Like many of you readers out there, I find it incredibly difficult to complete, or even pick up most of the games that release on Xbox One.
It’s easy to attribute this to high price tags, but I personally have a whole roster of games waiting to be played that I’ve downloaded for free off Games with Gold! This opens up the whole: “Does making it free devalue the product” can of worms; so I’ll tentatively put a lid on that in favor of a more relevant topic.
It’s the big fall/autumn release window (still), and so far we’ve seen some hugely successful new games step proudly onto the market. By now, with the Xbox One about to celebrate it’s 3rd birthday, we have a rich array of games on offer and a sleek and functioning platform to download them from.
But it wasn’t always this metaphorically sunny.
Back in 2013/14 the purchase of an Xbox One was a future proofing choice. “I’m buying this because there might be a good game coming out soon” – was something along the lines of my thoughts. Being a safe and boring buyer of games I’m a huge advocate for online reviews; so I didn’t go near Ryse: Son of Rome for one. In fact, looking at the list of release games I’m surprised we all survived those dreadful times! There was Zoo Tycoon, Dead Rising 3, Crimson Dragon (oh God I’m going to throw up), Fighter Within… And then there were re-releases, most of which I already had: Battlefield 4, CoD Ghosts, AC Black Flag… You get the picture.
My inspiration for writing this came from Sunset Overdrive: a 2014 Xbox exclusive that became free during April this year, and which I only picked up yesterday. If I were to review it I’d call it fun, but unessential. Back in 2014 however it was getting top-of-the-class marks across the board. Finally a good game!
It wasn’t all bad then though. We got Titanfall in 2014 which briefly stormed the market with it’s innovative traversal mechanics and shiny new IP feel; and we had Dragon Age Inquisition: an incredible return for the critically acclaimed Bioware franchise. These two games for me are the only titles which could survive a 2016 release.
Of course you can argue with me and say that games have different specifications now! Ryse: Son of Rome was a platform tester, it sold because of the graphics! I encourage you then to look at Star Wars Battlefront (2015): a recent game dependent on visuals over gameplay for sales. Ryse certainly would have suffered in today’s market, and maybe even Titanfall would have struggled. With Titanfall 2 sales sitting far lower than it’s competitors: CoD and Battlefield, it can only be speculated how a new IP would have fared in the busiest annual FPS release window.
When so many big franchise titles have done so well, should we then be afraid of stagnation in the gaming gene pool? It’s true that old-faithful title releases get sales, and look at the sheer number of remasters coming out! On the same kind of brain-wave though; big game developers are looking to their fans increasingly now, since we are the ones that buy their games. Market research with gamers will (I hope) further increase innovation and originality in future titles; some of which we already know about! (Scalebound, Sea of Thieves, For Honor).
To conclude, and to re-align the focus on the actual topic: the standard of games dropped in 2013 with the release of a new, foreign (for developers) platform. Now though, with so many big and small studios alike making incredible innovative games, it’s hard to go back to old titles, however good they seemed at the time. From the ashes of 2014 we received at least 2 incredible games; one which has spawned a worthy sequel already. But the others I’m happy to sweep out of the fire-place and dispose of discretely, because 2016 has been a flaming good year.