It's become clear that the Xbox One version of Monster Hunter: World is behind the PlayStation 4 release in terms of priority.
Both games are ahead of the PC release, but one is clearly taking the second spot. When Monster Hunter: World was first revealed, the game was announced for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The game was planned for a simultaneous release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, with the PC version coming at "a later date." Fans assumed that meant another month or two on the PC release, but Capcom announced that it was coming in Fall 2018, a release window months after the console versions. Surely, that meant both console versions were the focus, right?
The first hints that the PlayStation 4 was the king of the jungle started early. Monster Hunter: World was announced at E3 2017 at the PlayStation press conference, with Capcom later confirming that the game was coming to Xbox One and PC as well. The PS4 announcement trailer went live on June 13, 2017, while the Xbox announcement trailer didn't come until June 23. That PlayStation 4 marketing focus would continue until launch, with the PS4 version's exclusive Horizon Zero Dawn content, and even a limited edition PlayStation 4 Pro bundle with unique colors just for Monster Hunter: World.
A week before Monster Hunter: World was supposed to bow on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the PS4 version had enjoyed two beta periods and was preparing for a third. Multiple beta periods make sense, because you want to test your online game in live conditions before launch. So where was the Xbox One beta? When asked directly about plans for an Xbox One beta, Capcom gave an honest lay of the land.
"No, we’re focusing on PS4 right now," Monster Hunter: World producer Ryozo Tsujimoto told Express.
There would be no Xbox One beta for Monster Hunter: World. Instead, while the PS4 was battle tested and ready, the Xbox One version was being released with a wish and a prayer. So it was no surprise when Xbox One players immediately reported online matchmaking issues on the platform.
Xbox One players couldn't find an online game in Monster Hunter: World because matchmaking wouldn't work, and worse, they couldn't even connect with friends in some cases. Monster Hunter: World is a game that has a significant single-player component, but it's meant to be played with a group: everyone working together to hunt a grand beast is why the series found popularity in the first place. To have that feature not work on the Xbox One version was frustrating. There were workarounds with private lobbies, but a basic feature of the game was just busted. So players made their voices heard.
"Can we appreciate for a minute that PS4 got three betas, while Xbox got none, and all of our multiplayer options are completely broken because of it?" said one thread on Reddit.
"So for those out of the loop, we are now several days from the release of Capcom's Monster Hunter: World, and most, if not all, options for the multiplayer are flat out broken for players on Xbox, to the point where the game is effectively a single player RPG for anyone who came in without people to play with," wrote Resetera user Zeta Ori. "And as someone who spent $69.99 on the digital deluxe edition, I'm starting to get pretty pissed. Not really because I am having issues with the game itself, but because this is the first time this series has graced a Xbox platform outside Japan and this is how newcomers are being exposed to it."
Capcom heard the outcry and promised to fix the issues. Just a few days ago, Capcom told USgamer directly, "The dev team has identified the problem and is working closely with the team at Microsoft to test and then deploy a patch to address the matchmaking as soon as possible."
Hello Hunters, we’re aware of the Xbox matchmaking issues and dev team is actively investigating it, we’ll update you as soon as we can.— Monster Hunter (@monsterhunter) January 27, 2018
Hunters on Xbox One, the “Matchmake”, “Filter Search”, “Squad Session Search” and “Response to SOS” functions are currently unavailable; our dev team is currently working on a solution and we’ll provide an update as soon as it is available.— Monster Hunter (@monsterhunter) January 29, 2018
The publisher finally released a patch for those matchmaking issues yesterday, a week after the game's launch. But those aren't the only problems plaguing Xbox owners. Our compatriots over at Digital Foundry took a look at Monster Hunter: World on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro, Xbox One, and Xbox One X. They found additional detail in World's rendering on the PS4 Pro in the resolution and performance modes.
"While the Microsoft console offers a cleaner look, PS4 Pro has an advantage of its own in this mode: additional detail mostly resolved in the form of more distant foliage, and a crisper image in static scenes," said Digital Foundry. "Prioritising performance pulls back detail significantly, and frame-rates push higher. Curiously, just like the resolution mode, PS4 Pro still manages to push out additional distance detail compared to the X, mostly based on foliage draw distance."
Choosing the graphics-focused mode brings both platforms into parity, despite the Xbox One X being a stronger system. Digital Foundry notes that both platforms have technical issues and several caveats, but it's interesting how close one is to the other.
Some have surmised that Capcom has given the PlayStation 4 version more love because of a marketing deal with Sony. That's entirely possible and the companies already have an existing relationship due to Sony funding the development of Street Fighter 5, which is why that fighter is exclusive to PlayStation 4 and Steam. I think the larger problem is Microsoft's complete lack of a footprint in Japan and other areas of the world.
Dragon Ball FighterZ had some similar issues, with the open beta phase actually being offline-only for Xbox One players. Bandai Namco later offered an Xbox One online beta right before launch, but online lobby and matchmaking issues persisted for the whole beta. In both cases, we're seeing Japanese developers and publishers having issues with Xbox One as a platform.
Which makes sense, given their domestic region has only sold 91,822 Xbox One systems to date, according to Media Create numbers. To put that in perspective, the PlayStation 4 sold 140,145 systems last week off the back of the launch of Monster Hunter: World. The PlayStation 4 has lifetime sales of 6.2 million in Japan and the Switch is already at 3.5 million. The Xbox One just doesn't compare in Japan.
And yet, Japanese developers can't ignore the platform either. Microsoft stopped giving hard sales numbers for the Xbox One worldwide, but SuperData Research estimated that around 26 million Xbox Ones were sold worldwide as of January 2017. The larger Japanese publishers can't ignore that userbase, despite the fact that most of it isn't in their home region. The Xbox One isn't important, but at the same time, it is. That trickles down into all facets of Japanese development. There's simply less experience and expertise for the Xbox One in Japan, so we get Xbox releases with issues.
These days, Japanese publishers don't even release the Xbox One version in Japan, as is the case with Monster Hunter: World. Go to the Japanese site for the game and the Xbox version doesn't exist. That's probably not going to change anytime soon and it's unlikely the Xbox One will ever be the lead platform at any developer unless Microsoft funds development of a game. Japan is settling into PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch as its platforms of choice, with the Xbox One getting grudging support.
As long as that's the case in Japan, the Xbox One will always be a second-class citizen and it'll keep affecting the releases of games like Monster Hunter: World.