Why the Scorpio Alone Won’t Save Xbox

The launch of Scorpio was an attempt to regain [both mind and] market share. After months of people comparing resolutions and FPS of the launch-PS4 and Xbox One, Microsoft decided they needed to do something. With whispers of a PS4.5, they knew if they wanted to even walk into the shadow of PS4’s sales numbers they’d need to come out with better tech. And if the spec rumors are true, they will do just that this fall.

Unfortunately, for both Microsoft and the consumer, their engineering feat alone will not drive people to turn on their consoles. If Microsoft’s business team does not make deals with developers for second or third party exclusives, it doesn’t matter how good the games look on an Xbox One. Tech specs don’t matter if you don’t have beautiful games to showcase them.

Things were looking up for Microsoft when they announced their Universal Windows Platform (UMP) system. Players could now play a selection of games they’d purchased on the Xbox Live store on their Windows 10 PC. At first glance, it sounds like an amazing value proposition, finally you could buy your games in one place and play them across multiple devices, unfortunately for all involved, it was a great idea – that was only half-baked.

The problem that Microsoft created for themselves with the UWP system was: even with the release of the Scorpio Microsoft could no longer say that a game was “exclusively on Xbox.” Gamers have no reason to spend that much on a system, with the power equivalent to a Nvidia 7xx GPU, when their computer’s hardware made that GPU obsolete years ago. Players now had no explicit reason to buy an Xbox aside from brand loyalty and the fact that they might have friends on the same system.

But I did not write this piece to simply rain on Microsoft’s parade. They now have the strongest console on the market, and they’ve positioned themselves in a place of strength, they now need to take advantage of that position.

Despite PC’s becoming the ultimate powerhouses, some still find it a stretch to achieve 4K on two individual lenses on a VR device. If out of the box the Xbox Scorpio can provide players with a VR opportunity that they can’t get on their PC or their Playstation 4 (regular or Pro) they may have a winner on their hands. Now, Xbox CEO Phil Spencer has already said that the Xbox “Scorpio” will offer a VR experience, although he hasn’t delved into whether that will be software or hardware driven. He’s also brought up that he does not want Scorpio exclusives, and that he dislikes the “closed” ecosystem of the VR hardware developers, both of these comments – together in the same interview – gave me one idea, and that’s that with the strongest console platform on the market, having the ability to offer gaming experiences on both Windows and Xbox – Microsoft would win E3 in one swift movement if they provided consumers with a machine that lets them experience VR regardless of the platform. At this point,  people are investing in VR sets in a way reminiscent of the war between Betamax and VHS; people didn’t know where to put their money on such a split market. If Microsoft gives people, of all VR camps, with a platform that they can use, despite who comes out on top 5 years from now, they’d have won more than E3, they’d have created a tectonic shift in the industry.

If you haven’t purchased an Xbox yet, what would Microsoft have to announce at E3 to win you over? And if watching this after E3: did any of their announcements excite, surprise, or – even for a moment – make you want to consider purchasing either of their consoles?

– Creating the strongest dedicated gaming machine on the market was an attempt to regain mind (and by proxy) market share. 

– Unfortunately, for old and new Xbox owners alike, the graphic fidelity of your games is irrelevant if you only use the console to watch Netflix. 
– Xbox CEO promised the console will be VR compatible and would not have “Scorpio exclusive” games – locking out Legacy Xbox One owners from new titles. 
– To regain the position in the industry they held last console generation, Microsoft would have to call armistice in the VR war by allowing the Scorpio to run any V game, as if it were platform agnostic. 




Game of the Year (Jury Selected)

Recognizing a game that delivers the absolute best experience across all creative and technical fields.”

With my view on the selection process out of the way, let’s look at some of the theories behind how Blizzard Entertainment won Game of the Year for Overwatch, up against these amazing contenders: Doom (id Software/Bethesda), Inside (PlayDead), Titanfall 2 (Respawn/Electronic Arts), and Uncharted 4 (Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment).

Logging in, I saw: friends that had never looked down the eye of a scope, in the midst of an Overwatch match. The first few friends I took the time to message, asking how they felt about the demo they weren’t playing. They had purchased it. Outright bought the game and they loved it. Most couldn’t describe what about it they loved, but they knew they were enjoying themselves. When I asked how they could enjoy this perversion of an FPS but not something like Call of Duty, or something more “realistic” like Battlefield I was often met with a scoff as an explanation. I don’t know what drew them to the game, what caused them to hit “buy” or walk into their nearest GameStop, but they were playing it and playing it often. Something Blizzard did, they had done right.

Mixing a MOBA with an FPS wasn’t the magical sauce that made Overwatch, there was a game unfortunate enough to come out simultaneously. Battleborn was compared, torn to shreds and analyzed countless different ways before it’s release and the verdict was out before it was even given time to shine. The people at the wheel, IGN, GameSpot, couldn’t help but ask how similar Battleborn was to Overwatch. Both being cartoon-esc, mixing a MOBA with an FPS, in which people played heroes vs. other people playing heroes, nary a human in sight (but as of this posting they’re all humanoid). Why on that Tuesday people chose Battlefield instead of Overwatch, I’m not sure. Both come from reputable companies. One making the most popular MMORPG in history, and the other creating a video game with both wide appeal and a cult following (Gearbox Software, Borderlands.) These were two titans ready to play, albeit one smaller than the other, not a lion and a mouse. The only difference I can think of is community outreach and public relations. They were advertised the same way but spoken of differently, and with Battleborn constantly being compared to Overwatch, and rarely the other way around, it was made clear to consumers which one was genuine and which one was simply playing dress up. I want to write a paper about how Battleborn failed in its PR and pre-release communication to consumers, but I have a bit more research to do.

Now, as we learned in CS:GO, slap a skin on something and children will steal their parent’s credit cards to buy it. They will pay real money for intangible in game objects, those objects would then be traded, collected, and hoarded ad-nauseum. Even ending up on gambling sites, ultimately leading to a lawsuit and several companies banning the practice in their ToS. Overwatch quickly advertised the ability to make the characters nearly your own, with at least half a dozen skins upon release and others promised in seasonal events. They made the game fun, and nowhere as serious as Battleborn’s dev team was making their’s out to be. Along the same lines, Blizzard made this game different. Not only did they make the game fun, but they gave the heroes personalities. Battleborn had many heroes, but with personalities, you could swap out. They lines they repeated in game might not have fit, but the personalities made no difference. It was not hard to be unattached when it game to their heroes because no one knew who they were. You would never see people cosplaying as Battleborn characters as they did with Overwatch.

Overwatch’s rise to the top could not be the topic of conversation without talking about accessibility. This MOBA treated their beginners like gods. They walked them through every step of an  FPS, made it fun not daunting, and encouraged them to go for the flag. Overwatch’s “Play of the Game” system has people prioritizing good moves and teamwork instead of just a high kill count, and at the end of a match players are encouraged to vote on each other’s performance; concerned more with working towards the objectives and healing teammates than having a positive K/D. To someone outside of the industry, these could seem like frivolous distinctions, but it’s things like kill death ratios that keep people from picking up an FPS. With the main objective being to kill other people, people that weren’t good at shooting down others rarely enjoyed themselves. Seeing the respawn screen seconds after just spawning is exhausting, and shooters are not fun if you’re the only one being shot. Overwatch took that away and allowed players to enjoy themselves in a variety of ways, only one of which were taking down the opposing team. And I think that, was one of the main things drawing people that only played JRPGs and Animal Crossing to this quasi-shooter.

This year, Inc.com named Riot Games their Company of the Year Award. Now, this might seem disjointed, but the point is that one of the reasons Riot Games was at the top, was because of their response to their “customers.” An average business might help you with your problem, apologize, and move on, but Riot Games’ League of Legends was a game in which players got not only a response but a change. If players voiced that they had a problem with X, the dev team would come out and communicate with them about X, if it was a feasible fix, they would do it. If they felt it would ruin the balance of their game they would hem and haw, but eventually, they found a way around their obstacle. Within the first week of release, there were complaints about the sexualization of one of the characters, Tracer, and enough complaints were made that they redesigned her. They took the time and effort to draw and reanimate the part of a character’s body simply due to complaints. Amazon.com might ship your items on time, but they won’t change the shape of the box if you find it offensive. Riot Games and Blizzard Entertainment would – and did.

Overwatch became a powerhouse before it even hit the street. But it’s player base grew instead of faltered due to the richness of the game and it’s characters; how quickly, without even noticing, players became attached to the game’s heroes; the ease of entry they provided for people who have never picked up a controller where the bottom-right bumper was the most used button, and the communication they had with their most avid and vocal players. Although I must admit I could never get myself to play beyond the beta I think, above all else, this is why blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch, was voted Game of the Year.


The Game Awards 2016

The time of year has arrived. The voting is over, most of us unaware voting was taking place, but the trailers that are released tonight will be analyzed and dissected for hundreds of hours over the next few weeks. The personalities and the performances might be cringe worthy, but we often forget to stop and thank the people that pour everything they have into the games we spend hours of our lives consuming. Tonight is the night we take time out for the heroes, who make us feel like heroes – our way to show appreciation, outside of our wallets, for the joy that they bring to our lives.

In the next week, I’ll be adding to the fray and contributing my thoughts on why I think the winner of each category went home with the prize.

Stay Tuned,
Slightly Judgy Gamer