Despite only being a little over a week into 2017, gaming has already suffered a rather major casualty with the loss of the Microsoft exclusive Scalebound. This was exceptionally sad news given developer PlatinumGames is known for delivering exciting, insane experiences such as Bayonetta or the soon the be released NieR: Automata. Looking forward however, one has to wonder if Microsoft’s rather short list of Xbox One exclusives will be enough to hold the platform down for this year. As it stands, the Xbox One has a handful of indie games along with Halo Wars 2, Crackdown 3, and Sea of Thieves as their big exclusives lined up for 2017.
With no core Halo or Gears title currently slated for 2017, it has fallen on these properties to carry this system’s weight for the time being. Yet, this is a rather troublesome line-up given one of those three titles (Crackdown) has basically been in hibernation.
Both Microsoft and developer Reagent Games have been uncomfortably silent on this title. Looking to the official Crackdown 3 website, the last major news post was from 7 months ago, and the only other game-relevant news is a post about a custom controller, which while cool, isn’t reassuring. Moving to Reagent Games official Twitter account, the most recent post is about hiring a software engineer, with the next most recent being tweeted in early November. The same can be said for the official Crackdown Twitter, which last posted on November 10 reminding players that this title is coming out in 2017.
It’s important to note that Reagent Games could simply be following in the footsteps of studios like Bethesda, keeping information under wraps to avoid leaks. Yet, this game was announced in at E3 2014, and all that was shown was a cinematic trailer of the city, agents, and a base outline of the action. There was a brief glimpse of the gameplay at Gamescom in 2015, however, we haven’t seen anything since then. It seems Microsoft may have announced this title way too soon, a move that’s now constructing concern over one of their few remaining flagship titles.
While our faith in Crackdown may be wavering, those following Sea of Thieves have not been suffering from any lack of information. Announced at last year’s E3, Sea of Thieves has already gone through an Alpha testing and we have little doubt that it will release this year. It’s looking to be a plenty fun experience, however, this is just one of two real Triple-A exclusives coming to the Xbox One this year. This title might make a splash, yet Microsoft needs more to offer consumers than just a great multiplayer game and a spin-off RTS from the Halo franchise.
Speaking of, Halo Wars 2 is set to release at the end of February, yet one cannot help but worry a little after their lukewarm Beta release following the reveal during last year’s E3. That being said, the original Halo Wars did garner favorable reviews from critics and fans, but is this title is enough to hold up the Xbox One for an entire year? By removing Scalebound from the equation, Microsoft is currently offering two, possibly three major experiences to their fanbase, which just isn’t enough.
Yes, there are smaller titles such as Cuphead and State of Decay 2 set to release this year, but with the Scorpio looking at a possible late 2017 release, Microsoft is going to need more offerings in order to justify a pricey system purchase. Consumers will be looking to the lineup of exclusives to help decide their holiday platform purchase, and suddenly, Microsoft is looking extremely light in that department. Their poster games — names like Gears and Tomb Raider — likely won’t be returning in 2017.
With Scalebound off the table, there’s a lot of pressure on this small handful of exclusives to deliver big. It didn’t help that the Head of Xbox Phil Spencer was exceptionally vague on the reasoning for Scalebound’s removal, citing it as “better for Xbox gamers.” It’s this lack of transparency and forwardness with their fanbase that ends up creating a sense of unease between sellers and consumers, especially when it seems the company is wiping a big title off the map like it never existed.
If no more exclusives release this year than these three games, the Xbox One is going to seriously need to step up its third party support. This has worked successfully for Sony in the past thanks to partnerships with studios and publishers such as Bungie and Activision. By integrating more third party exclusive content, Microsoft can help justify the purchase of their system beyond their tiny exclusive line-up. It will give Microsoft more breathing room between big releases, and show that they do in fact have a lot to offer their player base.
We hope Microsoft has more up their sleeves as the year continues. No one wants a game or game company to fail, especially in a time of rapidly advancing hardware. Microsoft needs to be more forward with the development of their upcoming exclusives and offer more insight into what lies ahead if 2017 truly is to be the “Year of the Scorpio.”