‘Broken’ Xbox Series X Promise Exposes Cross-Gen Strategy Weakness

July 24, 2020 3:09 PM UTC
Xbox always needed exclusives to sell the Series X console. They should have been upfront about that, rather than stringing us along.
  • We were led to believe the Xbox Series X would initially feature no exclusive games.
  • All Xbox exclusives were seemingly set to launch on both the Series X and Xbox One for a least a “couple” of years.
  • The next generation isn’t even here, and it looks like Xbox is already breaking that promise.

Despite Microsoft’s painstaking steps toward transparency, there’s still plenty of confusion about the Xbox Series X.

For months, Xbox led us to believe the Series X wouldn’t feature first-party exclusives at launch.

Here’s what Game Studios head Max Booty said in January:

As our content comes out over the next year, two years, all of our games, sort of like PC, will play up and down that family of devices.

We want to make sure that if someone invests in Xbox between now and [Series X] that they feel that they made a good investment and that we’re committed to them with content.

And here’s what Xbox chief Phil Spencer said eight days ago:

You won’t be forced into the next generation. We want every Xbox player to play all the new games from Xbox Game Studios. That’s why Xbox Game Studios titles we release in the next couple of years—like Halo Infinite—will be available and play great on Xbox Series X and Xbox One. We won’t force you to upgrade to Xbox Series X at launch to play Xbox exclusives.

It increasingly looks like this just isn’t true.

Why Did Xbox Lead Us On?

Yesterday’s showcase featured surprisingly few games with the phrase “Xbox One” underneath their titles.

Confused fans took to Twitter, hoping Microsoft would assuage their concerns. They were sorely disappointed.

Aaron Greenberg, general manager of Xbox marketing, delivered a message very different from the one long peddled by Booty and Spencer.

This tweet jars with the “gamer-friendly” image Xbox has worked so hard to curate ahead of the Series X launch. | Source: Twitter

Honestly, it’s not hard to feel betrayed.

The hard reality is we should have seen it coming.

Microsoft’s Next-Gen Promise Was Never Really an Option

The “promise” that first-party titles would launch simultaneously on Xbox One and Series X always raised a host of questions.

For example: If the next-gen is really that much of a technical leap – which it is – then how could studios show off the full potential of the Series X while making new titles playable on last-gen hardware?

That raises another question.

If developers limit the scope of their games to make them compatible with Xbox One – or at least divert attention away from making the next-gen experience as magnificent as possible – then is cross-gen support really consumer-friendly?

The Xbox Series X Needs Exclusives – Why Not Just Admit It?

Of course you need exclusives to market a console. Why not just admit that upfront? | Source: Microsoft

I don’t think anyone would have held it against Xbox for reserving its most ambitious exclusives for the Series X.

After all, no one’s going to buy a console if it doesn’t feature compelling gameplay experiences that take full advantage of the hardware.

Greenberg’s statement proves the company knew some studios weren’t going to go forward with both Xbox Series X and Xbox One versions.

What’s baffling is that they weren’t upfront about this from the start.

The only thing their “promise” has done is chip away at the goodwill Microsoft has worked so hard to curate.

As unforced errors go, this one was pretty bad.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.

Josiah Wilmoth edited this article for CCN.com. If you see a breach of our Code of Ethics or find a factual, spelling, or grammar error, please contact us.

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William Worrall is a professional writer based out of the UK who has been writing about video and tabletop games for over a decade and has covered industry events such as EGX and UKGE. Visit his website, contact him at william.worrall@ccn.com, see his LinkedIn profile here, or check him out on Muck Rack.