While Microsoft has been continuing its strong push in hardware advances, its software has hit an all-time low. Previously I discussed how Microsoft’s lack of well-used IPs is hurting the Xbox One. Now with the announced delay of Crackdown 3, what was an issue before is now slowly turning into a crisis. If Microsoft hopes to remain competitive in the marketplace, something is going to need to change, and quick.

You Can’t Ignore Exclusives

As much as many of us in the gaming industry would love for exclusives to no longer exist, you can’t ignore their importance. Consoles simply need them to set themselves apart and create value for products that are largely the same. Unfortunately, it’s not something that can simply stop, once it’s started companies will continue to need exclusives or risk losing to their competitors.

Sea of Thieves Gameplay
Sea of Thieves, one of the few console exclusives for Xbox One

The Xbox One has seen a continued decline in exclusives, putting Microsft in a precarious position. In 2016, Xbox One had the following major exclusives (console exclusives included):

  • Dead Rising 4
  • Forza Horizon 3
  • Gears of War 4
  • ReCore
  • Quantum Break

In 2017 (planned titles included):

  • Cuphead
  • Forza Motorsport 7
  • Goliath
  • Halo Wars 2

In 2018:

  • Crackdown 3
  • Sea of Thieves
  • State of Decay 2

The current poor 2017 and 2018 lineup Microsoft is looking at is largely due to failed projects, ones that were planned for release in the coming months.

Failed and Underdeveloped Projects

Microsoft has had a fair amount of trouble with many of its planned exclusive games, ranging from canceling them outright to scaling back their design. The situation involving Scalebound is perhaps the most prominent, where creative differences led to a rocky relationship with Microsoft, eventually resulting in the game—being developed by Platinum—to be canceled.

After careful deliberation, Microsoft Studios has come to the decision to end production for “Scalebound.” – Microsoft, January 2017

Fable Legends was another prominently featured game at Xbox press conferences for many years but never saw the light of day. However, its fate would be far worse as Microsoft would opt to not only cancel the game but also shut down the studio entirely.

After much consideration we have decided to cease development on Fable Legends, and are in discussions with employees about the proposed closure of Lionhead Studios in the UK. – Microsoft, July 2016

Phantom Dust is perhaps the oddest scenario that has come out of Microsoft’s blunders. Originally announced back at E3 2014, the project was brought to light with little news or promises. For years many of us would be left in the dark as to what the game is going to be, and finally, after the long wait, we could come to find out it was simply a remaster, and a lazy one at that. Essentially Phantom Dust turned out to be what Phantom Dust was when it first released in 2004, just with slightly higher resolution graphics and working online functionality.

Worst yet, this is still omitting several smaller titles canceled from other studios. All these failures, missteps, and under-delivered games have all come home to roost and make it all the more apparent that in 2018, the Xbox One has very few exclusives. Couple this with the upcoming launch of the Xbox One X and things are looking bleak.

A Bleak Launch

When the PlayStation 4 (PS4) Pro was announced there was much fanfare about a more powerful PlayStation 4. However when the PS4 Pro would finally launch there wouldn’t be much said but would go onto selling quite well and be a welcome addition to Sony’s lineup. In the case of the PS4 Pro, Sony already had games (including exclusives) in the pipeline ready to take advantage of the new hardware as well as the old. The pitch for the PS4 Pro was and still is, quite simple.

Play our large upcoming catalog of games but with better graphics and performance compared to the PS4.

Microsoft lacks a key component to launching a half step console, something to look forward to. Shortly out the gate, Sony had several exclusives in the coming months to not only look forward to for their gameplay, but also for their better graphics on the PS4 Pro. When Nintendo launched the New 3DS, several titles released in the coming months that would take advantage of the new hardware capabilities, while also being exclusives. Those titles served as a reason for many to double dip, and purchase the new hardware. Microsoft simply doesn’t have those and makes the launch of the Xbox One X all the more bleak.

Sure the Xbox One X has plenty of power, but if your choice is between a console a little less powerful but with more titles, and a console with more power but fewer titles, which would you choose? For me and what I feel many will also choose, we would take the games any day. If Microsoft is hoping to make a splash with the Xbox One X and actually survive the coming year, these development problems need to be sorted out and fast, otherwise, Microsoft risks falling into obscurity.