With the recent cancellation of Scalebound by the Xbox team, gamers, and the media they cling to, have started the usual predictable flood of anguish over the so-called death of Xbox they’ve been predicting for the last four years. Scalebound was announced at the 2014 E3 conference, alongside other games that have already launched. Scalebound was widely expected to launch in 2017, but due to PlatinumGames experiencing some issues as confirmed by their recent actions, it wasn’t too surprising when Microsoft announced that the game was officially cancelled.
What I found most jarring was the outcry from some corners of the internet and the media over the cancellation. Many outlets called the game dull and the protagonist a douchebag for being quite eccentric. We all know that the media loves their game protagonists to be thirty-year-old men with a knack for climbing ledges and making dad jokes, and their definition of a hit game is robots playing golf in virtual reality. I wish I were joking about that. But is there any truth to these so-called calls for Microsoft to step up their game and release more games or, like Sony, give the illusion of a wide variety of games by announcing them four years out?
Gamers have been quite vocal in recent memory about companies like Microsoft and Sony revealing games that won’t launch within the twelve months they were announced, and these companies have recently started to adhere to this. Sony recently stated that they will not announce any more games that won’t launch in the year of the reveal (after they revealed a slew of games that won’t launch in the next twelve months), and Microsoft proved through their 2016 E3 showing that they have pushed the same narrative. For example, Microsoft have launched 62% of the games they announced at E3—which are AAA headlining games—compared to just 27% by Sony to date.
Of the games that Microsoft launched in 2016, the overwhelming majority of them were announced the same year, with the exception of ReCore—which was announced in 2015, Quantum Break—which was announced in 2013, and Gears of War 4—which was announced in 2014. Sony on the other hand likes to pad their lineup with indie games which are either PlayStation 4 console exclusives, or games that eventually become multiplatform like Rime or The Witness. Sony has announced more games in the last three years against Microsoft, but their record of launching said games hasn’t been so impressive. The majority of the games they announced in the last four years have mainly been indie games released by third-party developers. Microsoft on the indie front has been less than successful, with the majority of indie games announced being delayed almost at an equally impressive rate.
That said, the outcry from gamers is quite unfounded and over-reactionary. Two games in recent memory have been cancelled by Microsoft: Fable Legends and Scalebound. However, both of these games were met with equally mediocre interest by gamers in general and the media who covered them. Scalebound was developed by well-loved Japanese developer PlatinumGames, who is known for titles such as Bayonetta and the ill-fated Ninja Turtles game which was pulled from stores on both platforms. Japanese-style games haven’t seen much popularity in western markets, with the Xbox platform being the worst performer in this category...which makes the cancellation make even more sense on top of the negativity from the press in general.
Phil Spencer is well known by gamers as a hardliner when it comes to release dates, with him pushing developers quite hard to meet deadlines so he can keep pushing out high-quality experiences on the Xbox platform. This can be quite detrimental to developers who cannot keep up. As a gamer I expect and admire his dedication to deliver the games we want to play within a time frame that does not span across multiple generations, like with Sony. The reason Dead Rising 4 outsold an overhyped game like The Last Guardian is because people lost interest in the latter. The fact that the game looks like a PlayStation 2 title and has severe performance issues doesn't help either.
Be as it may, Microsoft and Xbox are healthy and the recent cancellation of Scalebound does not change this in any way. Microsoft have stated that there are many games that we do not know about on top of the already announced State of Decay 2, Crackdown 3, Halo Wars 2, Forza Motorsport 7 (which was accidentally announced by a racing wheel manufacturer) and Sea of Thieves. All of these games have been partially or fully confirmed for release this year. Other surprises include possibly 4K 60 FPS Forza Motorsport 7 which may contain virtual reality support on Xbox Scorpio. Microsoft will most likely announce two or three new titles like they did last year at E3. This means gamers on Xbox will have another jam-packed year ahead, not to mention the massive hardware announcement incoming. Here's looking at you Xbox Scorpio! It doesn't even include the barrage of third-party games we'll be inundated with like Mass Effect: Andromeda or Red Dead Redemption 2.
As for Sony, things are already looking bleak after they recently corrected their 2017 sizzle reel to "2017 and Beyond". So before you go around questioning the health of the Xbox brand and what games are coming, remember that Microsoft has shipped over 60% of their announced titles compared to less than 30% for Sony.
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