If you ride on the bus of video game fans, you should get a seat belt warning. To wit: Last month it seemed like everyone was going crazy because Microsoft swallowed half of the industry. Now, after some major delays, it’s all “Dead console!!!” this and “Xbox has no exclusives!!!” That. Hope you strapped in!
There is, to be fair, precedent for observers to be concerned about Xbox’s impending slate. Throughout the Xbox One’s lifecycle, players (rightly) criticized the platform for having few exclusive lightning rods, especially during the initial launch window. But in recent years, Microsoft has been on a wave of acquisitions, growing the ranks of its first-party studios as one console generation waned and another took off.
By the launch of the Xbox Series X/S in November 2020, almost two dozen studios were under Xbox’s first-party umbrella. last March, regulators approved Microsoft’s then-seismic $7.5 billion acquisition of ZeniMax, Bethesda’s parent company and the grandparent company (yes, that’s a technical term; no, don’t check) of a number of other prestigious studios, including Arkane, the makers of dishonored† Then the big one: in January, Microsoft declared an intention to buy Activision Blizzard, despite the much publicized miseryfor the price of the defense budget of a European country†
In the immediate aftermath of the deal – which has been approved by Activision shareholders, which lotbut still needs the green light from regulators – a lot of attention was paid to the number of studios that Microsoft had acquired. Gaming influencers breathlessly shared smashing infographics about how many legacy franchises were now technically first-party Xbox games, implying that Xbox had the sturdiest lineup of exclusive games. Outlets like The edge and the guard ran trend pieces that questioned whether Microsoft was monopolizing the games industry.
But the wind has turned. Last week, Bethesda announced that it would slow down starfieldits massive space-faring RPG slated for release on November 11, 2022. In the same breath, the company also said it was pushing back Arkane’s vampire shooter, redfall, which was initially slated for a summer release. Both are now slated to open indefinitely into the “first half” of 2023, essentially leaving Microsoft’s fall list — historically the busiest time of the year — running out of hot-ticket exclusives.
“Shit”, the Twitch streamer KidSmoovewhose bio states that “Xbox is the best box”, said on Twitter† Some people pointy fingers with Xbox head Phil Spencer. others called it a “bad look”, a “PR nightmare”, and used the word “sucks” a lot. Even social media users with accounts named after Xbox — gamers who have come to be derogatoryly known as “Xbots” — disappointment expressed†
Observers have pointed to this sudden sea change through the Internet’s favored form of communication: memes†
Since the days of the Xbox One, public opinion about Microsoft has fluctuated like a pendulum; so far, the company has built up a well of goodwill for this generation. The Xbox Series X/S was a head and shoulders improvement over the Xbox One and has only gotten better since launch thanks to a steady wave of updates and quality of life improvements. Last fall, the console release calendar was anchored by: Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5, two highly anticipated new entries in the great Xbox series. (Both series records broken.) Not to mention Microsoft’s hugely popular games-on-demand service, Xbox Game Pass, which regularly adds some of the best games to its rotating library. redfall and starfield were highly anticipated additions to Microsoft’s ecosystem, so the collective delay has tarnished that goodwill a bit.
However, some fans have taken the hit to heart. Many recognize that a delayed game is better than “another” cyberpunk,” to use a phrase allegedly attributed to for some Bethesda developers. (That said, there is some sentiment out there that can basically be summed up as, “starfield better be damn awesome, OR ELSE.”) A common joke: Bethesda, instead of having a brand new game for fall, could just release Skyrim again for the 71st time. (Earned.) However, the ‘Best Bit’ award goes to this ironic video from Twitch streamer The Gladi Hater†
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Thanks for the support! pic.twitter.com/A1vylbfJD0
— The Gladihater (@TheGladihater) May 14, 2022
Jokes aside, it’s not like the Xbox lineup is completely dry this fall. It’s just not stacked like that like it was last week† Several Xbox console exclusives are planned for this year, including: cyberpunk platformer to replacethe horror game contemptand the post-apocalyptic shooter STALLER 2† Those games don’t have release dates in ink at the moment – for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which can be attributed to developing games in the midst of a goddamn pandemic – but are nonetheless still slated for 2022. (From course one of them may be delayed.)
And then there are the unknown variables. Microsoft’s June showcase, which, despite… the cancellation of E3, is still going ahead as planned. It’s unclear what will appear there or what other potential press Microsoft has planned for the year. Representatives for Xbox did not respond to a request for comment.
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