The eighth generation of consoles is coming to an end within the next two years. Executive Vice-President of Gaming Phil Spencer had this to say during Xbox’s press conference at Sunday’s Electronic Entertainment Expo:
“Our Hardware team, the same team that delivered unprecedented performance with Xbox One X, is deep into architecting the next Xbox consoles.”
A report from publication Thurrott, confirmed through sources by Game Informer, that the new console goes under the code-name “Scarlet”. Scarlet is expected to be released in 2020 according to Engadget and may even be a family of consoles. During Bethesda’s E3 press conference, Executive Producer Todd Howard confirmed that both new IP Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI will be next generation games.
PlayStation is also gearing up for the next generation, as Sony Interactive Entertainment President and CEO John Kodera said to the Wall Street Journal,
“We will use the next three years to prepare the next stop, to crouch down so that we can jump higher in the future.”
So with only two to three years left in this generation, both companies are taking very different approaches to generation nine. Microsoft stumbled out of the gate with their Xbox One console and the infamous 2013 E3 presentation. The Xbox One was massive, had a giant price tag, included the failed Kinect system bundled in and the requirement that the system always be connected to the internet. This stumble lead to Sony capitalizing on the PS4’s features, and while Xbox One did damage control, the PS4 took off and hasn’t looked back.
After Xbox head Don Mattrick left the company to become CEO at Zynga, Phil Spencer would take over the brand in March 2014. Since then, Xbox has taken a 180 and made major changes. First, they ditched the Kinect, which would lower the price of their system by $100. They then began working on other versions of the console, the Xbox One S and the Xbox One X.
Independent developers became important to Microsoft, and it has brought us games like Cuphead and Ori and the Blind Forest. They began to make backwards compatibility a major focus of their system, including both Xbox 360 and Original Xbox titles. Xbox then announced the Game Pass subscription service. Game Pass allows players to download and play any number of games from a library of both old and new titles for only $9.99 a month.
On top of backwards compatibility, Phil Spencer has also been championing cross-play between every platform. The Microsoft-owned Minecraft is now available on every platform, including the Nintendo Switch, which will have cross-play with Xbox One this month. Xbox also announced at E3 that they now have 11 game studios that will be making games exclusively for their platform. This includes Ninja Theory, who developed Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and previous PS3 exclusive Heavenly Sword.
Despite its troubles at the beginning of this generation, and thanks to the new direction brought by Phil Spencer, Xbox is on the upward trend. They’ve built a viable platform that will only help them going into the ninth generation of consoles. Several games announced at this year’s E3 will most likely become launch titles for “Scarlet”. Halo Infinite, Gears of War 5, the rumored Fable under development by Playground Games, and Battletoads could be launch titles. Then you add Game Pass which will give Microsoft’s new system over a hundred games for players to dive into at launch.
In the meantime, Sony is currently dealing with a backlash over Fortnite accounts. I also don’t see PlayStation giving players backwards compatibility with their PS5. Now, Sony will have good launch titles, and the games they announced this year could either be PS5 launch titles or be some of the last titles released for the PlayStation 4.
Microsoft has seemingly turned their fortunes around, and since joining the console market in 2001, Xbox has been securely in second place behind either Sony or Nintendo. They’ve done the groundwork and have taken steps to learn from their mistakes. 2020 and the ninth generation of consoles could be Microsoft’s time to become number one in the console market. I, for one, can’t wait to see the Console Wars begin anew.