From my point of view, it failed.
I have never owned an Xbox console, but while I mainly play games on my monster rig I’m not some kind of PC master race, give-me-keyboard-and-mouse-or-give-me-death, snob.
I have owned – and loved – consoles by Sega, Nintendo and Sony. I recently finished Horizon: Zero Dawn on my PS4 Pro and will happily admit that not only is it one of the most fun games I’ve played, it’s also one of the best looking games I’ve ever laid eyes on – despite the PS4 Pro being relatively underpowered compared to my PC.
So why have I never bought an Xbox? There’s a number of reasons. The original Xbox came out too late – by then I had already spent all of my student loan on a PlayStation 2 and a growing number of games.
The Xbox was more powerful than the PS2, but it didn’t have the amazing library of Sony’s console. Its ‘killer app’ – the game that was supposed to sell you on the console – was Halo, a game I had already played on PC. This was to be a bit of a theme.
I held off buying an Xbox 360 due to the growing number of reports of consoles failing due to the ‘Red Ring of Death’ error. While the PlayStation 3’s launch problems probably still keep the higher ups at Sony waking in the middle of the night in sweat-drenched fear, I bought one (at least when the price dropped) due to the exclusive games I knew were coming – which I couldn’t play on my PC.
With the release of gems such as Uncharted 2, The Last of Us and Heavy Rain (hey, I liked it), my decision was justified. It’s the same reason I buy Nintendo consoles – they are the only places I can play Mario, Zelda and Pokémon. Everything else gets played on my PC.
The thing is, when you also have a gaming PC, talk of specifications, being the most powerful console ever, and chucking around teraflop counts doesn’t cut it. Any game that I can play on either PC or Xbox One X will look better on PC – and will do for many, as at the end of the day, the specs in the Xbox One X aren’t all that impressive – especially in the CPU department.
Games, games, games
So, it’s left to the games to do the talking. If Microsoft showed an amazing game that could only be played on Xbox One X, I’d have seriously considered it, but every single game they showed is also coming out to PC.
The game that most impressed me at Microsoft’s event epitomizes this problem: Cuphead. This amazing-looking platformer has definitely got me hyped – especially thanks to the 1930’s cartoon aesthetics. However, despite it looking fantastic, there’s nothing about it which suggests it will make use of the Xbox One X’s power.
And, crucially, it is also coming to PC via the Windows Store and Steam.
I’ve spoken to a few people at Microsoft asking them why, as a PC gamer, I should get an Xbox One X. They’ve often struggled to answer. Some suggest it means I can play those games in my front room on a big TV.
Of course, I could always just lug my PC downstairs and plug it in directly, but I have a more elegant solution – an Nvidia Shield TV that streams games from my PC to me TV – in 4K and surround sound.
I also got the impression that the Xbox One X isn’t being aimed at PC gamers at all. So who is it for? For PS4 owners, I think there are similar issues. Firstly, many of the games Microsoft showed will be coming to PS4 eventually, and when all is said and done, I don’t think we’ll see a huge difference in performance between the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.
This is mainly because all games on the Xbox One X will be held back by needing to be playable on the under-powered Xbox One. While Microsoft’s insistence that every Xbox One X game can be played on the older, cheaper hardware is admirable, it means a lot of the potential for the Xbox One X is wasted – though you could argue that about PC games as well, which need to cater for Xbox and PS4 owners as well.
As for Nintendo fans, having just paid for a brand new Nintendo Switch, and girding their wallets for an onslaught of Nintendo exclusives later this year, why would they pay for the Xbox One X? They don’t care about specs, so if they are really keen to play the next Assassin’s Creed, they could save a bit of money and buy a second hand PS4 or Xbox One to play it on.
In the end, I felt like Microsoft is really pitching this at Xbox fans, who probably hate the fact that the Xbox One was so under-powered. That’s a fair enough strategy, but with its competitors unveiling a steady flow of critically acclaimed exclusives, while Microsoft shuts first party studios and cancels games (RIP Scalebound), that huge gap in sales between PS4 and Xbox One won’t close any time soon. Preaching to the converted isn’t going to help.
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