Not what the console needed.
At E3 2014, Microsoft revealed Crackdown 3 was in development and the crowd went wild. Not only was this going to be a return to the superpower-fueled, crime-stopping action the series was known for, but it’d use the “power of the cloud” to bring fully-destructible environments. Skip forward just over three years later and fans have just been given the news that Microsoft has taken the decision to delay (again) Crackdown 3 from its Nov. 7 release date to Spring 2018. And while there’s certainly no harm in delaying a game to improve the end result, Crackdown 3’s shift into 2018 leaves Microsoft’s Xbox One X in a pretty tricky situation.
When detailing the reasons for the delay, Shannon Loftis, Microsoft Studios Publishing’s General Manager, explained “…we want to make sure to deliver the right game, with the right quality, and at the right time. Crackdown 3 is a hugely ambitious game and we want to ensure we deliver the right experiences all the way through every part of the game, whether that’s campaign, co-op multiplayer or our competitive multiplayer mode, Wrecking Zone.” That sounds absolutely reasonable. Crackdown 3’s ambitious cloud-powered destruction is certainly an interesting prospect, despite recent news that it would be limited to the game’s multiplayer component. At a time where true Xbox One exclusives are looking a little light for 2017, the delay is sure to disappoint some fans. However, it’s important to remember the wise words of Shigeru Miyamoto – “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.”
You only need to look at some of this generation’s biggest and best releases to find justification for delays. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was pushed back countless times, and while part of this likely came down to Nintendo wanting to release it alongside the Nintendo Switch, it captured the hearts of fans around the world. Likewise, Guerrilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn suffered similar delay woes before releasing to critical acclaim. Persona 5, Final Fantasy XV, The Witcher 3, the list goes on. If Crackdown 3 releases to similar praise, then the few months will certainly be worth it. But that’s not really the problem.
Microsoft’s E3 2017 press conference was all about games and exclusives. Experiences you’d be able to play on your Xbox One, that would be enhanced for the One X, and you wouldn’t be able to play anywhere else… except PC. It was a huge fanfare for the powerhouse system’s reveal, Microsoft’s true 4K answer to Sony’s PS4 Pro. As the most powerful console soon to be on the market, Microsoft wanted to show the Xbox One X had a prosperous year ahead of it, and that would all kick off with an Xbox One X enhanced Crackdown 3 releasing alongside it on Nov. 7. After all, what better way to build hype for a system than bringing the newest entry in an adored franchise to it with the promise of native 4K visuals, HDR, higher texture fidelity, and all the other fancy bits? But now, that’s gone.
Instead, the Xbox One X will release solely alongside Super Lucky’s Tale – a port of a mediocre VR game. And while Super Lucky’s Tale will run at 4K 60FPS on the Xbox One X, it’s not going to have the same impact on system sales as an established franchise like Crackdown would. Sure, Forza Motorsport 7 will still likely blow a fair few people’s minds with its glorious, crisp visuals, but that’ll have been out for nearly a month by the time the Xbox One X rolls around. Neither of these titles will have the same impact as a major launch day release.
Some will argue that Crackdown 3’s drop out of Fall 2017 means very little thanks to third-party publishers having a swathe of titles to offer up. And while there’s most definitely a feast of excellent titles on the horizon – most of which are said to be “enhanced for Xbox One X” – they’re unlikely to entice PS4 owners or those on the fence to pick the Xbox One X up over the competition. Something that Microsoft certainly needs to achieve, with the PS4 outselling the Xbox One month in month out.
The ability to replay some of your existing favorites such as The Witcher 3, Final Fantasy XV, and Halo 5 will certainly be enticing enough for some, but these post-launch enhancements are unlikely to show the same jump in visual fidelity as a title built from the ground-up. Look at the PS4 Pro as an example. Despite The Last of Us and Uncharted 4 certainly looking better on the Pro following post-launch patches, they didn’t hold a candle to the breathtaking visuals of Horizon Zero Dawn. And although publishers are pledging to enhance their games for the Xbox One X, we only need to take a look at the lukewarm support for the PS4 Pro from third-party developers to see enhancements don’t always deliver the scale of improvements expected. Heck, Prey’s PS4 Pro patch (which arrived almost a month after the game’s release) made the experience worse for a good couple of months.
I sincerely hope that when Crackdown 3 releases in Spring 2018, it’ll be to the Xbox One X what Horizon Zero Dawn was to the PS4 Pro. However, with an exclusive lineup of just three titles for the remainder of 2017, the Xbox One X’s launch window may not be the blockbuster showcase needed to help take the fight to Sony.