When we were first introduced to the Xbox One in May of 2013, we were left perplexed, wondering: Was Microsoft beginning to focus on this machine being a central entertainment hub or would it still make the games its top priority? On top of that, it cost $100 more than the PS4, and the additional amount was thanks to Kinect 2.0. The biggest issue with that was that Microsoft had never given consumers a convincing arguement for why the Kinect experience was essential to the console. The Xbox One was too high in price, to vague in its message, and severally lacking direction. There’s no doubt that the botched introduction of the XB1 has been a looming presence for this console’s first year, and at its launch, it was clear that Microsoft had quite a steep hill to climb.
And while that sentiment lingered into 2014, it became very apparent that Microsoft would begin to abandon it “entertainment first” mindset and push its games to the forefront. At this point, no other next-gen console can boast as many AAA exclusives in its first year as can the XB1. The launch window saw games like Ryse: Son of Rome, Dead Rising 3, Titanfall, and Forza Motorsport 3. Titanfall served as a nice mesh of Call of Duty and Halo. Jumping into giant mechs and pulverizing the competition was a satisfying experience. It was at this point that people started to take Microsoft’s new “gamer first” mentality seriously. The summer was a slow period for the entire games industry, but 3rd party titles like Watchdogs and Wolfentstein: The New Order helped hold us all over.
Many cross-platform 3rd party titles might have had a higher graphical resolution on PC or PS4, but that never lead to a drastic visual difference. On the other hand, Microsoft has proven that the infrastructure of Xbox Live is way more solid than that of the PlayStation Network. I mention this because there have several instances where PSN would be down for days at a time. Microsoft has consistently had quick turnaround times for errors that occurred on XB1 in 2014.
Finishing up 2014, Microsoft was even able to snag frequent PlayStation developer Insomniac Games to develop the spectacular Sunset Overdrive, which is an XB1 exclusive that released earlier this fall. It’s an open-world, zany title that has you zipping through a city that was subdued by an Awesomepacolpyse. That’s where energy drinks turn humans into grotesque monsters and it’s up to you to try and escape the city. To finish off 2014, Halo: The Master Chief Collection released early this November, and it is arguably one of the most ambitious collections of a video game series of all time. It features all 4 of Master Chief’s adventures, with Halo 1 and 2 having a complete graphical overhaul. Every map, weapon and vehicle is accessible to play online. This game is incredible, and at this point, it is the crown jewel of the XB1’s lineup.
Give and Take
As said before, one of the biggest complaints about the XB1 was its $500 price tag. Midway through 2014, Microsoft began selling a Kinect-less XB1, which dropped the price down $100. This may turn out to be one of the biggest decisions that Microsoft has made for the Xbox brand in the last decade. Microsoft has been pushing for years to get the Kinect into our homes and to make it a more relevant product in the eyes of consumers. By not including the Kinect 2.0, Microsoft is in the beginning stages of admitting defeat for this lost cause. That doesn’t mean that they’ll completely abandon it (series like Just Dance and Zumba are huge sellers), but it seems that the days of saying, “Xbox On” and “Xbox snap” to take screenshots are nearing an end.
So now that its media-hub function is being phased out (or acknowledged less), Microsoft faces the challenge of determining what distinguishes the Xbox experience from the PlayStation experience. Both of these consoles do all of the same things and their biggest differences come down to their exclusive games. Whatever Microsoft does, it would be wise for them to follow the same logic which helped them correct so much brand damage - listening to the fans. If they can continue to astonish us though its games and Xbox Live, they’ll have a better shot at convincing us about there future endeavors.
It really seemed like a steep mountain to climb, but somehow Microsoft has pulled off quite a stunning 1st year for its next-gen console. If you’re thinking about picking up an Xbox One, I would strongly recommend it. Plus its price has been lowered to $350 for the holiday season. That’s quite a bargain, and you’ll have a deep catalog of games to choose from. While it may be a while before it can overtake the PS4, it’s fair to say that Xbox One is alive and well, with a great foundation to build upon. Just don’t scare us like that again, Microsoft.