Let’s be honest. The launch of the Xbox Series X/S has not been entirely fantastic. Since dropping in November, the unit has been absent from shelves and without first-party exclusives to entice the masses. That’s not to say Sony’s launch of the PS5 has been that much better, but that at least appeased players with the surprisingly delightful Astro’s Playroom, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and the Dark Souls remake.
The Series X/S, on the other hand, has been thriving on mixed bags like The Medium and Immortals Fenyx Rising. Of course, there is plenty on the horizon in future years like Fable and the inevitable sixth installment of Gears of War, but what can Microsoft do to strengthen its first year of release?
That’s a question we’re looking to answer here. Yes, the Xbox Series X and its less powerful digital counterpart have a promising future, but will any of that promise rear its head before the close of 2021? Let’s take a look at a few things Microsoft can do before the year’s end to secure a solid launch year.
Better Stock Management
Let’s start with the obvious. Microsoft (and Sony, for that matter) has been struggling to keep up with the demand for its new consoles. Initial shipments were largely eaten up by scalpers looking to make a quick buck, and it’s still a bit of a problem. What little inventory is pushed out is sold out literally within seconds – and with some eBay listings for Xbox Series X consoles touting more than 300 units sold, it’s evident that consumers are willing to spend the $800-plus for the hard-to-find console.
Due to a number of reasons, from resource availability to assembly line capacity, it’s not quite as easy as saying “release more stock!” Instead, it should be about stock management. Work with retail outlets to reduce the effectiveness of those late-game scalpers still buying out the relatively small inventory that’s being shipped. Or, if it can’t be dealt with through third-party sellers, limit inventory strictly to Microsoft’s online store (and physical locations).
As it stands, the Xbox Series X and its digital counterpart are falling behind the three-month sales numbers of the Xbox One. More inventory could correct those figures.
Actually Release Halo: Infinite
Yes, it turns out it was a really good thing that Microsoft didn’t release Halo: Infinite as planned. Poor Craig would never have heard the end of it. However, Microsoft does need to make sure it releases its flagship title in 2021. As of writing this piece, the release date was scheduled for a blanket “autumn 2021.” Considering the game already received a substantial push from its planned launch alongside the console, it’s not unthinkable that it could be pushed again into 2022. That is absolutely something Microsoft will want to avoid.
Not only is Infinite poised to be a console seller, continually delaying one of Microsoft’s most beloved and important titles could break trust with players. “If they can’t get a handle on Halo, what hope does any other first-party title have?” is sure to be a narrative that would emerge.
Sink More Resources into Game Pass
In March 2021, Microsoft announced that, through its acquisition of ZeniMax studios, it would be adding future Bethesda titles to the company’s subscription service. While it was a smart move to seek out one of gaming’s most beloved studios, Microsoft shouldn’t stop there. Game Pass is the company’s opportunity to dominate an entire market.
Playable on the Xbox Series X/S, Windows 10 computers, and Android devices, the service can attract a massive audience – if the content is strong enough. 2021 should be the year that Microsoft really emphasizes its intention to turn Game Pass into the go-to streaming service. It should be developed into such a strong ecosystem for gaming that other companies can’t help but consider integration.
While it’s a large undertaking that could span a few years, now is the time for Microsoft to strike and really stake its claim in video game subscription services.
Emphasize Future AAA Exclusives
If you’ve spent any amount of time on the Internet, chances are you’ve heard how the Xbox Series X “has no first-party games,” and its library is weak. It’s time for Microsoft to show that it plans to push the AAA gaming experience for this generation. While Resident Evil: Village, Back 4 Blood, Far Cry 6, and more are planned for the Xbox Series X library, few of these games are exclusives.
Players love exclusives. It makes them feel like they’re part of something unique and special. They also enjoy when the exclusives aren’t simply sequels or reboots of older series. A new Gears of War is exciting, but something entirely new could get people talking and excited about the library that Microsoft has cultivated.
This actually goes hand-in-hand with another tactic Microsoft can implement to strengthen the first year of the Xbox Series X/S: acquire more studios. It’s how Sony’s PS4 received award-winning titles like Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us. With the right acquisition, Microsoft could level the playing field and start churning out those unforgettable AAA releases.
Is There Hope?
When you hear some people talking about the Xbox Series X/S, it sounds like the console is doomed to fail. That is far from the case. Microsoft’s newest gaming hardware is a fine piece of machinery with a lot of potential. Sure, it may slip a little in performance here and there, but that can be chalked up to the first-year jitters.
All the console needs is for Phil Spencer to make the proper moves and announce new AAA gaming experiences to enhance what started as a relatively lackluster launch year.