- This week, Microsoft announced that the Xbox Series X would launch in November and that the console’s flagship launch title, Halo Infinite, had been delayed to 2021.
- Without a single first-party game launching in 2020, the Xbox Series X will struggle to compete with the PS5, especially when Sony already has a huge lead over Microsoft.
- 343 Industries wouldn’t have delayed Halo Infinite unless it was completely necessary, but the decision could have a huge impact on the entire console generation.
Microsoft dropped two bombshells on Tuesday afternoon — one rather small and one incredibly large.
The small bombshell was confirmation that the Xbox Series X will launch in November, as everyone expected. After all, the Xbox One launched on November 22nd, 2013, and the 360 launched on November 22nd, 2005. Launching in November gives consumers over a month to pick up the console before Christmas. In all likelihood, Sony will opt to launch the PlayStation 5 in November as well, likely a week before or after the Xbox Series X.
The second, much larger bombshell was that Halo Infinite has been delayed to 2021. This is significant for a number of reasons, and could end up having a profound impact on the entire console generation.
There are two important points that I need to make before I press on. First of all, most consoles have terrible launch lineups. There are exceptions to this rule — Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and, ironically, Halo: Combat Evolved, to name a few — but most consoles are lucky to launch with one game that stands the test of time. After all, how many of us are still talking about Killzone: Shadow Fall or Ryse: Son of Rome? Great launch titles have little to no effect on the long-term viability or success of a game console.
Secondly, if Halo Infinite developer 343 Industries determined that delaying their game was in the best interest of the team working on the game and the fans who will end up paying $60 for it, then it had to be done. I’m bummed out that I won’t get to play Halo Infinite this fall, but I wish the team all the best in the months ahead.
Halo Infinite Development Update pic.twitter.com/TFZvXhRN9f
— Halo (@Halo) August 11, 2020
But putting aside whether or not delaying Halo Infinite is a good idea or a necessary course of action, as of today, Microsoft doesn’t have a single first-party Xbox game scheduled to launch for the remainder of 2020. Sony is not in an especially strong position itself, considering that Spider-Man: Miles Morales is the only first-party exclusive game scheduled to launch on the PS5 before the end of the year, but keep in mind that Sony totally dominated the current generation. At last count, Sony had sold 110 million PS4 consoles to the Xbox One’s 48 million. And now, instead of kicking off this generation with a bang, the Xbox Series X will launch without a flagship game this fall.
The reason this could be an issue for Microsoft is that the company has done a poor job of selling the Xbox Series X as a necessary upgrade. I’ve written about this at length already, but it’s clear that the Xbox Series X is just part of the equation for Microsoft’s next-generation strategy, and perhaps the least important part at that. Microsoft wants people to subscribe to Xbox Game Pass and play their games anywhere with xCloud game streaming.
Even if Halo Infinite did launch this fall, it would have been on Xbox One and PC, as well as any Android device if you subscribe to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. But, in theory, the brand new Halo was built for Xbox Series X, and that alone would have sold consoles. Halo might not have the same cachet that it did a decade ago, but there’s no question that fans would have rushed out to buy a new console if they knew that was the best place to play a new entry. Now they have one less reason to upgrade this fall. If anything, just get an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription and the dozens of games it includes for $15/month and save yourself a few hundred dollars.
All the while, Sony has made it abundantly clear that PS5 will be the only place to play its latest and greatest games. I’m not making any judgments about which strategy is better or smarter or more consumer-friendly (at least not here), but it’s hard to argue against Sony’s strategy being the clearer of the two. If you want to play the next Horizon, or the next Ratchet & Clank, or the next Gran Turismo, you have to upgrade to PS5. Oh, and based on the sales figures, chances are you have a PS4, so why not stay put and keep your trophies and friends.
Microsoft doesn’t need a double off the wall to catch up with Sony. It needs a grand slam. Losing Halo Infinite as a launch title leaves the door wide open for Sony to transition into a new generation without any roadblocks, barring a shocking price disparity, which might still be in the cards with the Xbox Series S. But if Microsoft doesn’t have an ace in the hole this fall, Sony might build an insurmountable lead before the generation even truly begins.