The Xbox One X’s Issue Isn’t Hardware, It’s The Games

The Xbox One X’s Issue Isn’t Hardware, It’s The Games
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Image: Alex Walker/Kotaku

Xbox held a preview event for the Xbox One X, showing off their first and third party games. But while it was nice to see more of the console up close, the most telling thing was that the most popular game wasn’t running on an Xbox at all.

Held at the ballroom in Sydney’s Luna Park, Xbox decked out the entire room with a bunch of TVs, a suite of Xbox One X debug consoles, and a couple of PCs.

It was basically Xbox’s showcase library for the holidays: Cuphead, Forza Motorsport 7, Super Lucky’s Tale, Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Age of Empires 1: Definitive Edition, Disneyland Adventures, Gears of War 4, Path of Exile, Quantum Break and, unsurprisingly, Battlegrounds.

Battlegrounds only had two stations, didn’t have full controller support, and you were playing on a PC against people with mouse and keyboard. Who could choose what gun they wanted to drop when picking something up. Who could move around while looking in another direction far more comfortably. Who had much finer control of PUBG‘s recoil.

But that didn’t stop it from being the most popular game at the venue.

The Minecraft Xbox One S console was on show too; it’s very, very pretty. Image: Alex Walker/Kotaku

It’s a microcosm of the biggest hurdle the Xbox One X has to face. The console itself, the hardware inside, is fine. More than fine, really. It’s comfortably ahead of the PS4 Pro, and it’ll be priced as such. But when Microsoft proclaims they have the most powerful console on the planet, they’re right.

But that’s only part of the puzzle.

The hurdle that the Xbox has to get over, one it’s been troubled by since the launch of the Xbox One, is the games. There’s always been that element of games looking slightly finer on the stock PS4, with a more detailed effect here, improved texture there. The difference wasn’t night and day, even though the occasional game (like Dark Souls 3) would have issues.

The problem was the Xbox One didn’t have enough exclusives that people wanted to play – or at least enough console exclusives that people wanted to play on the couch. Rise of the Tomb Raider didn’t turn out to be Horizon Zero Dawn. Sunset Overdrive was neat, but too MTV for its own good. And while Forza Horizon 3 is fantastic, the best casual racer of the last few years, that’s also a game that’s not really for everyone. Gears 4 has a similar problem.

It’s not accessible in the way that, say, Rocket League was. Which came to Xbox eventually, but not before PS+ users got it for free. And while Lara’s adventures are always well worth their time, they’re also available on a console now that also has Nathan Drake. And The Last of Us. And a Crash Bandicoot remaster.

The things people really want either aren’t on Xbox, weren’t on them initially, or are handicapped in some fashion (like Call of Duty and Destiny).

Which is why PUBG on the Xbox is so important.

Gizmodo’s Campbell Simpson, playing some Forza 7. Image: Alex Walker/Kotaku

It wasn’t though the games on show weren’t exciting, and they looked stunning to boot. Microsoft led with Forza 7 when it first revealed the technical power of the Xbox One X, and it’s as buttery smooth in person as all the videos have shown. It won’t be as accessible as Forza Horizon, but if racing is your thing then you’ll probably be satisfied.

Other games there were ones I was able to check out at Gamescom, but not record footage of. That included Super Lucky’s Tale and Age of Empires 1: Definitive Edition, both builds were the same that I played in Germany. The sound buggered up on AOE 1, but if you want to see how the game holds up visually you can get an idea of that below.

Not every game on the show floor had direct capture. Cuphead, Path of Exile and AC: Origins didn’t, and neither did PUBG even though it was running from a PC.

And even though PUBG only had two demo stations, it was the star of the show. You could only scroll through your inventory with the D-Pad, and there was a slight delay with every button press. Running around was fine, and driving vehicles was a little easier.

The actual process of aiming and killing people was a non-starter. The sensitivity was completely buggered with the longer scopes, and the game will need plenty of adjustments (fixed recoil, better inventory management) before it handles comfortably on consoles.

Of course, Microsoft can say that Xbox One X will be the best place to buy multi-platform games. And there’s no doubt that it will – the hardware is something else.

But then we get into the other problem.

As it stands, the Xbox One X will cost $649 at launch. In a year or two, we’ll start seeing bundles around $500 or $550. Buy a game or two at Christmas and you’re pushing $700 again, not to mention if you throw another controller into the mix.

For someone who hasn’t jumped on this console generation at all, that’s not a terrible proposition. But for someone who’s already invested into an Xbox One S, PS4 or a PS4 Pro, it’s a hell of a lot of money. Cheaper than building a PC that could reliably play games at 4K/30fps for the next few years, but not cheap.

That’s why the Xbox One S has been the best selling console in Australia for most of the year: price. That hasn’t solved problems with the Xbox not having enough compelling exclusives, although deals like PUBG and Path of Exile show that the company is getting there.

It just won’t be this year.


  • Whole reason why for the first time ever I bought play station console this year. I’ve always been a nintendo or xbox man swapping between their consoles. However the last 10 years nintendo has been fairly pathetic and while I’m liking what I’ve seen of the switch so far its not enough to get me to jump back. This has meant I’ve been an xbox fan since the release of the original xbox.

    Unfortunately at the start of this year I was faced with a dilemma, there wasn’t a single xbox release on the horizon that excited me while sony was releasing many games that had me keen to try, horizon zero dawn, the remastered kingdom hearts games and plenty of final fantasy which as I’ve never owned a playstation before were all new to me, not to mention a new digimon game 🙂 .

    All of this boils down to a problem, who cares if your new xbox is the most powerful console ever if the whole point of a gaming console isn’t there. I hope they start releasing good games again but sadly i can’t see them recovering this gen.

    • From comments from Larry, I think MS is aware. But it’s balanced against that it takes years to get games out.

      MS could really do with a acquisition of a decent sized publisher to bolster its ranks (although that would suck as an actual gamer).

      • Yeah, Phil Spencer seemed to make a positive impact on the gaming side, but even he can’t just rush the games out the door.

        I ended up pretty disillusioned with my Xbox One in the end. I found I was relying on my Laptop more and more for gaming, whilst my Xbox gathered dust. Hell my OG Xbox and Xbox 360 got a ton more play than the One. So I sold it and my 25+ barely-touched games, and put the money into a killer PC rig. I’m playing more games than ever now, so yeah, as a long-time Xbox guy (jumped ship from the Dreamcast to Xbox because SEGA & Project Gotham), there was literally nothing for me on the system I couldn’t play anywhere else. That and I didn’t have the patience to wait. My Steam Library was huge as it was, and most of it begging to be played. Then there’s the emulation side of stuff – I love tinkering around in emulators and the like, so the PC as my go-to just made sense. I’ve got a Switch too, so between those two, I’m well and truly covered. I wish the One story would have ended differently for me, but ahh well.

  • For twenty years, never before have I not been compelled to own every console on the market.
    4 years later I still can’t justify getting an Xbox One. I just….don’t need one. That’s is biggest problem. I NEED a Switch (when Odyssey drops). I’ve NEEDED a PS4. Xbox though, it’s just doesn’t have it this generation. It’s sad really. I look forward to walking into EB Games sometime in the future to dump $500+ on Xbox hardware with a grin from ear to ear, but it doesn’t look to be anytime soon.

  • if the one x did double duty as a pc that can access win32 so i could play my GOG library or Steam library and run word, it would be perfect for me.
    i get a pc for normal everyday tasks and i get a console when there is a game i might want to try or link with (non existent) friends.
    its kind of the point to win 10’s onecore and developing modular design so hopefully this may happen down the track.

    • TBH … I thought this might have happened last E3 when the whirlwind rumours about the URL began to form. Maybe one day … Phil makes no apologies for releasing first party’s on Steam as well.

  • Ugh … the exclusives chestnut again. The best games aren’t exclusives – they’re ubiquitous. Xbox OS and services still surpass PlayStation’s by a goddamn country mile. My PS4 sits as a glorified Netflix box under the telly. Don’t @ me.

      • Depends what you like, I have a PS4 Pro and the only game I’ve played was HZD at launch, I’ve played all the Uncharted games apart from the new one and loved The Last of Us, but my favourite genre is open world survival, I have put more hours into ARK on Xbox than any game ever and it was still in preview and I’m currentl obsessed with Conan Exiles, I find Sony have better story driven single player games but I’m all about the online multiplayer and I feel Xbox has better games for that. And now I can know I am playing the best console version I can’t wait for my new Xbox.

      • HAHAHA you can keep Nathan Drake running around like Bambi on ice only shooting one kind of gun at a time with 1/2 assed Assassins Creed stealth mechanics. I like to mostly play my games, not mostly watch them. Ditto for ND’s tarted up zombie melodrama.

        • Uncharteds are excellent, but The Last of Us is a masterpiece. An utter masterpiece.

          Apart from Naughty Dog, I don’t play my PS4 at all. I’m an xbox guy for the most part, but saying the best games aren’t exclusives? I disagree. TLOU is a good example. One of the best game experiences I’ve ever had

          • Cannot stand naughty dog games. They are bland interactive movies with horrible combat controls. I don’t get why people rave about them. To me they are marginally better than assassins creed and that’s hardly a compliment.

    • Most of the best games are exclusives haha. Xbox sucks and Gears of 4 is the only good exclusive. The 360 was great but MS dropped the plot, then shit on it and reversed over it. The OS is shit, the UI is foul and the online has half the fukn player base. Ps4 is the first Sony console I’ve owned after being disappointed by the xbox one.

    • Your’re right about MS having a better OS. I bought a PS4 Pro for the games, but the UX/UI is awful. My brothers GF couldn’t even figure out where to insert the disk, and the process to navigate Blu-Ray options and change the language+sub titles was an absolute pain.

    • I agree that the best games are multi-platform games, but this is why it makes zero sense to me that you would use an xbone instead of a PS4.

      Everything runs better on the PS4/pro compared the bone/S. And the MS dashboard is pure shit compared to the Sony one.

      If you’re playing multi-platform games, why on EARTH would you play them on the shittier-performing machine, with the worse dashboard?!

  • Honestly, I feel like the Xbox One X’s biggest strength is going to be the backwards compatibility that Microsoft is putting a lot of work into.

    The fact that you can play games from 10 years ago just like you could back then is a great feature. It allows people to say, buy the super expensive console and go get all these secrets hand games for cheap. Then when there is a brand new title they want, they have the console ready to go.

  • Xbox is is simply 4x faster than PS4. It have 5x more texture units, 2x more memory for games, 3x more TFLOPS, 2x faster CPU…

    All games such as Red Dead Redemption 2, Far Cry, Call of Duty, Wolfenstein… will look better on Xbox X. If someone wait 6 years for RDR2 then he don’t want play low detail version on PS4, he want bast possible quality

    Red Dead Redemption requirements will look like this:
    1. Minimum (low quality): PS4
    2. Recommended (high quality): Xbox X

    • Kind of agree with this. Most of the PS4 exclusives don’t interest me that much, but there’s no way I’d own an Xbox One when it consistently turns in an inferior experience on multiplatform releases. Different story now that it looks like the Xbox One X has the advantage.

      Microsoft might need to encourage more exclusives but honestly I’d rather we just didn’t have exclusives period.

    • ummm are you comparing the Xbox one X to the OG PS4? that’s not really fair now is it? PS4 Pro comparison please?

      Honestly though, Xbox one X is pushing into PC territory, people will just outright pay a few more dollars and get themselves a machine that can play more games at the same or better quality…

  • Yawn, it’s getting really tiring reading the same rehashed article time and time again. Ok, I might not fall into the hardcore gamer crowd, but I am interested in owning the best console taking advantage of my new 4k oled tv (both for UHD BRs and best multiplat experience). I can also say that I’m a huge racing game fan and both ps3 and ps4 failed miserably in this department for years. I’m also not interested in JRPGs. Considering all these points buying a one x becomes a no-brainer. Maybe next article can cover these points as an alternative view just to try and be original for once.

  • Can’t help but agree with a lot of the points made above…

    For me personally, xbox is where I do the majority of my gaming so I’ll be upgrading, but I can’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed – which is insane when you take into account the investment? Forza obviously has a really enthusiastic hardcore fanbase but does it really get the mainstream excited now? As a more casual race fan Horizon is far more up my street so it’s hard to be too excited.

    I guess the best thing from an xbox point of view is that perhaps the multiplats will at least have parity with the PS versions – I actually relented and started buying multiplats on PS earlier this year as I own a pro – however I hope that doesn’t mean that in reverse the PS versions are inferior because that would suck for many too.

    Me aside, I think the most glaring thing is the fact if someone who owned none of the systems asked me what they should buy, xbox would be my last recommendation because there’s just no USP from what I can see. It seems ridiculous to criticise the ‘play anywhere’ scheme they introduced as I think it’s incredibly pro-consumer and think more things/companies should follow suit (especially with TV/films), but by offering the service they negate most of the reason to ever own the console.

    As far as the games themselves go, it seems they’ve just dropped the ball a little and unfortunately it takes a bit of time to recover – Re:Core sadly didn’t hit the heights they hoped, same as Quantum Break, then you have the cancelled Fable & Scalebound and the ever delayed Crackdown and that’s quite a big hole from the exclusives catalogue. Rushing the replacements would only lead to similar issues in terms of quality I guess – but then at the same time why shut lionhead completely (unless issues we don’t know about)? A proper Fable game would surely sell gangbusters?

  • Hi Alex, not sure where you’ve got your Xbox one sales data source from? “That’s why the Xbox one has been the best selling console most of this year”
    Refering to NPD data locally, The PS4 and Switch have been.
    In isolation for PS4 and XB1, PS4 still maintains the lead in the calendar years sales.

  • “you were playing on a PC against people with mouse and keyboard. Who could choose what gun they wanted to drop when picking something up.”

    How’s this done?!?

      • Haha, I’m a little disappointed. I was expecting some hot key or extra button held.

        It’s still more than consoles would have, which was your point I guess.

        • Yeah. Especially in that first minute of gameplay, looting quickly is paramount. Or towards the end when you just need some ammo or a scope or something thats not immediately at the top of the inventory list.

          • God, just imagine looting two people at once on console.

            Maybe he’ll figure some easy way to get around the ui.

          • Most likely scenario is that opening the inventory brings up a cursor of some description that you control with the right stick, and then you can drag/drop that way, but it would also make for a slower looting process in general.

            I can’t really think of a way they can get around that, to be honest. But I’m not 100% right now (yay office flu) so there’s probably some solution like a radial inventory or something else that I’m not thinking of.

  • I think if we’re being really honest, neither consoles have exclusive titles that would justify their purchase for PC gamers. Horizon Zero Dawn is the most interesting option to me, but a single good (but by all counts not amazing) game doesn’t come close to making me want to push that purchase button.

    As for the other PS “exclusives”:
    The Last of Us? Please. It was a mediocre game with a predictable story the first time around. The PS4 remaster can’t change the fact that the game was horrendously overrated in the first place.
    Crash Bandicoot? You’re joking, right? Players need hardcore nostalgia googles to blind them from its litany of flaws.
    Uncharted went peaked at 2, and 3 and 4 have tailed downwards. They’re okay… but I’m sorry, Tomb Raider figured out how to out-Uncharted Uncharted.

    Forza Horizon 3 and Gears 4 are similarly not worth purchasing an XBox for.

    Console exclusives are simply not worth the platform lock-in for this generation as they currently stand.

  • Where are you getting your sales data from? Xbox One S is well behind PS4 and even behind Switch according to NPD data. Confused face.

  • There is absolutely no reason I can find for buying an Xbox one.
    The PS4 exclusives shit all over anything it can offer.
    This isn’t a console wars based comment either, I loved my 360. It had a large and varied library.
    Xbone has umm… halo, and forza. And all the same games as PS4 if you want all the AAA assassins creeds and cods of this world.

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