An Argument for Xbox's Diverse Future

August was a fascinating month for Xbox.

We saw what’s possibly the most next gen experience through Flight Simulator which unsurprisingly racked in some of the highest metacritic scores Xbox has seen in recent memory, we saw a beloved franchise in a new light through Battletoads, we saw a powerful interactive thriller telling a trans person’s story from one of the best devs in that genre through Tell Me Why and ended with quite possibly the best turn based rpg in recent years through Wasteland 3, which some have lauded to be their game of the generation even.

Reading that, it’s clear one thing that looms over this is the observation and to a great extent, an actual reality of Xbox of moving forward and that is - Diversity of Game Experiences.

All of these games also released day 1 on Game Pass.

Now, I’ve read several things about Game Pass on several forums and around twitter threads every time it comes up and it can generally reduced to these statements: “When and where’s the next big AAA coming?” “lol stop no one cares about indie games” “this is gamepass filler” And as of recent, “Quality > Quantity”

One thing people need to realize about Game Pass is not everything on there is gonna cater to you specifically. The library has to be diverse enough to include all kinds of gamers.

I hate to bring up Netflix (and I hate the analogy of game pass being Netflix for Games) but a lot of stuff on there might simply not be for you, but they exist to appeal to a different crowd and that’s completely fine as long as you get what you’re looking for as well.

This is also the reason why the new fanboy phrase in town “gamepass fodder” is a god awful term as it exists only to appease a narrow range of experiences, and anything outside it is seen to be bad or low quality just because it doesn’t fall under that range. People need to realize Game pass can’t thrive with a narrow range of games that just appeal to the traditional crowd who demand or play only (or at least claim to) blockbuster AAAs.

Xbox’s strategy moving forward is driven by diversity, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. It shall bring in all kinds of audiences who don’t all play the same kind of games.

That’s one thing Sony does different. Most of their first/second party games are designed to be able to be played by the same crowd repeatedly. The people who played Spiderman are the same ones who played God of War who are the same people who played Ghost of Tsushima and shall be the same people playing Horizon. Bloodborne was a rare exception and Demon’s Souls is a good return to that appeal. (And the thing is their approach is completely fine as well because it works wonders in their favor. The argument is precisely that there’s space for both approaches this coming generation and forward. Both Sony and Microsoft can and do have many things to learn from each other and on some levels, will be forced to)

Xbox on the other hand, by their own doing have to diversify their portfolio A LOT MORE. But there’s good pockets they are already capturing and entering the Zeitgeist as whispers of what to expect.

If you want solid western RPGs, you now know Xbox is the place to be this coming gen. If you want the best racing games, Xbox has you covered. If you want the best indie program, ID@Xbox has got you covered. Now with Game Pass, indies have a much better and bigger limelight to showcase their craft to an immediately large crowd who have subscribed with good probability of wanting to try games they wouldn’t generally have if they had to pay full price on these new and foreign experiences. This has also resulted in some games (like Descenders) boosting their sales outside the service even while being on game pass.

Xbox’s current commitment to simultaneously release their games on steam as well means they know why its important to not ignore the biggest pc platform but also more importantly, the everlasting importance of permanent ownership as opposed to subscriptions. Xbox’s entire ethos around Game Pass rests on games also being available to purchase elsewhere to keep forever, otherwise, it’s a very troubling future that Xbox is gonna get shafted over from the rest of the industry, unless of course they’re the ones who shall change the landscape for the worse, but that’s a concern that’s unfounded for now as all their moves and messaging making it evident enough they’re gonna keep perpetual ownership as an integral part of their vision.

This is also what distinguishes them quite significantly from services like Netflix where media ownership is increasingly useless and cared about by fewer people than ever.

This however has the side effect of spreading themselves a bit thin and as a result, fail to capture large swathes of audiences on fewer games that the competition designs its strategy around.

Going back, I mentioned the new meme in town hating on Xbox - “Quality > Quantity”

This only exists to reinforce the idea of what’s “quality” being defined by the narrow experience of what its competition provides and fails to capture the untapped paradigm of reaching more people in a different way. It aims to suggest that somehow making more games means making worse games which on immediate hearing may sound reasonable but ignores the fact that making more games doesn’t mean making more of the same games. All of these games are not attempting to necessarily capture all of the same audience. Sure, it’s amazing to bring in new audiences but that’s not the core goal of diversity in offering.

As a result, the argument of quality > quantity rests on that presumption that all of this quantity is meant for one type of gamer when it’s actually the case that he or she probably like a narrower range of those games and are actually getting the same amount of games they used to get previously, only just that now, a wholly wider array of new audience are getting games that probably weren’t even being made anymore.

Going back to the strategy of Sony vs Xbox, you don’t necessarily make games that capture as big an audience as possible, but instead make a service that captures as big an audience as possible, and instead have games that attempt to capture these several pockets of audience, ranging from people who play big blockbuster AAA cinematic action adventures to more marginalised people who want to see themselves being represented powerfully and responsibly in games to those only play sports games to those who are salivating for the next indie roguelike to those who are willing to experience the next obscure avant garde interactive thriller (12 Minutes hype!), Game Pass is gonna have it all.

This is what Xbox is a platform in the coming years.

There’s good reason for people to expect more and demand more from Xbox, there’s good reason to expect their messaging to be as clear as possible, there’s good reason to expect their marketing to get its shit together, but one thing that’s even more clear is this vision of diversity of experience that attempts to capture more audiences in more ways than one. And sure, not all of these games as a result of more diversity in offering are gonna be straight GOTY after GOTY, but I feel that’s a rather shortsighted way to approach the medium in the first place. A better way is to provide the traditional experiences large swathes of people want to have and would qualify as their GOTYs but also provide games that generally get shafted from “prestige” discussions or go under the rug simply for being the kind of games they want to be in the first place.

I’m aware some may not like that but I think the arguments I made above can at least show good reason so as to why it’s not just completely fine for Xbox to go that route, but is a fascinating new paradigm that shall prove to be successful for Xbox as a platform and us gamers who shall get to experience the most diverse lineup of quality games in history!

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This may be the best post I’ve read on this forum so far, congratulations on your thorough analysis. I may chime in later on, but currently it’s 6AM here and my brain is on standby.

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Thank you so much! Yeah it was quite early in the morning here as well when I started writing this lol, not quite that early, but I can relate to the jadedness that comes with it haha

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You took the words out of my mouth with this post. Say what you will about Netflix or Game Pass, they are unabashedly unafraid to make content that is on the more niche side of things because it helps boost their platform. Existing fans get great content and a whole generation of new fans find their next favourite genre. As much as I am a traditionalist (I love Physical Media and Movie Theatres) I will be the first to admit that the shift to services has lead to better, more diverse content being made.

And look how some of it can catch on! Grounded is a big hit. I don’t see that game doing as well without the help of Game Pass really helping spread positive WOM and FOMO among non-subscribers.

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Absolutely stellar post OP.

For my personal tastes, Game Pass is crushing it. So much variety and scope, and I can dip my toes in as little or as much as I want.

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I’ve said for a while that I don’t want Microsoft and Xbox to feel like they need to directly answer everything Sony has. They don’t need to have an answer to God of War, or TLOU2. What they DO need are more unique experiences to stand out. Flight Simulator, Gears Tactics are great examples.

Of course console war monkeys will throw dung and say “lulz pc and not on xbox herp derp”

Did people harp on Nintendo when they made great hand held games that weren’t on home consoles? If Xbox wants to support multiple platforms then that’s their prerogative.

All I care about, is MS delivering quality experiences and contributing to the industry? Yes…yes they are…in fact they’ve been on a killing spree this year. Their the only publisher with 2 90+ rated games, also with Gears Tactics, Wasteland 3 and Tell me Why and even Battletoads turned out better than expected

At this point I’m done arguing with idiots that use the same regurgitated talking points

“bu buh not teh exclusivezz”
“lulz not teh triple aaaaaa”

I think it is a dying mentality. To be perfectly honest I feel console wars today are rather tame compared to 10-20 years ago. Especially now that even the big 3 are working together, crossplay is a thing and most of the console dung flinging doesn’t exist outside of the Twitter space and maybe a few dead forums like System wars. There are tons of photos of Phil and Aaron Greenberg hanging around with Shu, Reggie etc. Ted Price of Insomniac has a fantastic podcast and he had Phil on it and Phil even congratulated them on joining Sony.

As long as MS keeps up the output they had this year throughout the next gen and beyond then peoples perception of Xbox will change. It’ll be forgotten about as the brand of games like ReCore and Crackdown 3 and be more known for games like Avowed, Hellblade 2, Age of Empires and other diverse yet high quality experiences.

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“Hardcore” gamers and ssome console fanboys get way too caught up in smelling their own farts, really. Nintendo, for example, do their own thing. For every 90 meta stunner like Mario and Zelda, they have a 70 meta Kirby game and more 70-80 titles. And the fans are still happy with the Kirby game with its faults. I know that’s usually followed by “Hurr durr, Nintendo doesn’t have 3rd parties to rely on”. But Nintendo and their fans are satisfied and happy with the variety of output most of the time. Just a bit obsessive on “When’s the next direct”.

It’s clear Microsoft are looking at what Nintendo’s doing over Sony but doing it in their own manner. And that’s just a benefit to all gaming when you have all three first party publishers chasing after different genres.

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I think the best strategy is to have a good balance, Sony have the problem of using the same or similar gameplay and gamestyles, xbox’s strategy could do more state of the art highly polished story driven games.

Xbox does have these state of the art story driven games in the works, sony are also branching out with that arena mp car combat game, VR titles and others.

I dont think there strategies for content are all that different its just that there devs are at different stages of development.

This industry is not predictable at all, it can change completely in just a few years, who would of thought the xbox 360 would sell as much as the successor to the PS2? or fortnite would be one of the biggest games this gen.

There will always be fan boys + girls who will say anything to try and mould the narrative to there opinion, best thing to do is just delete that from your life.

In the end it will come down to the quality + value of the products/services and how they are marketed, if you get really deep into it you will find that marketing companies and sony/Microsoft will use psychological tricks and habbits to sell there products. I personally think sony do a better job at this partly because the action AAA Story driven games are more marketable, however now xbox is delivering more high quality products and they are marketing ge pass very well. If I was head of xbox marketing I would continue with great gamepass ads highlighting the value, quality + quanity of games and create more focused ads which focus on quality and pleads to emotion (eg. A flight sim ad showing the beautiful visuals along with pleads to emotion which would entail a song like this

Mainly the “go where you wanna go part”

and maybe a tag line like “when our reality maybe getting you down, come fly in ours”

Then at the end it says *free on gamepass.

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What a OP. Great job.

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Firstly, Bravo. This hits the point so cleanly.

Xbox also has a platform that supports the diverse future. Your breakdown highlights the best entry point for new gamers to be able to “Jump in” as it were.

Having a cross generational plan that works hand in hand with X cloud allows the diverse games to catch the attention of casual gamers. Market growth is how gaming needs to expand, not fighting tooth and nail for the money of the 200 + million gamers from this generation

When it comes to how a casual gamer will gamepass, I look to my sister and her kids. She played through Halo 1 and 2 with me in co- op as a teenager but in the years since, She has not played anything until last year. I gave her my Xbox One S and shouted her 3 months of game pass.

The diversity of titles gave her the ability to find stuff for her and the kids to play. She finished Ori and the Blind Forest before I did. I got a call at 10pm with her crying on the phone to me about how sad the ending was. I asked what she would play next. She already had Red Dead Redemption 2 downloaded and a month later, I got another tear filled phone call.

Anecdote aside, This is why I believe that the diverse future for Microsoft has such potential and with X cloud alongside it, the potential market opens up to more people. Markets grow and everyone has the potential to make more money, which means more opertunity for smaller games to find more players.

Looking even further ahead, game pass being a mechanism for indies and smaller teams at established developers to try new ideas gives potential that with success, they may be able to scale up their desires with the next title and take it to a publisher.

This idea excites me. We have already seen smaller studios launch into gamepass and return again with their next game because it gives them a audience. That is tough for any group, no matter what you are selling.

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I’m humbled to read all these responses, and seem to lack enough time and resolve to reply to everyone haha, I’ll eventually do but in the meantime, I’m super glad to see this is getting recognized this much in the first place, and many thanks to @Sikamikanico for sharing the post/thread on twitter for more outreach. I expect to see some skepticism and possiblly well reasoned counters in some ways or appeals to moderation in other ways, but that should be the goal of every fruitful conversation imo, we so often see people going at each others’ throats with little semblance of good faith in their rhetoric, it can get super toxic. So I’m glad there’s a place where healthy discourse can thrive!

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Fantastic post Ruthwik.

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Excellent post Ruthwik.

I pretty much agree with everything you said and im more hyped for Microsoft’s first party studios than I am Sony’s because I don’t know what to fully expect which is exciting. Granted, not every game is going to be for me but having a massive amount of varied games in Game Pass makes it a lot more enticing to sign up and check it all out.

With that said, as someone who’s a single player console only gamer who loves single player third person story driven games, I would like to see Microsoft give me one of these top tier AAA games at least every other year because they’re excellent in their own right and would also bring more consumers into the eco-system and Game Pass.

I currently have the following Xbox Series X exclusives on my list that I want to play -

  • Halo Infinite - first person open world shooter set in a sci-fi universe
  • Avowed - first person RPG said to be Obsidian’s version of Skyrim
  • Fable - third person fantasy action RPG
  • Hellblade II: Senua’s Saga - third person story driven action adventure game
  • State of Decay 3 - third person action survival game
  • Everwild - honestly, does anyone know exactly what this game will be? Anyway…
  • Gears Tactics - isometric turn based strategy RPG
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps - excellent 2D action adventure platformer

Hellblade 2 and Fable will fit my single player third person story driven game preference while the rest will fit a bunch of other genres and perspectives that I want to play. I don’t want every game to be like Hellblade or Fable but at the same time, I don’t want the majority of Microsoft’s games to be in first person either as I highly prefer third person over first person for various reasons. I don’t mind some but 80% of the games I play in a generation are not in first person. This is my only concern.

Love the variety and different genres especially since I want to play them but also concerned that the majority will be in first person which does turn me off. The game itself (like Halo Infinite) has to impress me to where I simply want to play the game despite it being in first person. Still waiting to see what The Initiative’s next gen title will be as well as InXile’s next gen title.

But overall, the variety in Game Pass and obviously, Game Pass itself is one of the many reasons why im going with Xbox Series X as my primary gaming console for next generation.

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completely agreed and as I mentioned, this audience is also very important to capture (I personally am generall a third person story driven game preferring guy as well), so it’s in Xbox’s best interest to NOT ignore them, especially just because their competition Sony has been and shall continue to be major proponents of such experiences. Diversity should NOT come at the cost of failing to read the market and seeing where the demand is. Xbox is already creating new avenues for demand with Game Pass already having that aspect built into it. I mentioned in another post about how single player games are super important and that there’s value in games ending after a dozen or so hours, even though many Xbox centric gamers sometimes claim “well, those games end and you’ll not come back to them unlike xbox games which you can keep playing”

Xbox would be making a huge mistake if live service games became their only avenue of presenting uniqueness. Sure, it can be and has been their core for a long time, but these single player experiences are just as important to preserve and to keep producing. On that front, I’m super excited and expect great singleplayer experiences in Halo campaign, Hellblade 2, Fable, Avowed, Psychonauts 2, InXile’s next RPG, and whatever Initiative is doing (even if it has multiplayer elements, I expect a super strong singleplayer as well)!

What a great and thoughtful post.

I agree, August had a lot of great and diverse games from Xbox Game Studios and Id@Xbox. And I didn’t even started Wasteland 3.

Please give me more “game pass fodder”.

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I’d also add to the fantastic analysis by the OP that indies often ‘graduate’ into larger studios that take on more and more ambitious projects. CDPR had an indie darling with The Witcher once upon a time. Now their next title is easily the single biggest release in the industry this year and maybe this whole generation.

GP lets users taste test a TON of games without any risk at all. Some of these will become dark horse hits, and maybe propel the studios into the spotlight on future projects. In that way, GP is helping foster tomorrow’s next big thing and when these devs do push their ambitions further, they will likely return to GP to the audience that propelled them to such success in the first place.

Someone on twitter said it best: Game Pass lets us ask 'Is this game worth your time?" instead of asking “Is this game worth your money?”

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A lot of people do say that those single player games are one and done but that’s what they’re meant to be and as someone who doesn’t replay games, every game technically is a one and done for me personally. I have no issues with “live service” games but as a single player gamer, only if there’s post launch single player DLC and expansions.

The Division 2 is a perfect example. Played and completed the game at launch but went back to it this past March when they released the Warlords of New York expansion. I know a game like Halo Infinite will be more focused around the online multi-player aspects but if I can get one or two good single player story driven expansions a year even if I have to pay for them, im perfectly fine with that.

Hellblade 2 should be a complete one and done story because that’s what the first game was. Fable should be similar to The Witcher III. An amazing action RPG that’s probably going to be over 100 hours long with single player expansions post launch. I know the old games had co-op which is fine as long as it doesn’t interfere with my single player experience. I see Avowed as being the same as Fable but without co-op.

Despite being more of an online multi-player experience, I have watched the gameplay trailer for Halo Infinite 12 times. I really want to explore that open world solo. Can’t wait. In the mean time, once I get Xbox Series X, I’ll be playing through the campaign in all the previous Halo games. Looking forward to all of them as I want to get into the franchise and have never played them before.

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Great post! It can be summarized in one sentence: Allow Xbox to find its own identity just like people have accepted for Nintendo since long. This entails many of the things you mentioned, but the crucial part is that the old tired narratives just need to die, and unfortunately they will die slowly.

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Those trolls in the OT thread are conspicuously absent here.

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Wow. I envy you more than you can imagine, lol.

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