Counterpoint: The Xbox One X is Right to Prioritize Power, Even if it's at the Expense of Affordability

Much has been made of a lack of new exclusives for Xbox, but clawing back the hardcore first is essential for long-term success.

Opinion by Tom Orry, .

Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One X during its E3 2017 conference, and hammered home the fact that it will be the most powerful console on the market when it releases on November 7. It also priced the Xbox One X at $499/£449.

Combined with a lack of new exclusive game announcements (timed exclusives don't fly, Microsoft!), the internet has been awash with negativity over the Xbox One X. Maybe I'm alone, but I think aligning the Xbox brand with power is exactly the right move to make at the point in time, and should put the platform in a great position going forward. The new console isn't suddenly going to put the Xbox on top, but the road to get back there is now clearly signposted.

Forza Motorsport 7 and Crackdown 3 are both arriving in time for the Xbox One X launch, and Microsoft has revealed a list of over 30 games that will be getting enhanced for the new console. There's no Halo-style big hitter (although everyone knows it's coming), but there are plenty of games that should look and run best on Xbox One X. Even Phil Spencer can't promise that will be the case, with improvements being up to developer and publishers, but the hardware is good enough for there to be no reason Xbox One X ever comes in second place to PS4 Pro.

While the Xbox 360/PS3 era seems like a distant memory these days, it was a generation in which the Xbox really established itself. The Xbox 360 was a console practically guaranteed to offer the best experience with third-party titles. Sony's first-party studios were able to deliver industry leading exclusives (at least in terms of visual wow factor) thanks to a better understanding of the Cell processor, but for me and many others the 360 was the primary console. Most games either ran with a smoother frame rate or a higher resolution on the 360, and the online service (Xbox Live) was significantly better than PSN. I bought games for Xbox 360 as standard, with the PS3 reserved for the likes of The Last of Us and God of War 3. That situation was completely reversed this gen, and it's hurt Xbox big time.

Sony can (and cleverly, repeatedly do) use nostalgia to get its fanbase excited, with the only new exclusive revealed at Sony's conference being a remake of a PS2 game (albeit, an amazing PS2 game) following 4K remaster WipEout Omega Collection topping the UK games chart. For a lot of people nostalgic about Xbox, it's not the big exclusive games they look back on, but the hundreds of excellent third-party titles that they played with friends on the Xbox 360. If you own a PS4 and an Xbox One, there's pretty much no reason to buy any non-exclusive games for the Xbox One. That will change when the Xbox One X launches.

It's also not as if Microsoft doesn't have a roster of strong exclusives hitting Xbox One X (yes, also coming to Windows 10 and the Xbox One). Forza 7, Crackdown 3, Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, Cuphead, State of Decay 2, Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Sea of Thieves are all out or coming soon. Sure, there's definitely room for improvement, with new IP needed to show Microsoft's commitment to the Xbox platform, but that's not a bad line-up by any means.

When I buy an Xbox One X, though, it's not just going to be for those games. I'm going to be buying FIFA 18 (I'd buy Madden 18 if I knew anything about Football), Assassin's Creed Origins, Wolfenstein 2, Call of Duty WW2, Battlefront 2, The Evil Within 2, and all the other AAA titles for Xbox One X. I'm saying this having never bought a third-party game for the Xbox One. Microsoft's console will be the defacto home for the majority of games hitting the market, and that will put it in a great position.

Of course, Sony will attempt to counter this by signing exclusive deals for content, like it's doing with Destiny 2 (including a PS4 only Strike) and Call of Duty WW2 (timed exclusive map packs). It might take the Xbox a few years to get back into the position it was in during the last generation, but the FOMO effect should be strong enough to convince some fence sitters that life with the Xbox One X is worth exploring. While that price point of $499 is high this winter, it shouldn't affect early adopters, and it'll inevitably drop to be more appealing to the masses next year.

The old "you might as well buy a PC" argument has been out in force since Sunday's Xbox One X reveal, but I don't want to buy a PC or deal with the issues that arise with gaming on a PC. I know PC gaming is better than it's ever been, and I'm perfectly familiar with the ins and outs of building a PC, but I just don't want the hassle. A console is easy in a way a PC will never be. And I'd bet the price for performance of the Xbox One X can't be beaten.

Microsoft is making a statement with the Xbox One X, that it wants to be the big dog in the console power war. The Xbox has made great strides in the post-Mattrick era, from the days of the Xbox One as an entertainment machine, and gamers should feel excited about what a determined Microsoft means for the industry. Given the song and dance made over the Xbox One X, there's almost no chance Microsoft will ever let Sony outdo them again in terms of raw power.

Brute force alone won't give Xbox the victory Phil Spencer and the rest are after, but I feel like I'm ready to welcome the Xbox out from the shadows and back into everyday use, and that's without Microsoft really going all-in on first-party titles. If 2018 can turn the corner on that issue, Sony might start to get worried.

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Comments 20

  • Avatar for UnskippableCutscene #1 UnskippableCutscene 8 months ago
    I'm not sure just upscaling old games to a new resolution when they weren't designed to be seen in that resolution really accomplishes a hell of a lot. Square released some 4K screenshots of FFXV from the Xbox, and the close-up ground textures in one shot of Noctis riding a chocobo are atrocious. It also takes up about 20% of the pixels in the screenshot, so maybe Square simply chose poorly to not use Gauldin Quay or Altissa.

    If you don't own any Xbox at all, and you want one, it makes sense to get this one because if you eventually get a new mid-range TV you'll get benefits from it down the road. But anyone who has tried to boot GLQuake on a modern system and seen how today's resolution cause the gun models to stretch can tell you, games just aren't meant to adapt to changing technology all the time.

    (PS: I largely stuck to PS3 way back when because I didn't want to pay for online. Assassins Creed II, Bioshock, and GTA4 were the major exceptions, and they were all offline games. Most people I talked to always bought 360 because it's "where my friends are", and PSN felt like you were alone on an island until 2009.)Edited June 2017 by UnskippableCutscene
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #2 donkeyintheforest 8 months ago
    I'm generally a Nintendo fanboy, but I really though the Microsoft Press conference was the best of the three. It showed a ton of cool stuff and was very positive. I though the presenters felt natural and the stage was amazingly designed (the floor echoed internal components of the Xbox, there was a box that literally revealed and unknown [X haha] which was the porche), and backwards compatibility including cross console LAN party support is so nice.
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  • Avatar for Ohoni #3 Ohoni 8 months ago
    I still see the XBoxOneXOneBoX as being caught between too much and not enough. I just feel that people who need something more powerful than a PS4 Pro will be better served getting a good PC, and that good PC will be able to play anything the XBoxOneXOneBoX can, only better. Meanwhile, most people don't have a 4K TV, and therefore have no need for a game system that really only improves things on a 4K display. Unless they were to fully commit to leaving the XBoxOne-Nil in the dust, and make games that would ONLY run on the XBoxOneXOneBoX, I just don't see why someone would shell out over half a grand to get one.
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  • Avatar for adamacuoadamacuo #4 adamacuoadamacuo 8 months ago
    I think that the $500 barrier will be a problem and Microsoft is prepared for that. As a PC gamer, there's a higher thread on Reddit/buildapc with users trying to build a similarly equipped PC and they're having trouble doing it for less than $700 - and that's without the BR UHD drive and controller. It's a good deal for those that want the best in console gaming.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #5 VotesForCows 8 months ago
    I won't be getting one, but it feels like a good approach to me too. They're way behind, perhaps insurmountably so, in this generation. But we have to remember that they're still doing really well - selling a lot of systems and games. Creating a distinguishing feature for their system (and power always sells to gamers) feels like a good mid- to long-term strategy.

    But Jesus, that name is just awful! I'd have loved to see them double-down on the numbering and go for Xbox1.1 or something...
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  • Avatar for riderkicker #6 riderkicker 8 months ago
    Certainly Microsoft can take a hit on the Xbox One X, especially when it makes the Xbox One S much more appealing. X is powerful yes, but S appears more affordable and easier on the power draw. Besides, most of those games will work fine on the weaker system. It's a costly marketing strategy tho.
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  • Avatar for jumpin_jeeps #7 jumpin_jeeps 8 months ago
    This all seems eminently sensible, as long as Sony don't pay developers for tech parity on multiplat games.
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  • Avatar for jumpin_jeeps #8 jumpin_jeeps 8 months ago
    @Ohoni He clearly stated that he has no interest in PC gaming. I know I'd rather scratch my eyes out. And it's not all about 4k. On 1080p screens the extra power can be used for better frame rates and more visual bells and whistles, if that's what the developer wants. I might consider the X next year once it's down in price and I'm only a casual player with a 1080 screen. Why limit myself to an S when I expect to be playing the machine for more than 5 years?
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  • Avatar for retr0gamer #9 retr0gamer 8 months ago
    As a previous console fanboy I actually find PC a far more accessible experience than using the bloated OS on consoles.
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  • Avatar for mouse-clicker #10 mouse-clicker 8 months ago
    If the XBox One X was the only XBox One model, then this article would have a bunch of good points. But it's not. There's also the XBox One S, which plays all the same games in essentially the same way and is literally half the price. Nothing about this counterpoint justifies spending $250 more on the X model as opposed to the S model.
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  • Avatar for mouse-clicker #11 mouse-clicker 8 months ago
    @retr0gamer I agree. Considering modern console games also require things like installations and patches and updates, I think the modern PC experience is essentially the same. It's been simplified to the point where you literally don't have to tinker with anything to get the game running properly. And most games have controller and even TV support now anyway.
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  • Avatar for sketchlayerjosh #12 sketchlayerjosh 8 months ago
    I'm glad the X exists, even if it's not for me right now. I started off with a PS4 this generation, but since picking up an Xbox One S it's pretty much become my default, even for third-party titles. Maybe this doesn't align me with the average gamer, but the lower power usage, better controller (in terms of both comfort and battery life), and 5Ghz wifi are more important than raw power. I love the PS4's exclusives, but it sounds like a hair dryer and the controller lasts all of a half hour (exaggeration, but that's how it feels).

    Sometimes, though, there is that little twinge in the back of my mind when I buy a game for XBox, knowing that I'm not getting the "optimal" experience. Even though, on an intellectual level, I don't care about that stuff. Now though? I have a lot more consumer confidence knowing that, eventually, I can pick up a faster machine that can spruce up these games. That combines the best parts of a PC with the convenience of a console. That plus the backward compatibility shows a Microsoft that is, for the first time in a while, designing a console with the customer in mind first. Benefits of good competition, I suppose.
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  • Avatar for mouse-clicker #13 mouse-clicker 8 months ago
    @adamacuoadamacuo I think the advantage PCs have, though, is the hardware is constantly getting better, and the hardware it replaces is constantly getting less expensive. The XBox One X is a beast right now for a great price, all components considered, but who's to say you couldn't hit that price point in a year? Or do even better? Or upgrade piecemeal over the system you already have? That might allow you to do even better than the XBox One X without having to literally buy a whole new machine. After all, if you already have an XBox One, Microsoft isn't deducting the price you paid from the X model. (Although I'm sure Gamestop will have some special trade-in deal to put an older XBox One model towards the X-- I think they did that with the PS4?)Edited June 2017 by mouse-clicker
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  • Avatar for DasGouche #14 DasGouche 8 months ago
    I will get the X day one like I got the Pro day one. I have a 4K HDR television so for me the immediate impact is noticible. The One X is not meant to be a system that battles MS back this generation. Phil and MS have already determined that they will come in second to Sony. The X was presented as a sneak peak to MS game plan. This generation MS has been trounced in console sales, console power, game sales, etc... for the rest of this generation, MS can at least claim they have the most powerful console and 3rd party games will most likely run best on their platform.

    This claim sets them up for the next generation to come out swinging and get developers creating games that harness the greater power and bring back consumers they lost like me. I am not beholden to a brand and will play the best version of a game regardless of the console. 4k tv are already dropping in price and you can get one that has HDR for under 1000 right now. In a couple of years, that price will be much lower. The X will be relevant next holiday, but it needed to come out now as a "beta" to get hyped up and possibly allow developers enough time to migrate 4k assets from pc to their console port.

    Additionally, this helps the Pro immensely. Pro support has been shoddy and at time laughable. With the X, the consumer base for "4K" gaming will increase and push developers to be a little more thoughtful about these enhanced ports which is great for gamers.

    Regarding PCs, I don't own or want to own a gaming PC (mainly because I am already invested in the Apple ecosystem) I am cognizant that PC offer the best fidelity, but there is a point for me where that extra fidelity is lost on me, andthe consoles are a great alternative where I still get the wow factor.
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  • Avatar for secularsage #15 secularsage 8 months ago
    The problem is that the main reason for buying an Xbox One X is to make your games look better on 4K TVs.

    4K TVs are likely to have a slow adoption rate (much like 3D TVs before them) since they are not a required or revolutionary consumer upgrade. They also need to be quite large relative to the average current TV size to benefit from the added resolution.

    Further, many current gen games already look good in 4k because the TVs process the video signal and make things look crisp and clean instead of muddy.

    Therefore, I would not expect an Xbox One X to be a very compelling purchase for most gamers, and since Microsoft is already struggling to make a case for why gamers this gen should own an Xbox instead of a good gaming PC, the probability is that high-end gamers will migrate in that direction, not continue to buy more powerful Xboxes.
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  • Avatar for nimzy #16 nimzy 8 months ago
    @secularsage I was of that opinion too, but it looks like the industry does not think so: apparently HDTVs are being replaced by 4K ones at a much faster rate than HDTVs replaced standard def.
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  • Avatar for ojinnvoltz #17 ojinnvoltz 8 months ago
    What sold me (not really since I have a GTX 1070) is that it'll SSAA when not in 4K. Hopefully it'll do that across the board, but I imagine that it's still up to developers to support the ultra HD-ness.
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  • Avatar for Monkey-Tamer #18 Monkey-Tamer 8 months ago
    As an advocate for PC gaming I must admit the hardware is impressive. Unfortunately the list of exclusives is not enough, and remains disappointing. I remember the PS3 going for $500 and was still being sold at a loss.Edited June 2017 by Monkey-Tamer
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  • Avatar for Ralek #19 Ralek 8 months ago
    Never once have I thought "I would buy and play this Xbox One game, if only it ran in 4K supporting HDR!".

    So while all of these arguments might make sense (I still think the 'power argument' is pointless in the midst of the generation, but so be it), it's also a completely and almost unnervingly boring narrative to me.

    I think it will be good for their core audience, the same folks that cheered when the 'vapor chamber cooling solution' was mentioned (yes, that's were we are apparently at now), but I don't see it changing anybody's mind about the Xbox library or line-up.

    Also, for the industry at large, it can't be a good thing to become this bogged down in stat sheets. I was excited when they teased Phantom Dust and Crackdown, when they showed Scalebound and Sea of Thieves, and even Halo and Gears ... this year felt hollow. They showed a bunch of games yeah, but first of all, all of these games we already knew about, and more importantly mostly they were decidedly known quantities.

    The whole presentation lacked a signature moment, showcasing at least one signature game for Xbox 2017. I'm not convinced enough people care that much about 4K/HDR to buy a console solely to that end, and frankly, I don't even hope they will. I think we've find ourselves already in a situation that fosters cynicism, not unlike in the movie business. There you have these type of movies, everyone knows them right away, that are basically just there to have a shot at an Academy Award. Similarly, I really felt like Uncharted 4 example was just build to show us one graphical impressive setpiece after another, without really adding all that much to gaming itself.

    Yeah, it was really a refined product in almost every sense of the word, but it was also do shockingly familiar and took itself mostly so very serious, that I couldn't help but hope, that Naughty Dog would leave the series behind, and put it talents to use on something that is as exciting as the announcment of Uncharted 1 and even 2 was. In that sense, I really hope the title is a clear statement of intent.

    What I'm saying is, that I was actually thinking about this, playing the game, and that kinda bothered me. I guess, I only have to blame myself in the end, but honestly, I felt this "showboat" nature of the game was so in-your-face, that it was hard to ignore, esp. considering the console-wars-context it released it.Edited June 2017 by Ralek
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  • Avatar for Jericho-GM #20 Jericho-GM 8 months ago
    IMO aiming for power at the expense of everything else never worked for anybody, and gaming history is replete with such examples. The N64, Gamecube, and OG Xbox (not to mention every Gameboy competitor but that's a little different) were all more powerful than the competition (and were touted as such) before they came out and that didn't help them.

    I think it has to be the right balance of power, price, good infrastructure and support, and great exclusives, and if "power at the expense of affordability" is the mentality they're going to shoot for for the next generation, then it may end up being in the same losing position. Remember "$299"?Edited June 2017 by Jericho-GM
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