Communication has long been a struggle for the Xbox brand. While the company has made massive strides since the early days of the Xbox One, which was certainly a low point for the brand. Things for Xbox certainly look a lot different in 2023 for Xbox than back in 2017, but there are still some skeletons that they have not been able to clear out from the closet. Aside from trying to find a consistent cadence of first-party releases, Xbox has struggled to communicate with its fans in a clear and concise way.
When the pandemic struck in 2020, many publishers had to reevaluate how they approached showcasing their games. Nintendo has possibly always had the best method of communicating with its fans via its Direct shows. PlayStation had a few hiccups at the beginning of their State of Play showcases in terms of managing fan expectations. But after a few tweaks, PlayStation has consistently been knocking it out of the park with each State of Play. Xbox has had a much rockier road, while I love their massive June showcases. The messaging in between those showcases has been less than stellar. However, with yesterday’s Developer Direct. It feels like Xbox has finally found the magic formula that works for them.
Setting Expectations And Sneaking In Surprises
Over-promise and under-deliver has long been a marketing problem that has haunted past Xbox events. Touting every showcase as their “biggest yet” often led to fans’ imaginations running rampant with almost bucket list-level predictions. This would cause even good showcases to be met with disappointment because they didn’t measure up to the hype that had built up. With Developer Direct, they clearly communicated what games would be there to help manage fan expectations. This has been something that PlayStation has done brilliantly to help manage their State Of Play expectations in 2022. Learning from your competition is important in business, and I am glad to see Xbox adopt this strategy.
Now just because you tell everyone what to expect doesn’t mean you cannot sneak in little surprises or reveals within the showcase. The shadow drop of Tango Gamework’s latest game Hi-Fi Rush took many by surprise. It is rare in the era of leaks and gaming insiders to be able to shadow-release a game. It speaks volumes to the level of care taken by Xbox and Bethesda to keep this under wraps. To send fans into a showcase expecting a specific set of games and then surprising them with a reveal or announcement, is personally how I think Xbox needs to tackle these events in the future. Not every Developers Direct needs a “mic drop” moment, but Hi-Fi Rush certainly got people talking about not only the game but also the showcase in general.
Hitting Highlights And Leaving The Details For Later
Pacing has also been a challenge for Xbox in the past for their showcases. From the late Xbox One generation Inside Xbox shows to their post-pandemic live streams. Xbox has had a challenge balancing the discussion of its upcoming games as well as showcasing the gameplay itself. From Xbox, June showcases that were filled with far too much CGI, to Indie live streams filled to the brim with influencers and too much talking. While I personally enjoy listening to developers provide insight into their games. Many fans have been vocal that having influencer-led interviews can be grading and throw off the pacing of shows.
With Developer Direct Xbox seemed to focus on letting the developers speak for the games themselves. Highlighting general information that your typical casual player is going to want to know about the game. While cutting out some of the idle small talk that comes from a more interview-styled show. Having developers talk over gameplay and explain what makes the game special. While also going over what features are packed away in the game is simple and to the point. The short 45-minute showcase packed a lot of information, without overloading or focusing too much on one game.
There are some games that require more information and detail, such as Forza Motorsport. Due to the nature of it being a racing simulation many of its fans want to know all the nitty gritty details about the upcoming release. This kind of in-depth dive might drive away the non-racing audience. But Xbox also needs to make sure Forza fans are satiated with enough information about the upcoming racer. The day after Developer Direct Turn 10 hosted a livestream where they went in-depth about a bunch of unique cars and features. This meant the pacing of Developer Direct was crisp and to the point, while Forza fans still got all their simulation-related details.
Developer Direct Is A Model For The Future
Companies have to constantly adapt to an ever-changing industry. Undoubtedly Xbox has struggled to find its voice in promoting its titles in the past. However, if they continue to use Developer Direct as a format for their upcoming releases. Xbox may have just solved their communication problem. A June showcase on top of a handful of Developer Directs released throughout the year is the type of communication we need from Xbox. Fingers crossed they see the positive feedback from this showcase and decide to continue using it in the future.