Stop Ignoring Me, XBOX . . .

Contributed by DJMMT

I think the console wars are dumb because the comparisons between consoles are never logical from a true gaming standpoint. It’s stupid that we argue over things like graphics and processing power. It’s stupid that we allow hardware specs to be one of the main points of contention when comparing consoles in 2021. The best hardware for running games is PC. This is not up for debate. But a lot of people are fine with the performance of consoles and both PlayStation and XBOX consoles run at pretty much the same level of quality. So comparing the hardware is just pointless nitpicking over a couple FPS here or there. We should only be comparing the games.

For the purposes of time and discussion, let’s ignore PC and Nintendo. I just want to talk about XBOX and PlayStation. I don’t own a PS5 and I don’t own an XSX. I have no interest in owning both consoles, so I will ultimately buy the console that makes the most sense for my gaming needs. My reason for not choosing to buy an XSX has nothing to do with hardware performance. It has nothing to do with platform cost. It has nothing to do with the price of games. I consider both consoles equally good enough to game on. And I consider both consoles lacking in a number of ways. The only reason I’d choose PS5 over XSX is that the PS5’s issues affect me personally less than the XSX’s issues.

Earlier this year, I sat through 90 minutes of the XBOX + Bethesda E3 showcase looking for a reason to consider buying an XSX rather than a PS5. And rather than convince me that PS5 was not the way to go, Phil Spencer insulted me by having the nerve to end that presentation with a speech that started with these words:

“Team XBOX is on a mission to bring the joy and community of gaming to everyone on the planet. That’s why you, the gamer, are at the center of everything we do.”

My question for Phil Spencer is who exactly does he define as a gamer? That presentation started and ended with the statement that they would be showing 30 games. Now I do not believe that every game should be for everyone. In fact, I’m a huge proponent of the idea that it’s fine for games to have very specific target audiences and that developers can blatantly ignore anyone who doesn’t fall into their target audience for a specific title. I do not believe that developers have a responsibility to change their games for people they weren’t making their games for to begin with. It’s nice when it happens, but I would never fault a dev for not going out of their way to alter their game for players that weren’t part of their original sales plan to begin with. That is to say, I did not expect all 30 of the games XBOX promised to show to appeal to me personally. I don’t have the money for all those games. I don’t have the time for all those games. But if I’m going to buy a new console, I should be able to pick at least five games out of 30 E3 announcement titles that I actually want to play. That’s not even 20% of the games shown. If XBOX is really targeting “everyone on the planet” then I assume that includes every type of gamer.

I like AAA titles with solid enough graphics in a number of genres, none of which are considered specialized or rare by modern gaming standards. I like 3D platformers, hack-n-slash, action RPGs, non-serious sports titles, and story driven third person experiences. The franchises I like are not particularly out of the box or rare hidden gems. I like Dark Souls, Kingdom Hearts, God of War, Super Mario, Zelda, Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed, and many other franchises that sell millions of copies. I’m happy to try games in any genre. I play lots of indies. And occasionally I will take the time to play highly acclaimed games in genres I don’t prefer. I hate FPS games, but I loved DOOM (2016). I’m not into realistic sports games, but I really enjoyed The Crew 2 and I’m currently enjoying Riders Republic. There is no objective person that could argue that my gaming tastes are odd or hard to please. It should not be hard for a company like XBOX, with 23 studios under its belt, to include games for me in their 30-game lineup. But I was sorely disappointed and frankly angry about the fact that Phil Spencer claimed that XBOX was for all gamers around the world. Based on the 30 games shown, that was a blatantly false statement. But let’s actually check the receipts.

These are the games they announced from that list of 30 that are not shooters, not MMOs, not games that are already or will be available on PlayStation 4 (because I already own that platform), and not cross platform titles, because those don’t count as a selling point to get someone to buy either the PS5 or XSX specifically. This list includes 12 Minutes, Somerville, Shredders, Replaced, Grounded, Flight Simulator, and Forza Horizon 5. I will also include A Plague Tale: Requiem, which will most likely be available on PS4 and PS5 as well given it’s published by Focus Home Interactive, but since that wasn’t yet confirmed at the time of the presentation, I’ll count it. I’ll even include Slime Rancher 2, because while it is technically a shooter, it’s not a shooter shooter. Starfield showed no gameplay, so I can’t state if it isn’t a shooter or not at this point, so I won’t count it. I will not count Age of Empires IV, because at the time of writing this it has only been confirmed for PC to the best of my knowledge.

So for those keeping score, of the games I would even look at shown from that list of 30 in the presentation, three are indie titles, two are serious sports games, one is Flight Simulator, and two are sequels to games I’ve never played that were both available on the PS4. None of these games fall into any of the genres I previously stated that I actually like playing. And that’s why I don’t buy XBOX consoles anymore.

I don’t think XSX is a bad console. I think it’s a console that claims to cater “to everyone (who is a gamer) on the planet” but clearly ignores a user base of tens of millions of people who want to play very common and well-established genres of games at AAA quality. I want to want an XSX. But I literally can’t. Because according to Phil Spencer, the word gamer means “person who likes hardcore FPS titles and the occasional indie game”. They have 23 studios and can’t make a decent hack-n-slash game. That seems very intentional. But you know what? PlayStation is no better if you like shooters. More than 100 million PS4s have been sold. Not a single first party, exclusive FPS worth playing ever released on that console. And no, Killzone Shadow Fall was not worth buying. I know that, because I was dumb enough to let my friends talk me into buying it. Am I to believe that 100 million gamers have no interest in the FPS genre? The two consoles can’t really be compared fairly, because both are basically the same spec wise and objectively terrible library wise if we don’t count third party, cross platform titles.

I want a legitimate console comparison scenario. We should be able to compare the consoles based on the quality of the software, rather than the genres. God of War shouldn’t be the selling point of PlayStation consoles because XBOX has no equivalent. It should be the selling point because it’s better than XBOX’s equivalent. HALO shouldn’t sell XBOX consoles because PlayStation has no equivalent. It should sell consoles because it’s better than Sony’s alien killing FPS title. But we don’t get to have those comparisons. And both companies act like they’re making games for all gamers around the world. “Power Your Dreams” . . . unless those dreams don’t involve gun-based gameplay. “Play Has No Limits” . . . except the first-person perspective and guns.

I buy PlayStation consoles, because I happen to like the types of first party games that PlayStation produces. But I can’t objectively say that they’re better than the first party games XBOX produces, because they can’t even be compared. There is basically no genre overlap, except for those two car games I have no interest in playing. I’m just choosing the lesser of two mediocre libraries for my personal genre interests. But neither library can say that it even tries to meet the needs of all gamers. Stop comparing consoles, start comparing libraries, and demand both companies do better to meet the needs of all mainstream genre gamers.

XPG Terrence

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