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The Xbox One X Is Trying to Pave Its Own Path in the World

STARTING SCREEN | The Xbox One X is out tomorrow, but we wonder who it's even supposed to be for.

Feature by Caty McCarthy, .

Starting Screen is the USgamer staff's weekly column. Check back every Monday as we share our thoughts on the news as well as game music, recent movies, and more.

The Xbox One X, for all intents and purposes, is the most powerful console on the market right now. As Microsoft hopes to lead potential buyers to believe, it's an easy-to-use alternative to PCs, without all the bells and whistles and headaches that are inherent to PCs. The Xbox One X is leaning towards a PC-console hybrid of sorts.

The only problem with the Xbox One X is the most glaring one: there's no dang games. At least not of the console selling, exclusive variety.

Of course, that's really hyperbole. There are games for it that have yet to grace other consoles. Halo, Forza, and Gears of War are a few series that remain in Microsoft's clutches. Other miscellaneous exclusives, like Sunset Overdrive and ReCore, have passed the console by as well. Noted indies and smaller scale titles like Cuphead and Ori and the Blind Forest have found success on the platform too.

Yet compared to the PlayStation 4, a console that released many, many more console exclusives this year, the Xbox One can't help but look empty in comparison. 2017 alone has seen the releases of Uncharted: Lost Legacy, Yakuza 0, Gravity Rush 2, and Horizon Zero Dawn. Even niche titles like Danganronpa V3 and Project Diva: Future Tone, or games such as Nier: Automata that straddle PlayStation 4 and PC. Just in the year 2017, PlayStation 4 feels like it's bursting with exclusives. Meanwhile, the Xbox One almost feels like it passed its peak a long time ago with Gears of War 4 and Halo 5—arguably the biggest exclusives possible for the console.

Even then, those were exclusives bent on nostalgia, on the promise of the Xbox One heading back into Microsoft's glory days with the original Xbox and later the console king: the Xbox 360. Instead, both games sold modestly; they performed critically well, but neither were enough to be console movers on their own. Microsoft knows that Xbox isn't top dog anymore. Maybe after the lack of huge success with those titles, Microsoft is trying something different: making games available to as many people as possible. To hell with exclusives. Microsoft's testing an alternate path.

Assassin's Creed: Origins, in particular, looks stunning with the Xbox One X enhancements.

To account for that, Microsoft has been spearheading accessibility with their "Play Anywhere" program. If a player buys a game either on the Xbox Store or on the Windows 10 store, they'll be able to play the game on either platform seamlessly, even carrying over their save. (Unfortunately for me, Windows 10 decided to gobble up my Cuphead save, R.I.P.) Joining the Play Anywhere party is also the Xbox One's backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 games (and now Xbox games too). Slowly but surely, the library's been filling up with well-regarded older games and ones that feel almost negligible. Overall, Microsoft's shaping the Xbox One up to be the type of alternative console that players keep hooked up until the end of time. A place for all their games to live.

The course correct will definitely need time to find its footing though. Players still complain about the lack of Xbox-specific exclusives, especially now that most Xbox-exclusive games are cross-compatible with PC. The Xbox One in general is still lagging behind its competitors: the PlayStation 4 with 63.3 million sold (as of June 30th, 2017); the Nintendo Switch with 7.63 million units in its first year so far; compared to the approximated 31 million for the Xbox One.

The Xbox One X remains the most powerful of them all though. It's releasing tomorrow, 4K capabilities in tow. Games like Assassin's Creed: Origins and Forza Motorsport 7 stand to gain the most from the "Ultra HD" enhancements. Others, like Rise of the Tomb Raider, get crisper textures and the like that will stun the naked eye. Despite how good most games look, some are still capped at 30 frames-per-second. For some players, like PC enthusiasts, that's a dealbreaker.

That's where the Xbox One X falls, as a weird sort of in-between premium console. As Microsoft has reiterated countless times, the Xbox One X is very much that: a pure premium console. It's not something to replace existing Xbox Ones out in the wild. It's set to make most games look better, but at the cost of giving players exclusive experiences to play through. (Though some may argue the improved visuals of games are exclusive and unique to Xbox now, even against Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro.)

For the average consumer who cares about such fidelity and might want an Xbox One X, it wouldn't be outlandish to assume that they may already have a fully capable PC at the ready, hooked up to their 4K television at some capacity. The Xbox One X is for the players who fall in-between: the not-PC enthusiasts, but the ones who want the most bang for their buck in terms of those crisp graphics, baby. The Xbox One X provides the best they can get on any sort of console, provided they have the television outfitted for it. And yet, that subset of people is hard to imagine on a grand scale. As if the bulk of consoles sold this holiday season will be confused family members buying Xbox Ones for children.

But heck, I'm probably wrong. The Xbox One X is already the fastest pre-ordered Xbox in history. The folks who want it seem to really want it. As for me, I think I'm fine with my Xbox One S for now. Maybe I'll finally dive into Assassin's Creed: Origins over the coming weeks to see how much of a difference HDR makes alone.

Wolfenstein 2's mysterious vault unlocks this week. Will it lead to the first chapter of its season pass DLC?

Looking Ahead to the Rest of the Week

Even if the darkest days of the year are behind us, November's looking to be a pretty hefty month, game-wise. Here's what you should be keeping an eye on this week.

  • Xbox One X: Microsoft's big premium console drops tomorrow. It's $499, but holds more power than any other console on the market. It's so powerful, in fact, that games won't even touch it. (Just kidding, there's a decent line-up of games that will take advantage of its "4K Ultra HD".)
  • Sonic Forces: We didn't get codes for this (nor did other outlets, which raises a few eyebrows). Although, our old pal (and former Editor-in-Chief of USgamer) Jeremy Parish managed to track down a copy in the wild and reviewed it for Polygon. He gave it a 5/10, so, do with that knowledge what you will. As for us, if we can land a code at launch tomorrow Mike and I will be streaming it on Thursday, probably just to mess with its hopefully glorious character creator. Sonic OC fan fiction, here I come!
  • Need For Speed: Payback: This year is literally overflowing with racing games, but Need For Speed seems to be the last of them. (At least, I think it is.) As we saw during E3, Need For Speed: Payback is taking the racing series in a sort of Fast and the Furious direction. I suppose we'll see if that ends up paying back when Mike's review goes up this week, and the game releases on Friday, November 10th for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
  • Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus DLC: Ever since launch, a very mysterious timer has been ticking down. On November 7th, whatever's in this mysterious vault will be revealed. I have my money on it being the first chapter of Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus' Season Pass, which will have players bouncing all across America as new characters fighting their own respective stories in Nazi-occupied America. Though, it'd be great for there to be a chapter select added to the main game too.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds: Mike gave the upcoming Horizon Zero Dawn DLC a spin, which brings Aloy to a new frontier to explore. As far as DLCs go, it's nothing too flashy: just more Horizon Zero Dawn, if that's the sort of jam that might hold you over before the end of the year rolls around.
  • DOOM on Nintendo Switch: Doom's coming to Switch this Friday. I'll be checking it out to see how it shapes up, but a sneaking suspicion tells me it's just Doom, but now on Switch.

Nadia's Note Block Beat Box: Daytime Town from Etrian Odyssey V

Well, now I've done it to myself. I'm playing Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth for the Nintendo 3DS.

I was a little unsure about taking the plunge at first. I'm not great with systems-heavy dungeon crawlers, and I've never played an Etrian Odyssey game until now. But Kat did a good job pitching Etrian Odyssey V to me on Axe of the Blood God, so I said "Heck it. I'll go ahead and download the demo."

So I download the demo, make my guild, and hastily name it "U2" because I thought I might not latch onto the game (oops). Then I start shuffling around the town menus and I'm like, "Wait a minute. Is this jazz music? Like, the smoothest friggin' jazz music I've ever heard in a video game?"

It is.

So you climb up the Tree of Life, sustain mortal wounds, and come limping back into town to the accompaniment of some of the most calming music ever written for an RPG. It's Etrian Odyssey V's way of telling you "Yeah, you got your ass kicked, but negative perspiration, my dude. Be chill. Rest up, and try again." Needless to say, I love this game.

Mike's Media Minute

For a brief moment today, the internet was embroiled in another round of speculation and dreaming. The reason? A CNBC news item about ongoing talks between 21st Century Fox and the Walt Disney Corporation. The deal would see Fox selling all of its assets unrelated to news and sports to Disney.

This is important, because 21st Century Fox owns the right to several key Marvel Comics properties, including the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. The lack of Marvel Studios ownership over those properties has long been a fan contention: without a deal in place the X-Men and Fantastic Four cannot cross over into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. In addition, Fox's output with both brands hasn't been all that great. While there have been hits like X-Men: First Class, Deadpool, and Logan, there have also be misfires like the last Fantastic Four and X-Men: Apocalypse.

I'm of two minds about such a potential deal. On one hand, I think the X-Men and Fantastic Four deserve filmmakers that will turn out at least solid films. On the other hand, part of the magic of Marvel's current slate of films only happened because the company lacked access to the entire X-Men line. Given a reality where Marvel owned the X-Men and Fantastic Four, I doubt we would have past films like Guardians of the Galaxy, current releases like Thor: Ragnarok, and upcoming films like Black Panther and Captain Marvel.

Those choices came about because Marvel is lacking those traditional properties. I think a Marvel Studios without all those assets is more liable to make creative choices in which properties it chooses moving forward. In contrast, Warner Bros owns DC Comics lock, stock, and barrel. Of the random 20 films floating around in various states of production, seven of them are Batman-related in some fashion: Justice League, Batgirl, The Batman, Gotham City Sirens, Nightwing, Harley Quinn/Joker, and the Justice League sequel. That's one family of characters that has an entire schedule cornered. That makes sense, given the last two Batman films made a billion each, but it's a bit disappointing in terms of variety.

Regardless, the talks are currently dead. It's Hollywood though and Fox's stock price rose on the news, so talks could always resume. Either way, I'm torn on whether I want Marvel Studios to have control over the X-Men, Wolverine, and Deadpool again. (Fantastic Four needs to come home.)

World of Warcraft revealed its new expansion, the first since Legion.

This Week's News and Notes

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Comments 17

  • Avatar for Roto13 #1 Roto13 15 days ago
    Microsoft still banks on Halo and Gears of War and those just aren't very good any more.
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #2 riderkicker 15 days ago
    The only reason I want an Xbox One is the 4k Blu ray, and Forza Horizon. However, the Xbox 360 can easily be obtained for $50 and its games are massively cheap fulfilling the same niches the newer system continues to showcase. I can't think of anything else I can't get on the PS4 unless Microsoft really expands the original Xbox lineup or actually gets near perfect emulation. Well... unless there's an idolmaster coming out.

    There's gonna be a Fullmetal Panic game even though it appears to be Japan only but the trailer is dubbed in English.
    Edited 2 weeks ago by riderkicker
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  • Avatar for LunarFlame17 #3 LunarFlame17 15 days ago
    Picking up an Xbox One X to get the most out of my 4K TV? *snort* I’m still rocking a 720p TV, so I highly doubt I’d notice much of a difference. Besides, that 500 bucks would be better served buying more games for my beloved Nintendo Switch, and/or a PlayStation 4. I’ve enjoyed my Xbox One, but I’m starting to feel like it was a mistake to get that instead of a PS4.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #4 Roto13 15 days ago
    @riderkicker If blurays are all you want, the Xbox One S does that too.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #5 LBD_Nytetrayn 15 days ago
    @Roto13 The answer is clearly to finally bring Spartan Strike to the console.
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  • Avatar for Retro-Plissken #6 Retro-Plissken 15 days ago
    Why exactly has Microsoft lost so many of their exclusives anyway? They did fine with both previous consoles.
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #7 Captain-Gonru 15 days ago
    @Retro-Plissken I'm not actually sure they have. It seems to me most of them are still here, or coming, but aren't as exciting for the audience now as they used to be.
    The article mentioned the waning sales numbers for Gears and Halo ("waning" might not be the right word, exactly), but I don't see the franchise here that wasn't also there before. Forza is here, and Crackdown is coming. And Sea of Thieves never even came up.
    I think PS4 did a better job of selling their console out the gate this time around, and Xbox is playing catch up. Because the games are there, at least when compared to last gen.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #8 SatelliteOfLove 15 days ago
    Oh, Nadia...you can have no idea what WONDERS await you in the beauteously-accompanied hellscape of the EO series.

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  • Avatar for docexe #9 docexe 15 days ago
    Given the reviews I have read (especially the one from Digital Foundry) I think that, for the market niches that it’s catering to (people who have a 4k TV and want content to enjoy for it, people who care about the graphics and performance of games but for whatever reason prefer to play on consoles rather than on PC), the Xbox One X might actually be a very appealing option.

    Who knows, it might even prove to be more commercially successful than the PS4 Pro in spite of being more expensive. That being said, I don’t think those market niches are large enough for the Xbox to finally catch up to the competition. Then again, that might not be what Microsoft is aiming for.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #10 Ohoni 14 days ago
    I own an XBone back when they'd announced a Phantom Dust revival, I bought it years before my PS4, but haven't turned it on in over a year. Everything I want to play is either on PS4 or PC. I do not get the point of the Xbox at this point, and certainly not in spending more money for a slightly stronger one that is still not as good as my PC. I feel it was a better purchase than my Sega CD, but I definitely feel similarly about it at this point.
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  • Avatar for Retro-Plissken #11 Retro-Plissken 14 days ago
    @Captain-Gonru Yeah, still even the 360 had games like Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, Alan Wake, and Fable. I think cancelling Scalebound and the Obsidian game were big mistakes.
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #12 kidgorilla 14 days ago
    The Xbox One X feels like a weird endpoint for Microsoft that Sony forged for themselves at the beginning of the PS3 era: the most powerful machine they could make, nearly complete backward comparability, boutique price tag. For the power user, I can see the benefit after shelling out 599 US dollars for a launch PS3, but that was also factoring the beginning of a console generation and the promise/ lofty expectations that come along with it. I don't have any beef with Microsoft or the Xbox, but this all just seems to be too little, too late

    Get some killer exclusives, though, and I would see more appeal
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  • Avatar for SuperShinobi #13 SuperShinobi 14 days ago
    I think the X1X and the Pro mark the comeback of the premium console. In the '90s the Neo Geo and the 3DO were expensive premium consoles meant for a more affluent audience than your common SNES & Genesis. They only sold a few million units globally, but technically they were way ahead of those 16-bit machines. The Neo Geo for instance offered close to PS1 and Saturn level 2D visuals in the early '90s.

    The X1X and the Pro have a better chance of success, because in inflation-adjusted amounts they aren't as monstrously expensive as the Neo Geo and the 3DO were at the time. The fact that the X1X and the Pro share the library with the base models and don't have any exclusives of their own is both a pro and a con compared to the '90s premium consoles.

    I like the idea of the premium console, which I think has the potential to grow the overall console market and maybe also tempt some people to migrate from the PC back to console. However, the premium models will probably always be somewhat niche compared to the more affordable mainstream consoles.

    Great point about the MCU by the way. If Marvel had had the rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four it's doubtful whether films like Guardians of the Galaxy, Dr Strange and Ant Man would've been made. It's those gems that have kept the MCU feeling fresh and somewhat unpredictable.Edited 2 times. Last edited 2 weeks ago by SuperShinobi
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  • Avatar for KaiserWarrior #14 KaiserWarrior 14 days ago
    Microsoft is still paying for #dealwithit and that switch that they couldn't just flip, until they did. There are few compelling reasons to own an XBox, with the PS4 having a larger library and the PC having more power, so it's pretty much down to goodwill and company loyalty... and those went right out the window when Microsoft stood up on stage at E3 and loudly proclaimed "Screw you and your consumer rights, give us your money you stupid sheep".

    Gears, Halo, and Forza just aren't enough to sell a console through that miasma.
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  • Avatar for Drachmalius #15 Drachmalius 14 days ago
    The question for me is less about why get and Xbox one X and more about why get a half step console at all? I don't have a 4K TV and probably won't be able to afford one at all for the next few years, by which point there will probably be a new generation of consoles on the Horizon (with zero dawns in sight). I love my ps4 and Xbox, but also spend a lot of time on PC and Switch these days. There's like, no reason to buy these things unless you have a disposable income and/or enjoy having the latest thing for the novelty of it (which is totally fine, you do you).
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  • Avatar for mattcom26 #16 mattcom26 14 days ago
    I'm the exact target consumer per Mike's breakdown of the 'in-betweener'. I don't play on PC, but I have a 4K TV I love to get the most out of. I also don't yet own an Xbox of any kind this generation (a PS4 Pro), and it grieves me to have missed out on Gears of War being a big fan of the series. So, if I'm not jumping at an Xbox One X then I don't know who would be. I opted to invest in a Switch (the $300 console that costs $500 to play once you've bought decent accessories, an SD card and a game), because I ultimately want more to play. That said, if the One X has a price break next year I might reconsider.Edited 2 weeks ago by mattcom26
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #17 MetManMas 14 days ago
    @KaiserWarrior Yeah, Xbone doesn't have anything I want that I couldn't play on either the PS4 I already own or a decent PC if I ever get one. Not to say I'm not envious of a few of their indie exclusives, but there's already so many indies in my wheelhouse on PS4 that it's a challenge to keep up.

    Frankly, if I had the $500 I'd go for PlayStation VR over an XboneX. And that's saying a lot since I'm still not 100% sold on VR.
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