In 2020, shortly before the latest generation of consoles launched, I wrote about how the Xbox Series X needed a more compelling lineup of exclusive games than the Xbox One for Microsoft to compete with Sony’s PlayStation 5. Three years later, it’s clear that Microsoft did not heed my warning, as the PS5’s library has trounced that of the Xbox Series X so far. But this week, Sony cracked the door open for Microsoft to claw its way back into the conversation.
On Wednesday, Sony hosted its annual PlayStation Showcase to reveal dozens of new games coming to PS5 later this year and beyond. There were some genuine highlights, including long-awaited sequels like Alan Wake 2, Dragon’s Dogma 2, and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, as well as a cluster of promising-looking indies, such as Sword of the Sea and Neva.
But for a live event with “PlayStation” in the title, there was a surprising lack of PS5 exclusives, especially of the first-party variety. Only a few PlayStation Studios had anything to show us, and most of those were nothing more than CG trailers. We learned next to nothing about Fairgame$ (Haven Studios) or Concord (Firewalk Studios), and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 was revealed nearly two years ago. Has the pipeline of triple-A exclusive already run dry?
Meanwhile, Microsoft wasted no time in pointing out that a majority of the games we saw at the so-called PlayStation Showcase are also coming to Xbox:
Admittedly, even after PlayStation’s relatively disappointing showing, Xbox still has a lot of work to do to convince me that the Xbox Series X is a worthy adversary to the PS5. The latest Xbox console exclusive was Bethesda’s open-world, co-op FPS Redfall, which has a putrid 56% on Metacritic and 58% on OpenCritic. That’s low for any big release, much less a game that was supposed to be one of the premier exclusives for the Xbox this year.
Other recent console exclusives for the Xbox include Minecraft Legends, and… that’s about it. If you aren’t getting your money’s worth out of Xbox Game Pass, chances are you haven’t been a happy camper as an Xbox Series S or Series X owner in recent months.
So, what can Microsoft do to turn the tide? Well, if you saw our enormous list of summer gaming events, you are already aware of the upcoming Xbox Games Showcase on June 11.
This has to be a blowout. We don’t want vague release windows and CG trailers. We need to see something concrete from these studios. I can’t even begin to fathom how much work goes into a game as big as some of the upcoming Xbox exclusives, and I can’t imagine how much of a strain the last few years have put on these studios as they try to build enormous virtual worlds in the midst of a global pandemic. But until Microsoft can string together a few successful game launches in a row, Xbox owners are going to feel slighted.
If Microsoft can bring in-game footage and solid release dates for a few of its most anticipated games (Avowed, Fable, Perfect Dark, Forza Motorsport, and Everwild — take your pick!), it may start to build the momentum that PlayStation currently lacks. Then add Starfield to that list, which will be the first single-player Bethesda Game Studios game since 2015’s Fallout 4, and suddenly the Xbox Series X has a real case to make against the PS5.
“There’s nothing that’s more difficult for me than disappointing the Xbox community, and just to watch the community lose confidence, be disappointed. I’m disappointed, I’m upset with myself,” Phil Spencer, Head of Xbox said in response to the negative reaction to Redfall. Here’s your chance to make it up to everyone you disappointed.