The State Of The Xbox One In 2017

When we talk about the Xbox One in 2017, which Xbox One are we talking about? The original big black box? Last year's streamlined One S? The ultra-powerful One X?

It's probably best to focus on this year's model, the Xbox One X. Introduced in 2016 as Project Scorpio, the "world's most powerful console" is where most of the Xbox One's forward momentum came from in 2017, which is sad considering the new hardware didn't launch until November. Microsoft spent much of the year hyping up the One X's 4K, HDR capabilities, which didn't leave a lot of room for talking about other things, like exciting new original games. Who needs those when you've got a console that can run the same games other platforms can run, only better?

Everybody? Oh.

The Hardware

With the release of the One X in November, there are now three different models of Xbox One to choose from. The original 2013 console is still available new through many online retailers, and shops that sell pre-owned hardware often have the massive black boxes in stock. More readily available is last year's Xbox One S, the smaller, slightly more powerful model that added support for HDR (high dynamic range) and a 4K Blu-ray player.

Finally there's the Xbox One X. Announced in 2016 as Project Scorpio, "the most powerful console ever," Microsoft's third iteration of the Xbox One hardware is an impressive piece of hardware. Games developed for or updated to take advantage of the One X's speedy CPU, powerful Radeon graphics chip and enhanced memory bandwidth can run at native (or near-native) 4K resolution, deliver sharper textures, more stable framerates and enhanced lighting effects. While the One X was built to take advantage of the latest 4K, HDR television technology, owners of older sets can still benefit from enhanced performance and supersampling — rendering games at 4K and then downscaling them to 1920 x 1080 resolution, resulting in sharper visuals. It's the best way to play Xbox One games.

While the Xbox One X is an obvious choice for tech-savvy gamers who thrive on owning the latest and greatest hardware, it might not be as obvious for the average consumer shopping for a new game console. The iPhone-style naming convention of adding a letter to the end of the console name isn't the easiest for the layperson to follow, especially given how similar Xbox One S and Xbox One XS sound. And while the One X is the most powerful Xbox One console, all three play the same games. The difference is how the different versions play those games, a distinction that might not be as profound as the price jump from a $US300 ($391) Xbox One S to a $US500 ($652) Xbox One X.

Aside from the new console, the most significant Xbox One hardware news of 2017 was the official death of the Kinect sensor. Launched in 2010 for the Xbox 360, the second iteration of Microsoft's motion-sensing, voice command-enabling camera debuted in 2013 with the Xbox One. Between complaints about the $US500 ($652) cost of the bundled console and privacy concerns over an always-on camera in the livingroom, Microsoft stopped offering the camera as a bundled item. A dedicated Kinect port is absent from the Xbox One S and One X, both requiring a special adaptor should users opt to purchase one separately. Kinect production has now ceased, with no more available once existing stock is depleted, should that ever happen.

The Software

The Xbox One dashboard software underwent two major revisions in 2017. The first big overhaul came in March, completely revamping the console's home screen with a vertical column design, integrating the Beam streaming service (which has since been renamed Mixer), adding external keyboard support and, most significantly, changing the way to Xbox One's home button works. Rather than bringing users to the console home screen, tapping the X jewel in the center of their controllers now opened up the guide menu, giving instant access to friends, message, games, apps, the store and enhanced capture tools.

Seven months later, Microsoft revamped the use interface all over again. The October update swapped the vertical columns introduced in the spring with a new horizontal design based around user-configurable "content cubes." Utilising these content cubes, users can now customise their homepage, selecting which games, friends, clubs and other items they want to appear. The update sped up the software significantly and introduced a light theme, giving the dark and moody dashboard a lighter side.

The Xbox One dashboard continues to be the most full-featured console front-end software, giving owners easy quick and easy access to apps, games and community features. Where the Switch's front end is just a list of games and the the PlayStation 4 buries its social features in drop-downs, everything is front-and-center on the Xbox One. With the Xbox Marketplace integrated into the system software rather than requiring a separate application be launched a'la the PlayStation 4 and Switch, it's the easiest console to buy content on as well.

Network And Services

The Xbox Live online gaming service soldiered on in 2017, continuing to offer solid online multiplayer and adding value to its $US60 ($78)-a-year price tag with a rotating monthly selection of Games with Gold for both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

The Xbox One remains the only console with EA Access, the $US30 ($39)-a-year service that grants subscribers access to a library of older EA games for free while offering early access to select new game releases. This year's early access titles included Star Wars Battlefront II, which helped fuel pre-release controversy over the game's microtransactions and loot box system. That's a value-added service if ever there was one.

This year Microsoft launched the Xbox Game Pass, a $US9.99 ($13)-a-month subscription service that gives Xbox One owners access to a library of more than 100 Xbox One and 360 games. Unlike Sony's streaming PlayStation Now service, Xbox Game Pass subscribers download games from the service's evolving library directly to their consoles, with unlimited play as long as their subscription is up to date. Subscribers can purchase games from the library at a 20 per cent discount, with a 10 per cent discount on downloadable content.

Microsoft's late-2016 purchase of Seattle-based streaming platform Beam led to the service being integrated into the Xbox One (and Windows 10) in 2017. Renamed Mixer in May, the streaming platform includes advanced features like user interaction and co-streaming, in which multiple broadcasters can combine their streams into one. The streaming community poked at it, nodded, and went back to broadcasting on Twitch.

Mixer tries real hard.

Microsoft continues to champion cross-platform play on consoles. Launched in 2016, the Xbox Anywhere program continued to see games like Forza and Halo Wars 2 launch on both the console and PC, with cross-saves and cross-play. Rocket League players can compete against players on PC as well as in the recently-released Nintendo Switch version. In October the Xbox version of Roblox, a popular social sandbox game among early teens, added cross-play with users on PC and mobile platforms.

The Games

With much of Microsoft's attention focused on new hardware, 2017 was one of the company's weakest game publishing years yet. The company kicked things off in January by cancelling Platinum's Scalebound, one of the most exciting upcoming games for the console. There were two significant retail games released by Microsoft Game Studios this year, Halo Wars 2 and Forza Motorsport 7, both sequels to established franchises. Last year's ill-received ReCore from Armature and Comcept got a "Definitive Edition" in October, while the Xbox One X's November launch was accompanied by a pair of kid-friendly Disney games, an updated version of Xbox One launch title Zoo Tycoon and Super Lucky's Tail, a non-virtual reality follow-up to Playful's Oculus Rift launch title.

Morza Forza

Microsoft's biggest publishing get of the year is PC mega-hit PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. The Xbox One timed console exclusive launched on December 12 as part of the Xbox Game Preview Program, the console's version of Steam's Early Access.

Many popular first-party Xbox One games received significant updates in 2017. May saw the release of an amazing Hot Wheels-themed expansion pack for Forza Horizon 3. Last year's Gears of War 4 received a massive Horde Mode update in June, with additional multiplayer maps released later in the year. With the November release of the Xbox One X, several first-party games received updates to take advantage of the new console's power, including 2015's Halo 5: Guardians, the update of which also brought back the fan-favourite Oddball game mode.

PUBG

2017 was not a great year for Xbox One exclusives. Aside from Microsoft's first-party titles, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and the long-awaited animated adventure Cuphead (both available on Steam for PC), most of the console's exclusive games were smaller indie titles. Very few 2017 releases were playable only on Xbox One, and those that were aren't especially notable (unless you're a big air guitar fan).

Hooray for Cuphead!

With few first-party games and exclusives, Microsoft let big-name multiplatform games pull much of the Xbox One's gaming weight this year. From single-player experiences like Resident Evil 7 and Assassin's Creed Origins to multiplayer-centric fre like Call of Duty: World War II and Destiny 2, many of this year's major game releases made it to the Xbox One. A large number of 2017's big game releases received updates in November and December to enable higher resolutions, enhanced graphics and better performance on the Xbox One X.

One of the Xbox One's greatest strengths continues to be backward compatibility. With the Nintendo Switch Virtual Console nowhere to be seen and the PlayStation 4 mainly selling or renting (via the PlayStation Now service) its back catalogue, Microsoft continued to add new games to its ever-growing list of backward compatible Xbox titles. The Xbox One BC list added 143 Xbox 360 games in 2017, including the heavily-requested Call of Duty: Black Ops II. In October, Microsoft added 13 original Xbox games to the list. That brings the grand total of BC games on Xbox One to a whopping 452, all of which can either be purchased from the Xbox Marketplace or played from their original discs. This is the best thing Microsoft's done this console generation, a boon for gamers who've followed the Xbox through three hardware generations.

The Future

If the Xbox One is ever going to catch up with the much more popular PS4 this console generation, 2018 would be the time, though let's face it, it probably won't be. Microsoft enters the new year with the most powerful console on the market, capable of making games look and run better than the competition. The Xbox One arrives pretty late in the game, but its mid to high-end PC level performance is turning heads.

But powerful hardware is only one piece of the puzzle, and if the huge success Nintendo has seen with its modestly-powered Switch is anything to go by, it's not a very big piece. Microsoft has spent the past two years focusing on things other than games. In 2016 it was building Xbox into a gaming platform spanning console and PC. 2017 was all about "the world's most powerful console," but with no current plans to introduce games that will only run on the One X, it's still just a more powerful Xbox One. 2018 needs to be about games.

Hopefully we'll not have to re-use this Crackdown 3 image next year.

So far, that's not looking good. While the Xbox One will continue to play host to the biggest third-party multiplatform games, most of which should be optimised for the Xbox One X, there aren't a lot of first-party titles in the console's 2018 lineup thus far. The oft-delayed and retooled Crackdown 3 should make an appearance in 2018 as should the sequel to delightful 2D platformer Ori and the Blind Forest. Rare's multiplayer pirate adventure Sea of Thieves has a March 20 release date. Survival sequel State of Decay 2 is due in the spring. That's four games, three of which were listed at the end of our 2016 State of the Xbox One article as hopefully arriving in 2017. All four games will be playable on Windows PCs as well, due to Xbox Play Anywhere.

Despite "high-fidelity VR" being mentioned in the original announcement of Project Scorpio, there's no word on virtual reality support on the Xbox One X. It seems more likely the console will get some sort of support for mixed-reality. Microsoft's Hololens is exciting technology, a visor that allows computer-generated graphics to be laid over the real world. We've seen some very cool game demos using the technology over the past couple of years, but not much official movement when it comes to games. Mixed-reality on the Xbox One is closer to wishful thinking at this point, but the new technology would certainly give Microsoft's console something unique to offer.

Despite the Xbox One X's impressive horsepower, the console didn't manage to make much of an impression in late 2017. Going into the new year, people seem excited about the new and shiny Switch, while chattering about impressive-looking upcoming PS4 exclusives like Spider-Man and The Last of Us Part II. That's not really happening for the Xbox One X (or any Xbox One for that matter), and that's not a great sign for Microsoft. If MS wants to regain their footing they need more exciting games, and they need to stop cancelling exclusives and start getting people psyched.


Comments

    Couldn't agree more the Xbox is my favorite console of the three when talking about hardware and OS. I just wish they would give me reasons like the other two do to play it

      This. I thoroughly enjoyed using my Xbox One when I had had it, but didn't all that much enjoy playing it...

    I played Gears of War Judgement via BC back in January. That's it. Yikes I need to play more xbone next year.

    I also played some Sea of Thieves but NDA gonna NDA ;)

    I have found the xbox dashboard to be a consistently terrible, yet ever-changing design clusterfuck. The last good xbox dashboard was the blade design on the 360.

    Don't get me wrong, the ps4 is also full of baffling inconsistency, but even with a loooow bar the one easily slips under.

    So Biased. You're ridiculous Kotaku and a little see though if you had been watching your advertising trends. The Xbox X is an awesome console. It is the most powerful console. Triple A games look the best on it. There is no lack of games, a lot of people could not be bothered with the expense and hassle of maintaining and running a pc so your point is rather disingenuous. Yes Playstation has some ridiculously good original IP, I know I play them But the X is a champion. You spent months glowering about the benefits and how wonderful the pro was.Read between the lines people. The x is really good and the more gaming platforms the better.

    Last edited 15/12/17 11:45 am

      Bahaha fanboy downvotes. The Xbox X is good for gaming. It is even good for your Playstation as it will make them try even harder to outperform on original IP. win win really hehe.

        No, Not fanboy downvotes. (I own an xbox one).

        Just people who think you are the whiny fanboy. Kotaku has done an article like this for every console.

        Seriously, What do you achieve by having a sook about what someone said about your favourite toy? Grow up.

          What a load of rubbish. This is not journalism. Its been subpar on this site re the xbox x and very suss. Wall to wall advertising for the pro for 3 weeks starting just before the launch. It has not reflected most peoples experience with the xbox x. Downvote all you like. You only prove your fanboys. You just like articles that confirm your bias.

      *cough* Fanboy *cough*

        Yes they are. Just gets a little wearing, article after article about the xbox and most comments are from people that dont own one congratulating themselves on not owning one and how shitty it is. Its really poor form. My points still hold too by the way. This sites articles on the xbox x have been paid for by Sony. You cant have a rival platform super sponsor a website just all through launch time and not expect some editorial payback, seriously it was pervasive. Its so obvious. The articles that came out at the launch were rediculous. They acted like retards with the technology and wondered why they couldnt get it working, they suddenly changed the goalposts re resolution/fps everything it was hilarious lol anyways back to you lord of the flies ways Kotaku commentators.

          Hmmmm, wow, deep breaths... calm... I guess I forgot to add "jk" or a smiley face in my comment! It's all good bro, you like yours, I'll like mine. Hell I still enjoy Amiga,Atari 2600 and GameCube games on occasion. I'm not brand specific, I'll go with what floats my boat each gen. This time it's PS4, last time was the 360. The only thing I don't like is the xbonex (or whatever xb this gen) lineup of games. Not a single exclusive grabbed me. And yes exclusives are cancer, but sadly also a major deciding factor in which box to get.

            fair enough, you never can tell with tone, the more games the better. I was an Amiga boy havent played one for a long time though. yeah ive been dissapointed too with microsoft dropping the ball re good original ip.... they really did drop the ball on that one. Still many many triple As to enjoy the best version on console hehe.... merry christmas... i mean ho ho.

      I love the Xbox One X. I couldn't care about first party games, I mostly play AAA games that are on all platforms. Give me the best environment to play it and the Scorpio ticks that box.

    I love my xbox and I am still using my original release day version. I'm hoping to snap up a new Xbox X for Christmas.

    I do wish I could play Zelda, but that is always going to be a Nintendo exclusive. What annoys me is the PlayStation exclusives like Horizon Zero Dawn & Bloodborne. Does that make me wish the Xbox had more exclusives? Not one little bit. I just wish that there were NO platform exclusives. And while I'm at it, I wish they would just go ahead and allow cross platform gaming.

      You do realise Horizon Zero Dawn is an IP made by Guerrilla Games? A Sony first party studio? Sony owns HZD as much as Nintendo owning Zelda.

        Yeah, I suppose you're right there with HZD. Doesn't stop it from annoying me though!

        I for one as a gamer dad, cannot justify having 2 gaming consoles, let alone 3. I simply can't go out and buy a switch because I want to play Zelda or likewise a PS4 to play Horizon.

          Then go out and buy a second hand Wii U and play Zelda.

      I dont care for exclusives I hate how there are content exclusives for games on all consoles.

    Looks like the Scorpio is getting unboxed and hooked up this weekend. Thanks for inspiring me Psylar and Zorastin!!!!

    I'm very curious on the sales of the OneX, specifically the percentage of OneX owners that "upgraded" from an OG or S as opposed to new users coming to the One. From anecdotal evidence is seems like the majority already owned a One so I'm not sure exactly how much the X is growing the user base for Microsoft.

    Which is a shame, I want to want an Xbox One, but I can't find a reason to.

      thought I had a reason - the 4K blu ray player. As a PS4 Pro owner I always wanted an Xbox, so on Black Friday with a good bundle deal I went ahead and got the One S. Haven't used it once since setting it up LOL. Still it was a nice deal since it came with 3 bundled games which I sold for 60 AUD each on Gumtree. Covered 180 of the 279 cost of the console. I'll definitely use it though one day to play Cuphead and Ori

      Last edited 15/12/17 2:11 pm

    Got an Xbox One S (first Xbox) as my 4K player on Black Friday sale. I've heard all about the terrible dashboard but always thought it was exaggerated until I tried it out myself: It is indeed total rubbish especially compared to PS4 OS. Other than that I don't feel there's much different between it and the Sony console. The controllers are pretty equal in my opinion, thought Sony's DS4 is more dense and well made without all the cheap hollow clicks and echoes on button presses. Won't really be gaming on it since I have a PS4 Pro, but I'll be using it to play the occasional gems like Cuphead and Ori 2 when they are released

    Last edited 15/12/17 2:12 pm

      I'm kicking myself I didn't do the same. Could have upgraded my original xbox to an S and then sold my original bundled with a heap of old games to make up the difference.

        with Christmas/Boxing Day ahead, there will probably be other great bundle deals available. My Xbox purchase came with Wolfenstein 2, AC Origins and Evil Within, which I sold for $60 each on Gumtree. So technically speaking I only paid 99 bucks for my Xbox One S. Just keep an eye out on the EB Games/JB Hi-Fi deals.

    why do people keep saying free games after mentioning a subscription cost. that's a weird definition of free.

      I really do wish we could have laws similar to some european countries where the law is if you state something is free, A person is allowed to walk into your store and take it without buying anything.

        There were funny things around this idea actually a while ago from a shop a mate worked at. People were buying a brand new Sony TV and getting a free PS3 I think it was, then returning the TV for full retail within 7 days unopened and kept the PS3. And then probably sold it on for cash.

        Genius.

    Really want to play the Last of us 2, God of War & Death Stranding but ultimately decided getting Xbone S as I wanted a 4k blu-ray player (which is stupid Sony don't include that at least in the Pro model) so it pays for itself and because I got it fairly late the game pass is amazing. Yes it is disappointing with the lack of exclusives however i'm eventually going to get a PS4 Pro when Last Of Us 2 comes out so in the mean time i'm happy- still play Rare Replay regularly.

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