Some people can wait. Many gamers do not need brand new consoles when they launch. Other people, like me, did wait for the Xbox Series X or S and were done waiting. Six months later, the wait for that purchase was very worth it.
The Xbox Series X’s Honeymoon Period is Waning, but Still Happening
Back in November, I ended my thoughts on a hopeful note: “Day one was a day to remember, and it is still more likely to go up than down from here.” Those heights remain further off than expected, but Game Pass and corporate messaging have maintained my optimism. I remember watching how non-consumer friendly the Xbox One seemed at E3 the year it launched, and how wildly opposite the PS4 seemed. Now, the tables have turned.
Xbox has adamantly made this generation consumer-friendly to a point. Game Pass’s catalog is rapidly expanding, adding a litany of Bethesda Softworks games now that Microsoft owns them. Further still, Game Pass now has the first official MLB game in fifteen years on Xbox. Keep in mind, Sony San Diego, a PlayStation-owned studio, developed this game, and the PlayStation Studios logo plays every time you start up the game.
Full disclosure, I chuckle every time it happens.
One thing that is normal now is general technical performance. Don’t get me wrong, I love the upgrade from a launch Xbox One to an Xbox Series X, especially for games with next-gen upgrades as you’ll see later. However, no matter the excellent quality, I’ve normalized it by now. I love the short loading and rendering times, but it isn’t enough to wow me anymore.
That said, let me make something very clear: general performance does not include next-gen upgrades. The first is the baseline performance for everything on the new console. The next-gen upgrades are where the technical power of the console truly shines. Playing many games, especially Destiny, with the upgrade makes me feel like I have a high-end gaming PC without the thousands of lost dollars.
What Will Platform Exclusives Look Like Now?
We are just now seeing how the pandemic affected AAA gaming development. Lords of Gaming has covered delays for Back 4 Blood, Hogwarts Legacy, and Deathloop. No, not the latest delay for Deathloop, the one before that. That means that six months in, we don’t have many Xbox Series X or S exclusives.
We did get The Medium in late January. Further, Xbox did announce a slew of upcoming games and DLC last summer, some of which have released already such as Grounded and The Outer Worlds two add-ons. One problem: neither were originally for the Xbox Series X. The first released last August, three months before console launch, and the other were add-ons for a pre-existing IP.
Also, since we’re here, let’s address the elephant in the room: Halo: Infinite.
Not having Master Chief, the first video game character everyone links to the Xbox brand, at launch hurt badly. Further, no matter how much COVID affected Infinite’s delay, delaying out of launch seemed much more related to public reactions to the gameplay reveal. Nevertheless, that game was supposed to sell the console at launch. Its absence lingers.
You can argue Xbox’s games look more diverse and non-traditional than PlayStation’s offerings, but they’re not out yet. At least Sony has multiple PS5 exclusives out already. Actually, speaking of, I don’t want to hear anything about the PS5’s launch line-up being overrated. Sony had a handful of games ready to go for launch, added to it since, and have more coming later this year. This debate is over: Sony still reigns supreme in new, original games to play.
Platform exclusives look far off in the future. We know some major games coming to Xbox platforms exclusively, but not when. And that is a problem.
Unexpected Winners on the Series X? Xbox One’s Late-Gen Games
Two games benefitted the most (and in one case, saved) from my console upgrade: Red Dead Redemption 2 and Cyberpunk: 2077. Red Dead benefitted the most from load times and framerate on the Series X. Specifically speaking, thank God (pronounced Phil Spencer) for Quick Resume. Even though load times are cut overall, they become microscopic when Quick Resume takes me back to exactly where I left off. What a godsend. I think you need one more sentence to finish this paragraph. Something about why quick resume has made you feel.
Cyberpunk, despite its disastrous launch, benefitted the most from the console’s performance. It has not been enough to fully salvage this game, but the Series X made it playable. Almost six months after Cyberpunk’s launch, I don’t think I will replay it for a long while. While I did run into a litany of bugs, and much of the core gameplay did not meet lofty expectations, I still enjoyed my playthrough. Thanks, Xbox.
Six Month Later, the Console is Great but Needs More Original Games
Since Sony’s exclusives lineup keeps adding solid games, I see where the Xbox Series X and S’s main issue lies. I am interested to see where it goes, though. We do have a list of expected games for 2021, and at least one of those games will hit either critically or financially for Xbox. Despite this pandemic, Xbox’s exclusive line-up remains the weakest link in the new console rollout. That link still rests in a very strong chain.
Game Pass and console performance lead the charge this generation. The incredible amount of games added to Game Pass now includes Sony-developed IPs. That said, Game Pass’s bigger achievement is Outriders’ success. Whatever success this console generation peaks at, that success mostly comes from Game Pass.