they took it over from Bungie. God knows that Halo could use some good press for once; this would do the trick. If 343 were to do anything right now before Halo 6, it needs to be this.
This is only the first step in saving the Xbox exclusive situation. Microsoft needs to rethink how they work their current pillars, and develop new games to add to their portfolio. What more, they need to totally revamp their user interface and store, and continue to unify Windows 10 and Xbox to be the same platform. Part 2 will be released next Sunday.