It’s a difficult call deciding when a future game should be announced. There are no doubt marketing plans, investment outlooks, and dozens of other variables that go into it. Determining the perfect time drastically affects how enthusiastic fans are in some situations. So when’s the best time to do it? Should developers like Microsoft lay out roadmaps or keep their cards close to their chest?
I’ve seen more than a few fans want Microsoft to be more forthcoming with what is being worked on, like what Marvel and Disney do with their movies. Of course film production and game development are two completely different beasts, and I won’t pretend I know the ins and outs of either with expert knowledge. This is merely a comparison of the benefits and drawbacks of providing fans a larger outlook.
Sony has received praise for announcing games that players won’t see for years—God of War, The Last of Us 2, Spider-Man, Days Gone, Death Stranding, and Detroit: Become Human to name a few—because they undeniably get their player base energized for what’s to come and excited about continuing series that they love or jumping into new IP that looks intriguing. PlayStation owners have specific games they can turn to when others ask what the console will have in the future. I’m not saying it’s the right or wrong way to go, but this does lend to the narrative that the Xbox One doesn’t have games, even if that isn’t necessarily true. There have been incredible games to launch on the Xbox One since its release, even if I’d like to see more from Microsoft in terms of sequels and new IP. But it gets hard to argue when you can’t point to a good number of exclusive games in the future because we are kept in the dark.
In the wake of Crackdown 3’s most recent delay, we’ve heard the company say that they made a mistake in announcing it too early. Unforeseen development issues pop up frequently I’m sure, but that doesn’t make it any easier on fans who have been anticipating a game like this for over three years now. Scalebound suffered this problem as well, though its future did not bode as well as Crackdown and it met an untimely demise. Both were actually announced at the same E3 conference in 2014, and Scalebound gained a lot of interest from Xbox gamers. We still don’t know the full details that led to its cancellation, but one could argue that being announced so early with periods of radio silence just led to people’s expectations growing out of control, to a point where it never would have lived up to the hype or have been good enough for players.
Since it has recently been in the news, I’ll use Stormlands as another example. Stormlands would have been the result of a third-party partnership instead of being developed internally at Xbox, and it appears to be a situation where Microsoft couldn’t rein in its vision and Obsidian couldn’t quite deliver on their expectations. So what if they had announced it and went through a couple of years of a marketing campaign. Stormlands would have leveraged cloud power and Kinect functionality, fitting well with the original vision of the Xbox One but not so well today. Did Microsoft make the right call by keeping it relatively secret and not getting player’s hopes up? Looking back on it now, hearing about its cancellation hasn’t caused nearly as much upset as it would have had it been publicly revealed with a gameplay trailer and a planned release date.
Microsoft is stuck in a bit of a limbo then, between a rock and a hard place. Providing a public roadmap for years’ worth of games just sets up expectations that are entirely possible can never be meet because of changing technology, visions, and/or industry trends. But if they keep players in the dark, it hurts consumer confidence.
The Xbox brand has had to endure a lot of punches this generation—many unwarranted, some not—yet it has still managed to gain back a ton of good will with Phil Spencer at the helm. We’ve seen a renewed focus on gamers by providing a more appealing ecosystem with greater choices and benefits. The Xbox One X is set to be the most powerful console ever when it launches in November, completely flipping the narrative that the Xbox is underpowered. We’ve put a lot of trust in Microsoft by sticking with them through it all, but after a few rough stumbles in the software department, there is still some confidence that the company needs to earn back.
I don’t know an answer that would satisfy every Xbox player. I would love to see what Xbox has in store for me in a few years, but then I realize there is a very real possibility a project could be cancelled due to any number of issues. A lot of internal ideas just don’t see the light of day or amount to anything tangible for players.
As of right now we know we are getting three exclusive AAA games with State of Decay 2, Crackdown 3, and Sea of Thieves in 2018, not to mention Ori and the Will of the Wisps at some point, though that’s of a smaller caliber. That’s a solid lineup of games and many are happy with just knowing about those, but it would be nice to know what we can look forward to beyond that. I fully understand Microsoft’s reservations in announcing projects before they are ready, so it’s a tricky situation to navigate in a way that makes everyone happy.
This seems to be a point of contention within the Xbox community, especially with notable delays and cancellations of several games. I felt it was worth looking at the pros and cons of providing a roadmap for players, and I hope it sparks a discussion here. What would you like to see from Microsoft? Are you satisfied with how they currently handle game announcements or would you like the company to do things a bit differently, possibly similar to Sony’s approach? Let us know in the comments.