The first part of this series talked about what Xbox already has in their arsenal that they can utilize. These franchises would go a long way in restoring the Xbox exclusive situation, but there’s more work to be done. I’d encourage you to read part one (click here), then take a look below.
New take on current franchises
I am a firm advocate for the status quo of Xbox’s current pillars. Xbox will always need a traditional Halo, Gears, and Forza to help keep it grounded and attract the masses. Rightfully so, their traditional pillars always are some of the best games released on any console, and that will not change anytime soon. What they should work on in addition to the status quo is a way to diversify their current franchises. Below are a few suggestions I have on fresh takes on the current Xbox pillars.
Halo: Blue Team
We have a Halo strategy game, and a Halo FPS… what about a Halo squad-based game like Star Wars: Republic Commando? Work as Blue team across missions, getting to know each individual member (something that Halo 5 sorely lacked). More so, have it mission based where you can select your mission and travel to multiple worlds and locations, all via a large planetary map. Customize your spartan’s gear, level them up and upgrade them, and have the story take place either when Blue Team was originally formed or after the events of Halo 4, but between Halo 5 where there seems to be a large timeline gap. Where did Blue Team come from? What were they doing during the events of Halo: CE through 4? How did they find chief? How did they find Blue Team? There are a lot of unanswered questions (at least through a digital medium, the books fill in a lot of this) that can be answered in a smart way, and help build up the inevitable Halo 6. This game could go a long way in righting some of the wrong that was done in Halo 5: Guardians.
Gears 5 is all well and good – just be a little more courageous in what you do with it. Gears 4 is fantastic, but too safe. Marcus, Cole, & Baird are all still alive, and the game closely mirrors the events of the original series. Maybe, in Gears 5 the old characters are all killed within the first mission, and the game is about JD dealing with loss while trying to fight the horde. JD goes AWOL, and it’s up to the other two to find him before it’s too late and the horde take over. Understanding that 4-player co-op is a staple of the series, perhaps you can introduce a few new characters, or don’t kill off Baird & Cole immediately but have them be a part of the squad. Either way, at the end of Gears 4 I thought there were too many characters being a part of the story, and fully passing the torch to the new group from the old group would be a good story to tell in Gears 5.
Gears 5 – Further Innovate
Another way to improve Gears 5 would be to include a Raid mode where a group of 10 works through a complex mission with massive bosses. These could be set in the tunnels of the Horde, above ground against the remnants of the COG, or what have you. I think adding a Raid style mode to Gears would be a massive draw to the series, and it would be an evolution of the already established multiplayer and horde modes. All the rage is Destiny and it’s raid mode… I think Gears of War could provide a very interesting take on this.
Arcade style games are massive right now (rocket league, mario kart for example). Make a forza kart racer that is super customizable, quirky, and big. Playground Studios have proven that they can do this with their fantastic Forza Horizon 3 Hot Wheels expansion. If done correctly, a game that is this style would serve as an excellent alternative to those not willing to purchase a Nintendo console but wanting the kart-style arcade experience they can share with friends. Pickups, powerups, wacky track design, and fun (not realistic) physics could prove to be a very fun game that becomes a staple for Xbox. Aside from Rocket League, Xbox has nothing like this.
Continue to Unify Windows & Xbox
As much as people will say that unifying Windows and Xbox is bad for Xbox, it really isn’t. It’s a major advantage that Xbox can release their big games on two platforms as well as unify the player bases. In my mind, the larger the Xbox community, be it on PC or console, the better. More gamers experiencing great games and playing on the world’s greatest online gaming service is a win. All Xbox needs to do is continue this trend. Continue to release the major games (that makes sense to) on Windows and make it as user-friendly and easy as possible for people to access their games and play with friends.
This one is the most difficult to talk about because it’s impossible to know what they are working on. One thing that both Playstation and Nintendo have that Microsoft doesn’t is a game that is massive in scope and deep in content. Games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Super Mario Odyssey, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nioh, Nier: Autonoma, and more all are massive games that take a long time to complete and are packed with meaningful content. The last game Microsoft had like this was the original Mass Effect back in 2007, which eventually was released on Playstation and PC.
It needs to be BIG
When Xbox comes out with an exclusive, it takes 6-12 hours to complete a single-player mode and has a multiplayer mode that either catches on (Halo 5: Guardians, Gears of War 4), or fails (Sunset Overdrive). Sure, some of these games are augmented with additional content and collectibles, but one thing Xbox could really use is a big game. Scalebound, before it was cancelled, looked like it was going to fill that gap. Unfortunately with that game gassed, it’s time for Xbox to invest resources into a massive game. It doesn’t need to be a first party studio, either. KOTOR 3 (as mentioned in Part 1) could fill this gap, but I think I’d rather have a new game to fill this category.
Recore looked promising, but overall it was still a medium sized game that wasn’t even a complete game until the definitive edition came out this year – a full year after the initial
release. It has potential for a sequel, and was a show of good faith from Xbox on supporting new IP, but Xbox needs to do more.
Both Playstation & Nintendo have succeeded in recent years by introducing new IP such as Horizon, The Last of Us, and Splatoon. If Xbox truly wants gamers to “Jump In” as their marketing constantly tells us, maybe it’s time they do the same and invest into new IP.
Give Phil Spencer Time
A few days before this post published, Phil Spencer was promoted from Head of Xbox to Executive Vice President of Gaming at Microsoft. While this may seem like a simple change, it actually means so much more. Phil has now established himself as a top Microsoft executive, not just a head of a department. The promotion shows that Microsoft is all-in on gaming and that they fully trust Phil’s leadership not only within the Xbox branch, but within Microsoft as a whole. Xbox is not going away anytime soon, and Microsoft has given Phil the promotion from a commander of a fleet of ships to a general who runs the entire navy.
Remember that he took over a dumpster fire – a lot of the games that have been released on the Xbox One were all a part of the vision from the previous leadership. Scalebound and Fable Legends were even cancelled because they didn’t align with the current vision, and quality control is vitally important for the brand in a time of healing.
Within Phil’s few years on Xbox he has removed Kinect from the conversation, released the Xbox One S, is about to release the Xbox One X, has invested into new IP like Recore, invested back into old IP such as State of Decay and Halo Wars, and completely changed the conversation around Xbox. What started as a disaster is now a glorious revolution – all we need to do is give Phil time to work his magic. I fully trust in his vision, and truly believe that the best is yet to come for Xbox.
What would you suggest to help save Xbox’s exclusive situation? I’d be curious to hear different opinions – please voice them in the comments below!