It can’t really be looked at any other way: Microsoft initially dominated the seventh generation of video gaming and Sony were lagging painfully behind for a lot of the way. After having the best-selling console of all-time in the PS2, Sony just seemed to get everything wrong with the PS3. This allowed the Xbox 360 to flourish and have a sustained period of dominance over its rival. However, the PS3 did eventually catch-up and the Playstation 3’s lifetime sales would actually eclipse the Xbox 360’s before that generation was even over. With a much-improved price point, some better games, and a range of models to choose from, Playstation realized the error of their ways. Sony forcefully took back their throne, even before the PS4 vs Xbox One war began. But at this point, I would not say that “Microsoft have failed”, that comes later, in this generation.
The journey for Microsoft has been such a perplexing one that I struggle to understand how such a huge and influential company has gotten so much wrong in the last 10 years. We are now only a few months away from the highly-anticipated ninth generation of gaming with the leading superpowers colliding once more. Only, Microsoft may not just be looking to take first place, but they may be desperate to scratch and claw onto second place.
Microsoft Have Failed Because…They Didn’t Capitalize On The 360’s Success
During my later years in high school, I was sometimes solely responsible for waving the flag for the PS3. Many of my friends had an Xbox 360 and sometimes it was was difficult to argue as the 360 just did so many things better. One of the huge advantages it had was that it had already been out a year – November 11th, 2005 – before the PS3 turned up on November 22nd, 2006. Sony had ample time to see what worked and what didn’t, and still got things wrong.
Sony’s ‘behemoth’ was already behind due to its extremely high price point and let’s not forget…THAT controller.
I’m all for modernization and looking futuristic, but what the hell were Sony thinking with this?! Thankfully they changed it, but the damage was done. The Xbox 360 would dominate in the early years and by 2010, the Xbox 360 outsold the PS3 2:1. With Kinect battering Playstation Move in the, now primitive, battle for virtual supremacy, Xbox could do no wrong. The impressive acquisition of mammoth third-party titles such as Grand Theft Auto, Devil May Cry, Final Fantasy, and Tekken rubbed more salt into a growing wound. Xbox had taken many franchises that were traditionally betrothed to Sony. In addition to this, they had a better online community, Xbox Live, and headsets with every console to encourage online abuse from 12-year-old Johnny in his basement, with no sunlight for his Doritos. To the average gamer, there was only one logical choice, really.
However, a turning of the tides occurred in the early part of the decade as Sony’s mantra changed – primarily focusing on quality, AAA exclusives. Without exclusivity of some of the leading franchises, it was time for Sony to make theirs must-have. In the space of a year or so, God Of War III, Killzone 2, LittleBigPlanet, Uncharted 2, and Metal Gear Solid 4 all came along and reminded people why they should buy a PS3.
Xbox had the better exclusives initially, but I feel they relied too heavily on earlier releases such as Halo 3, Gears Of War 2 and Forza Motorsport as their go-to money-getters. They rode the momentum of Halo 3, which is arguably one of the best FPS games of all-time of course, and the same couple of franchises. Unfortunately, their creativity seemed to be spent early on. Games like Saints Row, Mass Effect, and Dead Rising were near to the beginning of the journey. But EVERY one of their sequels became a multi-platform release that the PS3 would benefit from. If Microsoft had managed to grip these tighter than a drunken man to his last fiver for a kebab, then things could’ve been massively different.
By the time we reached the end of the seventh generation, the PS3 had not only bounced-back form the dead, but it had actually overtaken the Xbox 360 in lifetime sales! Given that Microsoft had done so much right, it’s bizarre that they just continued where they left off with the Xbox One, and didn’t push anything new and exciting to take back control. No new games of note, no reduced console cost, and nothing to give consumers a reason to go green, most went blue – Xbox went red in the face.
Microsoft Have Failed Because…Microsoft Exclusives Paled In Comparison
Each of the three main players have their own franchises packed with characters, lore, and a huge fan base.
Nintendo has: Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong, Smash Bros., Yoshi, Zelda, Kirby, Animal Crossing, and many more.
Sony has: Uncharted, Killzone, The Last Of Us, Infamous, God Of War, Bloodborne, Gran Turismo, Ratchet and Clank. They’ve got the FF7 Remake, the Spider–Man license, AND are trying to start many new ones e.g Days Gone, Ghost Of Tsushima, etc.
When I think of Xbox, I think: Halo, Halo Wars, Gears Of War, Forza, and that’s it. You can argue all you want, but when we get down to brass-tacks and point fingers at the god-tier, system-sellers, this is it. People will naturally nod to the games that are on both Xbox and Windows, which I’ve always thought is a ridiculous notion. Shouldn’t they be pushing games specifically for their expensive console? Otherwise you’ve just got a bigger TV to play on essentially. If you want to go down this road, then you can add Nioh AND Horizon: Zero Dawn to Sony’s enormous portfolio of software spectaculars.
The fact that Microsoft have already announced that the Xbox Series X will launch with absolutely no console-exclusives is a HUGE gamble. To the casual gamer, they’ll read this and think “Oh, but the PS5 will, I’ll go and buy one of them, then”. I’m sure Microsoft enthusiasts think it’s fantastic. To an extent it is, but you’re not making your console stand-out as something to buy when it’s all on PC anyway, AND you can usually connect a laptop to a modern day TV anyway.
The fact of the matter is that outside of Forza and Halo, the Xbox One has had: Sea Of Thieves, Sunset Overdrive, Ryse: Son Of Rome, Quantum Break, Crackdown 3, and Rare Replay? I’m sorry but that’s just awful. Sea of Thieves is only now becoming a worthwhile game, as opposed to the empty wasteland it was at launch. Ryse is a poor man’s God Of War that exudes transparency. The only standouts are a compilation of older games, and Sunset Overdrive – which I feel isn’t praised enough.
This isn’t supposed to be a tirade towards Microsoft, but they’ve just not given people many reasons to invest in the Xbox One. Think I’m being obnoxious and biased? Tell that to the Xbox One’s sales.
Microsoft Have Failed Because…TV, TV, TV, TV, TV, TV, TV, TV
This… this was an absolute hammerblow for the Xbox One. In May 2013, Microsoft held an exclusive (not used ironically) reveal event, dedicated to the Xbox One. Sadly, it’s unveiling would go down in history as one of the worst ever. Instead of pushing the Xbox One as a hulking beast capable of channeling some of the most sophisticated games ever created… they said you could watch your TV on it. Oh, and you had to be connected to the internet. OH, and you won’t be able to borrow games from your friends to play on it.
The Xbox One Reveal killed the console before it even came out. Then when they had the chance to try and repair the damage at E3, even just a little bit, they fluffed their lines and were subjected to a cocktail of worldwide disbelief and syndicated diatribe. Their conference was dominated by the new Kinect sensor, TV capabilities, and then eventually some games. They also announced their console would be a lot more expensive than the Xbox 360, too. Y’know, one of the primary factors for gaining leverage over Sony in the seventh generation, yeah? I only have an A-Level in Business Studies at grade B, but even I can tell you that is not business savvy. The Kinect sensor was the key factor for the price increase, I think if you’re a multi-billion dollar company like Microsoft, you take the hit and make it back in software. Microsoft have failed in both regards.
In contrast, Sony’s rebuttal was a cheaper price point, a dedication to exclusive, AAA titles, support for indie gaming, and emphasizing that the PS4 would be ‘a games console“. Plus, who can forget this stroke of marketing brilliance.
Each Microsoft E3 showing would then become a rinse and repeat of the last to the point of self-parody. You just wanted that one defining press conference where Microsoft would surprise everyone with a slew of exciting, must-have exclusives that made you want to hop onto Amazon and order everything, even an Xbox garden gnome, because why not? I recently discussed how I thought that ‘E3 is dead and online presentations are the future‘. This is part of the reason, cutting out the nonsense jargon that makes sense shareholders get a little too excited. Microsoft needed a stellar showing of exclusive games. It’s 7 years later, and we’re still waiting. Furthermore, using Keanu Reeves doesn’t cover for you, either.
For their sake, they hopefully have some secrets tucked away up their sleeves to bring back the hype for the X brand.
Microsoft Have Failed Because…The Switch Is Unstoppable
My introduction mentioned the possibility of Microsoft competing to stay in 2nd, but also fighting for third. Right now, they are well and truly third.
After the catastrophic failure that was the Wii U, Nintendo have erased the Wii U and defied all the odds. They have loaded up the ammunition and fired back strongly across the bow with the Nintendo Switch. The perfect hybrid of handheld and home console. With a superb catalogue of games and many more to come out, the Switch has already overtaken the Xbox One in lifetime sales… despite the Switch coming out 4 years later. What else can I say? Officially, Nintendo is second in the food chain, and Microsoft are languishing.
Breath Of The Wild 2 is on the way, a Paper Mario sequel – plus many more Mario remasters apparently – suddenly, Bayonetta 3, Metroid Prime 4, and several third-party games, too. The newest Animal Crossing has gone down particularly well, too. The Switch probably has another few years to go and the wind is firmly in its sails. In this regard, there isn’t much that Microsoft can do; it’s a statement more than anything. Sony is no longer the main competition. Nintendo is resurgent. Nintendo has surpassed. Microsoft needs to become resilient to win their audience back.