I moved house last year, and while packing everything away my wife and I made a simple rule: if anything was still in its box 12 months later, we would get rid of it, because that meant we never used it and didn’t need it. Last month, I sold my Xbox One.
I remember lining up at midnight to get it at launch back in 2013, excited to be completing my next-gen lineup having bought the PlayStation 4 the week before. I spent $550 on it — cheaper than a Series X this time around, but still a lot for someone with two small kids, a mortgage and a game journalist’s salary — but did so on the basis that, hey, the last two Xbox consoles I’d owned had been fucking amazing, so this one would probably be worth it too.
It wasn’t. Within weeks it was collecting dust. Within months it was, aside from the odd professional use, almost forgotten.
Microsoft’s bizarre early obsession with live TV support and apps for the console was useless to me in Australia. Kinect support was, as it had been on the Xbox 360, an answer looking for a question. Oh, and most importantly, I wasn’t playing any games on it.
For the first and hopefully only time in over 30 years of owning video game consoles, I never bought a single game for the Xbox One (I was sometimes sent review code, and the console came with a copy of FIFA 14). And never had much reason to! Multiplayer games tended to be better on PlayStation 4, both technologically and in terms of community size, and Microsoft’s decision to gut its own internal development studios over the late ‘00s meant there weren’t that many exclusives to fall back on either.
I tried Halo 5. Didn’t like it. The Gears of War games came out on PC, so I played them there. Same for Forza. Fable was dead, Project Gotham was dead. And while the Xbox One X promised to at least close the gap on Sony in terms of performance, there was no way in hell I was going to buy a second Xbox One (an issue I’ll be expanding on in a different Last Generation feature).
And so when we moved house last year, my Xbox One was one of the first things to go into its box, and I don’t remember even thinking about it still being there until my wife found it in the garage and said “we should probably get rid of this”.
It wasn’t an unreliable machine like the Xbox 360, it wasn’t over-priced like the PlayStation 3, it wasn’t a bad idea like the Wii U or a machine out of time like the Dreamcast. But I think the Xbox One was the worst console I’ve ever owned simply because it was so pointless.
Why did this machine exist, with nothing to set it above — or even apart — from its competitor? Without many big games of its own, or any technological reason to opt for a multiplatform game over the PS4 version, my Xbox One was barely a video game console at all, just a black box I spent $550 on then regretted for the next seven years.
Obviously, Microsoft don’t need me telling them any of this. Sony’s resounding sales victory in this past generation, selling well over twice as many consoles, was built on the strength of its library of games, big-selling exclusives especially, and Microsoft’s recent purchases of big brands like Zenimax/Bethesda shows they’ve definitely learned that lesson.
The company’s Game Pass, too, will change the shape of this console generation in a way we couldn’t really appreciate last gen. If customers were lured towards the PS4 thanks to some kind of game and community-based gravitational pull, then Game Pass is more like a black hole sucking everything and everyone towards the centre of the Xbox Series X/S universe.
But those last two points are for the future, and this feature isn’t about the future, one where I’m a lot more positive about all things Xbox. It’s about the past, somewhere I’m all too happy to consign my memories of the Xbox One to.
Note: In case you’ve got this far and haven’t realised, this is a personal story. I’m not speaking for the Xbox One userbase as a whole here, or even the staff of Kotaku, this is just my own experience owning — and not using — an Xbox One, one clearly shaped by my ability to also have a PS4 and PC to play other games on in the first place. If all you ever had was an Xbox One, and you liked it, then that’s cool!