Both Microsoft and Sony are working on new consoles. The Xbox One has come a long way since the early days. Xbox One X, despite being powerful, isn't allowed to spread its wings and harness that power for exclusive titles.
That leaves us at an impasse, one that Microsoft and Sony will address by the end of 2020. The new Xbox may come in several forms if rumors are to be believed. Meanwhile, rumors point to the PS5 being a "monster" with a new PSVR headset included. It's time to let these two future consoles face off in a battle that will become reality all too soon.
Scarlett, Anaconda, Lockhart, Oh My!
Codenames have been flying around recently surrounding the next generation of Xbox consoles. It all started with Phil Spencer confirming that Microsoft is working on next-generation hardware at E3 2018.
From here, rumors began to surface about Project Scarlett, which is supposed to be the current name of their next-gen offering. Things got really interesting in mid-December of 2018 when Windows Central reported that Microsoft is releasing not one, but two consoles in 2020 to kick off the new generation.
Both fall under the Project Scarlett moniker, but they have names of their own. Anaconda is supposed to be the successor to the Xbox One X. It's allegedly going to be a beast of a machine that will push the envelope for gaming hardware by offering 4K resolution and frame rates upwards of 240 FPS.
There aren't any specs to speak of just yet. In addition to Anaconda, there is also Lockhart, which is rumored to be the next Xbox One S. It won't be as powerful as Anaconda, but it will be more affordable as a result. This suggests a similar situation to what we have this generation with the S and the X.
Microsoft has been lagging behind Sony this generation. How can they come back from the brink with these new consoles? It's time we discussed the elephant in the room.
Microsoft Canceling First-Party Titles: Are They Giving Sony The Edge?
Power is great, and Xbox One X is full of it, but there's a larger issue here, and that's Microsoft's streak of cancellations. It's not outside the realm of reason to say that Sony's exclusives have been killing it in 2018. Consider titles like these:
- Horizon: Zero Dawn
- Persona 5
- Detroit: Become Human
- Days Gone
- God of War
- The Last of Us 2
Those are just the ones off the top of my head, but I'm sure there's plenty I'm missing. These titles represent some of the most hyped releases we've ever seen this generation. Normally you don't see heavy hitters like these, or at least, not as many of them.
Meanwhile, Microsoft released, uh, not much? What's going on? They can't afford to keep giving Sony the edge with this amazing releases. They need more first-party titles, not less. This brings me to my main contention: Scalebound.
Yes, I know this is going to open some wounds, but we need to talk about this. Scorpio/Xbox Two will only succeed if it has games to back up that horsepower it's sporting. Scalebound from Platinum Games was looking like a great action brawler with a rockability flavor and dragons! It was a sign of better times for Xbox owners.
Then, with a single statement, it all came crashing down:
"After careful deliberation, Microsoft Studios ha come to the decision to end production for Scalebound. We're working hard to deliver an amazing lineup of games to our fans this year, including Halo Wars 2, Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2, Sea of Thieves, and other great experiences."
An excellent Forbes Article mirrors my opinion on this subject.
Having played Halo Wars 2, it's pretty good, but it's not the breakout title that Xbox needs to get back on the map. Furthermore, Gears of War 4 was kind of a let down in my opinion. Crackdown 3, Sea of Thieves, and State of Decay 2 are all decent entries, but none of them have grabbed the spotlight as of yet.
Beyond Scalebound, Microsoft also axed Phantom Dust, Project Spark, and Fable Legends recently. Now, Phantom Dust will still probably get an HD remaster, but the new title is gone for good. It makes me want to tear my hair out, because Sony has been pushing ahead at full-speed since E3 2016 and the titles have delivered.
I agree with the aforementioned Forbes article, that this problem has been mounting for years. Microsoft simply isn't offering enough of a reason to take their console over Sony's, and that's why the gap has been growing between the two company's console sales.
Now, we need to give credit where it's due. Microsoft's E3 20187 press conference was packed with great games. Not a ton of them were exclusive, but they did announce they several new and major studios have been purchased to work with Microsoft exclusively.
These include studios like Ninja Theory, Undead Labs, Playground Games, Compulsion Games, and a new studio named The Intiative. If anything, this shows that Phil Spencer understands the importance of top talent and great games. This could bode very well for the next generation, but we won't know until these studios have had time to let their new projects come to life.
When Will Microsoft Embrace VR?
Sony's PlayStation VR headset has enjoyed respectable success since it launched, but Microsoft has yet to release one of their own. In 2016, Phil Spencer said that the Xbox One X would support high-end VR, but that never happened.
In an interview with Gameindustry.biz, Microsoft's chief marketing office of gaming, Mike Nichols, shot down any chances of seeing VR on Xbox One. He suggested you go to PC for that experience as they are focusing on experiences you can play on your TV.
It's a shame, because VR really is an experience that anyone should have the option of trying. It's also odd, because Microsoft has several VR headsets for PC they've worked on with partners like Samsung and Acer. They also have the Hololens that has been gaining traction outside of gaming.
While it's possible they could change their minds for Xbox 2, as of right now it looks like Sony will continue to dominate the VR market on PS5.
The Beginning of a New War
What Microsoft tried to do with Xbox One, but were ultimately shot down for, could become the norm for future consoles. We've discussed game streaming several times before in the past, but with Project xCloud, Microsoft is actually bringing the concept to life.
There's also the rumors that an Xbox One without a disc drive is in the cards for 2019, complete with a program to turn your discs into digital licenses. It sounds crazy, but Microsoft is really embracing streaming and the digital realm faster than anyone expected.
Meanwhile, despite the existence of PlayStation Now, the PS5 doesn't seem to be taking this approach. Microsoft is trying to make everyone happy with new consoles, multiple options, and a streaming service to make their games playable on all manner of devices.
Could this approach give them the edge next generation, or are they spreading themselves too thin?
Let the debate begin!