Does the delay of Halo Infinite sink Microsoft? Simple answer: no, not even close. That’s not to say the sailing ahead won’t be rough. Xbox is in this for the long haul. They have the superior system in terms of raw power. They have GamePass and XCloud and full backwards compatibility and smart delivery. And the pro-consumer message is only strengthened by delaying Halo Infinite. They want to do their fans right and the franchise justice. But where do they go from here? I have some theories and suggestions.
Price: it’s not a secret Sony is throwing money at 3rd party developers for exclusivities: be it special content (a la Spiderman in Avengers) or timed exclusives (Final Fantasy XVI). And if all the leaks I’ve heard are true, they need it. The PS5 is struggling with true 4K resolution. It’s having difficulty with 60fps. They need the exclusive deals, alongside their magnificent 1st party games, to give them an edge over the sheer power of the Xbox Series X. And, I think it will work in the short term given their sheer slice of the market pie. They have the bigger base and the momentum. They also have Spiderman: Miles (DLC? Expansion?)
How does Xbox counter? With affordability. First, smart delivery means next gen upgrades are free. That’s huge. Sony would rather continue the model of constant remasters (like Spiderman).
Second, is offer various models at affordable price points. That’s where the Xbox Series S factors in. If they can release that at $200-$250 and drop the Xbox Series X in at $400, it would be a mega bomb. Especially if the leak is true that PS5 is at $500 and their all digital is coming in at $400. That’s a massive price advantage that will make waves over the holiday season.
Third, is Xbox Live. I have a sneaking suspicion it will go free, or be bundled into the GamePass. Either way, I don’t see Xbox having two subscription fees at the launch of their new system. And with the positive outpouring of support for Halo multiplayer being free, it’s the kind of pro-consumer move that can become a deciding element at the register.
Studios: having the most powerful and most affordable next generation hardware sounds great on paper, but ultimately, it will come down to the games. I love what Xbox is doing in the long run with titles like Avowed and Fable. I think we have a lot to look forward to, and I do believe that Halo Infinite will also be a tremendous success. But my gut tells me the smart move is to keep enlisting talent, keep expanding the portfolio, and to continue to acquire studios, at the right price. Here’s a few that might make sense:
Bloober Team, Ebb Software, & Asobo Studios. These three studios make the most sense to purchase. Makers of the Medium, Scorn, and Flight Simulator, they would be smart to invest in studios on the verge of breaking out. With the right investment of time and money, they would provide the right kind of diversity and originality the Xbox portfolio needs.
Larin Studios. No one talks about this, but to me, it seems like a perfect fit. It would give the Xbox Series X a day one exclusive RPG: Baulder’s Gate 3. The studio has a proven track record, many labeling them a modern day BioWare, and would further strengthen RPGs in the Xbox portfolio.
People Can Fly: no longer owned by Epic, the makers of BulletStorm would be a great fit for creating original, fun FPS for the Xbox portfolio.
Remedy: they are already working on the single player portion for CrossFireX, and they made the cult classic Alan Wake for the Xbox 360, not to mention game of the year in 2019: Control. They are original, out of the box creators who specialize in 3rd person thrillers. The fit couldn’t make more sense.
WB Games: I love everything about this. The talent across the studios is legends. Imagine Netherrealms working on Mortal Kombat, Injustice, and Killer Instinct. Rocksteady getting the green light for Superman and Justice League. Xbox signing exclusive rights to DC, LOTR, Harry Potter and TMNT. It would be the biggest purchase in gaming history. Just the kind of groundbreaking move Xbox needs to drive their brand to the top.
Bungie: does Bungie come home? One of the key factors in their original departure was Bungie wanted to create a game as a platform. GamePass is perfect for that. Unlike with Activision, they left Xbox on good terms. A return would be well received. They could also assist 343 when/if needed.
CD Projekt Red: Ok, this would be the hard-nosed business maneuver. Sure, it makes sense. They’re my favorite studio. They make incredible games. If you want to be ruthless, you make CyberPunk 2077 a first party exclusive and call it a day. But I wouldn’t be for that. I would, however; be for the acquisition. The next Witcher a 1st party exclusive? Sign me up.
3rd Party Exclusives: ok, so who knows if any of the above will happen. If Xbox is smart, they are also looking into the possibility of third party exclusives. Maybe A Total War: Halo game by Sega? Not to mention bringing over Persona 5 and it’s expansion. They could revive Scalebound…and maybe snag the Bayonette trilogy and Nier as a bonus. What if Starfield and Elder Scrolls 6 become exclusives? Makes sense given the history they have with Xbox. Maybe the Mass Effect Trilogy remaster could be an exclusive upgrade? I think making Elder Ring an exclusive would be a good move, especially if it could make the launch window.
I’m not a fan of timed exclusives. I’m also not a fan of any one company having a monopoly. I am supportive of all the major systems mainly because I am a fan of great games. I don’t want Xbox to fail. Competition breeds quality and innovation. Here’s hoping we are on the verge of the best generation of gaming ever. Only time will tell.