Microsoft’s X018 event came and went this past weekend. Honestly, our expectations were kind of low. These days, major events like this are few and far between as big news tends to be spread out throughout the year and shared among big publishers. They don’t have the same appeal as before. Even E3 has lost its luster over the last decade.
So it was surprising then to see how well the X018 turned out to be, even if at times it felt like an infomercial for the Xbox Game Pass. It was a tight conference that made up for a lack of major bombshells (although it had at least one by our measure) by having a steady stream of good news for hardcore fans of the console.
For most of the generation, Microsoft seemed either uninterested or incapable of fixing its exclusive game problem. They danced around the issue, instead building up and improving just about every other aspect of the platform from performance (Xbox One X) and services offered (Game Pass). Yet the lack of exclusives has remained an elephant in the room.
X018 didn’t fix that problem overnight; however, it did shed some light on Microsoft’s plan for the Xbox platform, which now more than ever, feels like it’s finally starting to take a positive shape.
Importantly, too, XO18 showcased a commitment to long-term support of their exclusive titles with a steady stream of free content drops. While the quantity was lacking immediately after their respective launches, Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2 players have since enjoyed new updates, and there’s plenty more to come in 2019. Forza Horizon 4 is still fresh, but it too will have its share of free and paid updates and DLC.
The approach ties nicely into Xbox’s aggressive push of the Game Pass service. If you signed up to just try one game out for a month for the low-risk cost of $10, for, say, Sea of Thieves, and you liked it, you’ll be more likely to hang onto the subscription if that game continues to deliver new, free stuff.
Also factoring into someone’s choice to keep Game Pass, of course, is the amount of quality titles that are making their way to the service. PUBG, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, and 14 other new titles were revealed during the X018 as making their way to the Game Pass service at some point in the near future.
While Microsoft is not shy about being very heavy-handed in their pushing of Game Pass, it’s at least a strategy that is an appealing one.
If the plan for Xbox going forward is to offer a service with over 100 games, including new exclusive games, and adequately support those new games for months or even years after the fact with free and paid updates, all for the cost of two new games per year, that’s at least something worth shoving down our throats.
In the long term, though, Game Pass is going to need more than just two or three exclusives a year to really sell that approach. Crackdown 3 looks good so far, but it’s going to take more than that.
At X018, Microsoft announced that Obsidian Entertainment (Fallout: New Vegas, Pillars of Eternity) and inXile Entertainment (Wasteland, Bard’s Tale) would be part of the Microsoft family going forward.
Combined now with their new internal studio, The Initiative, and the four other acquisitions announced at E3 2018: Undead Labs, Playground Games, Ninja Theory, and Compulsion Games, and of course longtime partners like Rare and 343, Microsoft is building up a nice stable of studios under their belt.
It may be too ambitious to expect all of these studios to deliver something new for the Xbox One before this generation winds down. It’s probably too late for the Xbox One to ever shed its black cloud of being the console with barely any exclusives compared to the competition.
Microsoft, then, has the capital to fix Xbox One’s problems, just maybe not in the timeframe we’d have hoped for. The big takeaway, though, is that after E3 2018 and X018 they seem determined to avoid the same mistakes again for whatever is coming next.