Xbox’s Rep Takes A Hit Following Major Delays

Xbox’s Rep Takes A Hit Following Major Delays
Image: Bethesda

Riding the bus of video game fandom should come with a seatbelt warning. To wit: Last month, it seemed like everyone was losing their minds over Microsoft gobbling up half the industry. Now, in the wake of some major delays, it’s all “Dead console!!!” this and “Xbox has no exclusives!!!” that. Hope you’ve buckled up!

There is, to be fair, some precedent for observers to fret about Xbox’s forthcoming slate. Throughout the Xbox One’s life cycle, players (rightly) criticised the platform for having few lightning-rod exclusives, particularly during its initial launch window. But over the past few years, Microsoft has been on a bit of an acquisition spree, burgeoning the ranks of its first-party studios as one console generation waned and another began.

By the November 2020 launch of the Xbox Series X/S, close to two dozen studios were under Xbox’s first-party umbrella. Last March, regulators approved Microsoft’s then-seismic $US7.5 ($10) billion acquisition of ZeniMax, the parent company of Bethesda and the grandparent company (yes, that’s a technical term; no, don’t fact-check it) of a number of other prestigious studios, including Arkane, the makers of Dishonored. Then, the big one: In January, Microsoft stated an intention to buy Activision Blizzard, despite its well-publicised woes, for the price of a European nation’s defence budget.

In the immediate wake of the deal — which has been approved by Activision shareholders, who stand to gain a lot, but still needs the green light from regulators — a lot of attention was given to just how many studios Microsoft had acquired. Gaming influencers breathlessly shared splashy infographics about how many legacy franchises were now technically first-party Xbox games, the implication being that Xbox had the sturdiest lineup of exclusives. Outlets like The Verge and The Guardian ran trend pieces wondering whether or not Microsoft was monopolizing the games industry.

Read More: Microsoft’s Activision Blizzard Purchase Isn’t Great, But Isn’t An Illegal Monopoly Either

But the winds have shifted. Last week, Bethesda announced that it would delay Starfield, its massive spacefaring RPG that had been planned for release on November 11, 2022. In the same breath, the company also said it was pushing back Arkane’s vampire shooter, Redfall, that had initially been planned for a summer release. Both are now slated for an indefinite date in the “first half” of 2023, essentially leaving Microsoft’s fall slate — historically the busiest time of the year — void of any hot-ticket exclusives.

“Shit,” the Twitch streamer KidSmoove, whose bio notes that “Xbox is the best box,” said on Twitter. Some people pointed fingers at 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’ve derogatorily become known as “Xbots” — expressed disappointment.

Observers have pointed out this sudden sea change through the internet’s favourite form of communication: memes.

A Twitter user's meme captures fans' shifting sentiment toward Xbox. (Image: Bethesda / Kotaku / Rand al Thor 19, Fair Use)A Twitter user’s meme captures fans’ shifting sentiment toward Xbox. (Image: Bethesda / Kotaku / Rand al Thor 19, Fair Use)

Since the days of the Xbox One, public opinion on Microsoft has swayed like a pendulum; so far this generation, the company has accrued a wellspring of goodwill. The Xbox Series X/S was a head-and-shoulders improvement on 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’s release calendar was anchored by Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5, two hotly anticipated new entries in marquee Xbox series. (Both smashed series records.) And this is to say nothing of Microsoft’s enormously popular games-on-demand service, Xbox Game Pass, which regularly adds some of the best games around to its rotating library. Redfall and Starfield were highly anticipated additions to Microsoft’s ecosystem, so the joint delay has dinged that goodwill a bit as a result.

Some fans, however, have taken the hit in stride. Plenty recognise that a delayed game is better than “another Cyberpunk,” to use a phrase reportedly attributed to some Bethesda developers. (That said, there’s some sentiment out there that can basically be summed up as, “Starfield better be fucking amazing, OR ELSE.”) One common joke: Bethesda, in lieu of having a brand-new game for the fall, could simply release Skyrim again for the 71st time. (Deserved.) The award for “Best Bit,” though, goes to this tongue-in-cheek video from Twitch streamer TheGladihater:

Jokes aside, it’s not like the Xbox lineup is entirely dry this fall. It’s just not as stacked as it was last week. Several Xbox “console exclusives” are planned for this year, including cyberpunk platformer Replaced, the horror game Scorn, and the post-apocalyptic shooter S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2. Those games don’t currently have release dates set in ink yet — for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which can be attributed to developing games in the middle of a damn pandemic — but are nonetheless still slated for 2022. (Of course, any one of them could get 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’s going to show up there or what other potential pressers Microsoft has planned for the year. Representatives for Xbox did not respond to a request for comment.

 

Comments

  • If anything the way people act proves just how idiotic most of the gaming ‘fans’ are. It’s not about the release delay, it’s about the quality of the release thats the most important thing. So many games have released in the last few years that have been nothing but a money farming bug filled mess.

  • Does it really? Gamers whine about everything. EG CDPR fairly cops heat for not cutting lose the old gen base version release of the game, a year later, the Gotham Knights devs get hate FOR rightfully cutting lose the old gen. Some gamers say a game should never be released if it is not ready but as soon as the next big thing gets delayed other gamers are all like ‘Xbox suxs’.

    That said, I think this perfectly showcases how there is no longer console wars, thankfully, each consoles now has its own distinct and sell-able advantages and disadvantages. They arent trying to directly compete. Sony has the games and has always had THE games, but lacks in simple customer service. While Xbox is more consumer focused, offers cheap high quality gaming in the game pass, but simply doesnt have the same focus on first party games. So when such games get delayed the response is magnified. And Nintendo is simply Nintendo, who happily just does it own thing, like a cute dog chasing its own tail.

    • Console fanboys are some of the most obnoxious twats online.

      They treat simping their favourite console like it’s a life or death war they need to win.

  • That’s what you get when you use hype marketing.
    Whipping people in to a frenzy is effective when everything goes to plan but the backlash is brutal when reality kicks in.
    (Almost everyone is guilty of this though)

    I have no doubt Xbox has a bright future when it comes to its exclusives (Come on Fable!!) but they jumped the gun.

  • I don’t mind delays. There’s still plenty of fish in the sea, while they push something out that’s not completely broken on launch. I’d rather have a delayed game than a mess like the new Battlefield or CDPR’s shitshow.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!