Has Xbox lost its way? (Picture: Microsoft)
The Wednesday letters page discusses the ongoing fallout from Xbox’s multiformat rumours, as one reader celebrates beating Ganondorf.
To join in with the discussions yourself email email@example.com
Losing the war
Like everyone else, I’m shocked and fascinated by what is going on with Xbox at the moment. I suppose the warning signs were there with the Christmas sales figures but coming so quickly after spending so much money on Activision Blizzard it all seems so surreal.
What’s also strange is how badly Microsoft has handled all this. It was already odd when the execs seemed to be arguing with each other at the end of last year, with the talk of new strategies, but messaging has become so muddled now that no one has a clue what’s really going on and there’s not going to be any official explanation until next week. Which seems like it’s asking for trouble.
Then we have all these influencers and mega fans claiming that they’ve disowned Xbox, even though they have no idea what’s actually going to happen – given I’m sure not all the rumours are accurate. It seems like literal madness but also as if the wheels have come off and Microsoft has lost both the respect of their fans and their status as a contender for leadership in the games industry.
I may write a longer Reader’s Feature on this later, but I feel as if they’ve not only lost this console war but the possibility of ever winning one again. They may become a kingmaker, even more influential than Activision Blizzard, but they’ll never be the king themselves.
The rudest number
Maybe Microsoft have sat down… totalled all the receipts and thought, ‘Erm, did we really spend $62 billion on Call of Doody?!’ (I didn’t research this again, from memory I think that was about right).
If they can’t sell enough consoles (currently) to compete with Sony and Game Pass subs are possibly not where they wanted them to be (I still can’t get my head round that ever being successful long term) perhaps they have no choice but to let the crown jewels be sold off (I am hoping Indy will be good enough to be a considered a jewel in that crown).
Doesn’t bother me one way or another, I have both consoles anyway, wouldn’t surprise me if nothing comes of this and all the PlayStation 5 is going to get is remastered Gears Of War 1-3 but I don’t think I could see myself playing through them again.
Anyhoo, lovely to email once again, think my last time was during the whole Xbone/PS4 console war, where Sony won me over (damn you rubbish Xbone disaster launch).
RAMBO 1st BL00D (gamertag)/RAMB01STBL00D (PSN ID)
GC: It was $69 billion, so you were about right.
I don’t know about Xbox betraying its fans by making their exclusives multiformat (if the rumours are true), but it would explain an awful lot about Sony’s apathy for the last year or more. They must have been aware that this was a possibility, so perhaps they thought ‘Why bother?’ I mean why waste millions crafting new games and an singing and dancing State of Play showcases when Microsoft are about to serve up their exclusives on a silver platter? Could this also be why Sony decided to can most of their planned live service games?
The big question is, are Sony going to repay the favour and put out their exclusives on Xbox? Or could it finally be time for a single format collaboration with Microsoft? With them also (supposedly) considering allowing other companies to manufacture Xboxes it’s not that far of a leap now. Is a lack of competition good for gamers? I’m not sure on this but short term it’s great news for PlayStation owners (in my opinion anyway!),
Jenkster (PSN ID)
GC: There was no hint of any change in Xbox policy until late last year. Sony has been acting weird for over a year.
Email your comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I must confess. At the start of this generation, with Microsoft producing, arguably, the most powerful console ever, in the Xbox Series X, the wallet friendly Series S, and Game Pass I wrongly believed they would finally get a crowning moment. After all, there was no way Sony could compete now that the behemoth that is Microsoft were going all in.
Well, my predictions were absolute rubbish! Who could have foreseen them buying ZeniMax and Activision Blizzard and all their related studios for sums that astronomical? It caught the eye of regulators around the world, as well as the power they could then wield in the gaming space, only for the PlayStation 5 to trounce Xbox into the ground in terms of worldwide sales performance.
And what was the first thing they did with all that power?
Sacked a load of staff and the rumour mill is now in a full-on frenzy that they are going multiformat! If Phil Spencer avoids the chop himself then I’d be surprised. He has now presided over two failed console generations and spent £80 billion of Microsoft’s money, not to mention everything Game Pass has cost them and, if the multiformat rumour is true, gained nothing except making Microsoft the world’s largest games publisher. And, as games get more and more expensive to produce, they’ve also got to support those studios for however long it takes in the gamble they’ll produce many AAA titles.
What this all proves is, while money talks in the business world, you can’t always buy a market. The brand is just as important as your relationship with your customers. Just ask Nintendo that. But Sony have built such a critical brand structure behind the PlayStation that its name is synonymous with gaming. And, even though the PlayStation 5 is hideously ugly and not as powerful, they’ve sold by the bucketload even with shortages.
They’ve won the hardware war and, for good or ill, Microsoft may be about to capitulate that space and the loss of competition that entails. I can’t see any other corporation then attempt to challenge Sony ever again, unless the cloud gaming and streaming thing ever gains enough traction so you only need a small box and controller instead. In which case, Microsoft might win via the back door with their Azure server business instead.
With everything that has happened last year and this year in terms of laying off staff, slashing budgets, and the rumour mill I’d like to say we would love another golden gaming year, but it’s looking very grim indeed. Except for Nintendo, of course, who just carry on doing what they do, but bear in mind they did exactly the same to everyone else in the nineties.
The deep end
What is wrong with these *ahem* influencers and their followers? Going off the deep end and throwing hissy fits! It tracks for me that if you have 150,000 followers/subscribers on your channel ‘cos they love Forza or Halo or Gears Of War, that if these titles were available to a wider audience, who also enjoy these games, that your little channel might get a few more subscribers, hence more moneys for you…
They’re only acting this way to shield the hurt and the worry it’ll all go away and they will have to get a real job. Boo hoo.
big boy bent, Xbox owner
Just finished Silent Hill: The Short Message. Pretty much agree with GC’s review, though I think my final score would have been 5/10.
Very little in the way of gameplay but the story kept me interested. It should have only taken about two hours to complete. However, thanks to that last maze chase it took me a lot longer than that! I had to use the help of an IGN guide in the end to eventually beat it. Might have been a fairer challenge if you could use the flash on your mobile to temporarily stun the monster.
Lack of trophies was strange but it was a free game, so can’t complain too much.
Tony- -1975 (PSN ID)/SW-4453-8520-2043 (Switch)
I don’t know what Matt is going on about, Xbox throwing Xbox owners under a bus. How are they doing that? Bethesda was bought way after they brought out the Xbox Series X/S. Same with Activision Blizzard, they only bought them last year. It’s not like they bought them five years ago and said everything will be Xbox only from these developers.
I’m a PlayStation owner. I have been since PlayStation 3 and if Sony want to bring their exclusives to other platforms a few years later I’m OK with that. I didn’t buy my PlayStation 5 for exclusives that are available only on that console, I bought a PlayStation 5 so I can play them as soon as they’re ready to be played. Otherwise I’d of got a PC.
Like, if Spider-Man 2 came out on PC at the end end of this year, would I be bothered? No, I wouldn’t. I had the pleasure of playing it 12 months before that. I’d even feel the same if they wanted to drop it on Xbox as well, all because a game goes on a different platform doesn’t mean they have thrown you under a bus.
Take that Ganondorf
I finally smashed Ganon’s orbs after 80+ hours on Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom. I’m a week too late to vote for it as my game of the year, but it won anyway (second place goes to Spider-Man 2, the only other game released in 2023 that I managed to finish but which I did enjoy a lot). Definitely the most ambitious game I’ve ever played, and probably what I’d choose if I could only play one game forever more: there’s just so much to see and do that I’ve barely scratched the surface.
It’s been so long since I played Zelda: Breath Of The Wild that there were only a few locations that I properly recognised (outside of the Domains, the Hateno Village Research Lab, and the area where you fight Master Kohga in Breath Of The Wild were very familiar).
My only real negative was that after playing Spider-Man 2 I felt like I was fast-travelling a lot because horse riding is too footery and I didn’t expand my battery slots enough for vehicles to last very long. A compelling fast traversal method would maybe have been an interesting addition. So not perfect, but miles ahead of anything else out there. I thought Zelda was hinting at some time-travelling DLC so I’ll stay tuned for that.
GC: They’ve said that there won’t be any DLC.
Gaiden of the year
Sorry, I managed to miss the Hot Topic for the Readers’ Top 20 of 2023.
I thought it was going to be Zelda: Tears Of The Kingdom but the endgame section wasn’t great and spoilt the whole thing.
So for me it is Like A Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name. I’m a big fan of the Yakuza games anyway but this one was a short spin-off with all the nostalgia hits. Pretty much every mini-game from the past was there and it also had loads of old classic characters and nice crossovers with Judgment. Great combat and a collector’s dream with the lockers! The fact it was a lot shorter meant none of the usual filler sections and it just clicked with me.
Good review of Suicide Squad GC. I agreed with most of it but after 10 hours I have found myself having more fun with it than you seem to have had. The main issue, as you outlined, for me is the repetitive mission design. Whether it’s a main mission or side mission you are always doing the same thing and would normally indicate a rushed development but that can’t have been the case.
Thankfully for me though I have found the core shooting gameplay and traversal mechanics in combat to be a lot of fun, I like how it’s so kinetic and kind of reminds me of Doom 2016 in that way. I also think the production values, script and voice-acting, has been top notch. I have laughed out loud multiple times and would say for me it’s the funniest game I’ve played since Portal 2. I did think a 4/10 was harsh, as I do think the game is better than Redfall which got a 6/10 from yourselves but I respect your opinion and always have.
The world of Metropolis has been a big disappointment to me, after the excellent open worlds of the Batman: Arkham games, which was full of Easter eggs and rewarded exploration with the Riddler trophies, which are also a major letdown. I used to love finding all the Riddler trophies in the Arkham games, sometimes it was a puzzle in themselves to find them but then another puzzle to get access to them. In Suicide Squad you just pick them up or do an AR traversal challenge (which I do actually quite enjoy to be fair) but in comparison to what came before, it’s big letdown.
Once I have done the story I think I will be done with it but I’m going to keep an eye on what they release in the season pass as I know they will be introducing new areas and new playable characters, if those review well I will come back to it. I just hope Rocksteady are given another chance to make a game. I hope Warner Bros. will see how successful Hogwarts Legacy was for them sales wise, a single-player only game and let Rocksteady go back to making a single-player only game.
Now playing: Suicide Squad (Xbox) and Prince Of Persia: The Lost Crown (Switch)
RE: Xbox owner who sold his console. Funny, I’ve just done exactly the same at CeX. Ahead of the curve! See attached for proof, though I shall remain anonymous.
GC: He sent us a photo of the receipt, for anyone that’s interested.
Quick message to anyone in and around Belfast. The brand max shop in Connswater shopping centre is closing and everything, including the GAME shop, is having 20% off the marked prices. I got pre-owned Dead Space remake and new Control for £15.17.
This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Gadfly, who asks what is your favourite superhero video game and what new ones would you like to see?
Despite what you might imagine, superhero games are relatively rare and even the Marvel name is no guarantee of success. But if budget was no issue, what kind of superhero game would you like to see and who would you like to make it?
You can also include other non-superhero comic books but try and explain how you think the gameplay would work and what would make it different from a regular video game.
Email your comments to: email@example.com
The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.
You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time via email or our Submit Stuff page, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.
You can also leave your comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.
To submit Inbox letters and Reader’s Features more easily, without the need to send an email, just use our Submit Stuff page here.
For more stories like this, check our Gaming page.
Sign up to all the exclusive gaming content, latest releases before they’re seen on the site.