We would like to apologize for the current state of Earth. We should have paid more attention to making it run better. We will fix all bugs and crashes, ultimately culminating in patch v. 2021. Please accept our sincere apologies.
Humbly, The Earth Development Team”
This evening marks the end of an especially trying year. While we’ll be celebrating the end of it, those celebrations will also look a lot different than we’re used to. Keep your chins up. Hope is on the horizon. We just have to sit this one last party out.
Jump online and play some games with friends. Spend some time with your favorite Twitch streamer. Take this opportunity to finally binge The Mandalorian. The year 2021 will start out a little rough, too, but once we get over those first few bumps, it’ll only get better from there.
The Xbox Series S is basically the Nick Foles of Microsoft’s next-gen lineup. It’s not the franchise quarterback. You shouldn’t build your entire entertainment experience around this particular box. But in the right circumstance, it is perfect. It is exactly what you need. It can deliver in the clutch, and sometimes, that’s all you really need.
Look: 2020 has been a tough year. We’ve been largely blocked off from friends and family. So many of the social activities we enjoyed — playing sports, going out for beers — were either changed drastically or were shut down altogether. We’re losing out on a lot of the experiences we once shared with one another, and it looks like 2021 might have more of that on the menu. Yes, things are looking up, but we still have at least a few more months of the status quo.
Now that the Xbox Series X is here, a lot of gamers are playing big-name titles at 4K and 60 frames-per-second for the very first time. It is both transformative and glorious, but while playing newer games at higher resolutions and frame rates is nice, we’d love to see some past classics updated, too.
It’s time to morph into Phil Spencer-Claus, and quickly.
We’re less than five days away from the Christmas holiday, but hey, we get it — this has been an atypical year. Things have been disorderly, to say the least. If you’re still scrambling to find gifts for the gamer in your life, it’s perfectly understandable. Perhaps this last-minute Xbox gift guide can help.
A few years back, Microsoft started making a concerted effort to put games on Windows again. For PC players who’d learned how to live without many of the company’s exclusives, that moment was the one they’d all been waiting for.
Microsoft’s streaming solution on Xbox sucks. Here’s why.
Following the death of Mixer, Microsoft took a hands-off approach to game streaming on Xbox consoles. Any mention of streaming at all in the console’s Guide disappeared. Instead, Microsoft simply said, “You’re on your own. Download the Twitch app. Good luck.”
I’m going to be pretty blunt here: after trying to use this for a few weeks, I can safely say it sucks.
For starters, it is clunky as all hell. You either have to start the Twitch app and begin broadcasting before you open your game (which then shows a sort of “snooze” screen to viewers for a bit), or you have to:
Open the game
Open the Twitch app
Configure your settings for the stream.
Back out again
Open your game up again
It is definitely not as streamlined as the Mixer integration was. With that, all you had to do was open the guide and choose the option to start broadcasting. It was dead simple.
The Twitch app — though it does offer a lot of tweakable options — is also wildly inconsistent. Sometimes it doesn’t want to start broadcasting. Sometimes it throws me weird error codes while I’m browsing around inside of it. Sometimes it fails to detect the game I’m playing, which forces me to open Twitch via a browser and enter it manually. Not a great experience at all.
Lastly, by way of there only being a Twitch app, streaming is limited to Twitch. There is no way to stream to, say, YouTube. There is no built-in way to broadcast on Facebook, which is wild considering the fact that Microsoft sent a bunch of Mixer partners there. It is Twitch or bust, and because the process of actually getting a stream up and running is so convoluted, the only option for Xbox players is also a poor option.
At this point in time, it seems tough to argue that Sony hasn’t done a better job with streaming on the PS5. Starting a broadcast is easy, and there are other platform choices available. For Microsoft, there really is no excuse. The dashboard on the Xbox Series X and S is the same found on the Xbox One. It’s not as though Microsoft didn’t have time to add cool new streaming features into a brand new user interface. The company simply chose not to do it, and the experience is worse off as a result.
I truly hope Microsoft puts some people on this in the future, and eventually builds more robust streaming capabilities into the Xbox dash. What’s there now is a mess, and is quite honestly pretty embarrassing.
As we prepare to say our farewells to the Xbox One, it’s worth taking a look back at its legacy.
As we prepare to say our farewells to the Xbox One, it’s worth taking a look back at its legacy. Sure, the console had a rocky start. Yes, it got absolutely smoked by the PlayStation 4 (and likely the Nintendo Switch) in sales. But while it broke some promises, it made a lot of new ones that’ll carry forward into the next generation. The future looks bright for Xbox, and the Xbox One has a lot to do with that.
Here’s what we loved about the Xbox One.
1. You brought us Xbox Game Pass
If the Xbox One is remembered for anything, it should be the console served as the first home of Xbox Game Pass. This service — arguably the best deal in video games today — is unrivaled in terms of the value it delivers. Its ever-evolving library offers tons of variety. The fact you can get Xbox Game Studios titles on the day of release at no extra charge is superb. Xbox One may not have killed it in the exclusives department, but I’d argue Xbox Game Pass almost made up for it.
2. You made backward compatibility a huge Xbox selling point
Early on in the generation, it sure seemed like both Microsoft and Sony were pulling plays out of the same playbook. Both had left a previous-gen console behind with no intention of providing native backward compatibility. Both seemed okay with that.
The hardships the Xbox One faced, however, forced Microsoft to pull some rabbits out of its hat. The company’s immensely talented engineers started first by getting Xbox 360 titles — built for a PowerPC architecture — running on the x86 Xbox One. They then went further by including a select number of games from the original Xbox.
Backward compatibility is now here to stay. Both the Xbox Series X and S will be able to play Xbox One games. They’ll also support titles from both the Xbox 360 and Xbox. Microsoft’s newest-gen machines, all in all, will cover games from four console generations. This may have never happened had things gone differently with the Xbox One.
3. You rarely said no
Ubisoft wants to put a man in a pig mask on all of its game covers? Sure, why not. EA wants a subscription service on our platform? Let them go for it. Amazon wants to integrate and add Xbox voice commands? Unleash the APIs.
One thing the Xbox One played home to — and Microsoft should get some credit for — is just how willing the company was to play ball on a lot of weird ideas. Like so many things, Microsoft was likely forced in this direction by everything that went wrong with the Xbox One in its first few years. If the company can keep that attitude in place, the Xbox Series generation could be very exciting to watch.
4. You made the HDMI-in port a feature I’ll miss
If there’s one area the Xbox Series consoles took a step back in, it’s the omission of the HDMI-in port. Who in the world thought this would even make a list like this? I certainly didn’t think I’d be making this argument. But the HDMI-in port was one of Microsoft’s wiser moves, and it’s a shame it won’t make a return in the Series X or Series S.
Sure, cable TV may be on the outs, based on the number of over-the-top streaming services that exist. But do you know what the Xbox One’s HDMI-in port did that was so helpful? It let you plug those streaming boxes and sticks in without taking up another HDMI port on your TV. More than that, it let you enjoy entertainment on those devices while still getting alerts from Xbox Live.
Perhaps I am alone on this island, and no one will agree. But I wish the HDMI-in port had stuck around. It would’ve made moving to the Xbox Series X or S even more seamless.
5. You allowed Phil Spencer to take the helm
So much of everything Microsoft’s done right in the past few years can be traced back to one fateful day: the day Don Mattrick got the boot (and went on to subsequently ruin Zynga), and Phil Spencer got called up to the majors. Since then, Xbox has suffered a few setbacks, but has largely become one of the more pro-consumer brands in the gaming space.
Think about all that’s happened under Spencer’s leadership. Microsoft rolled out the Xbox One S and the Xbox One X. Microsoft introduced Xbox Game Pass. Microsoft made backward compatibility a major focus going back to the original Xbox One. Microsoft acquired a horde of development studios, with more on the way once the Bethesda purchase becomes final.
Phil got his start as Head of Xbox trying to right the Xbox One ship. When you think back to the Xbox One — and think of all the good things that came out of this generation — it’ll be tough not to associate Phil Spencer with a lot of them.
Lordy. Okay, so what you’re about to read is not a joke. It’s also not something scraped from the PlayStation subreddit, or a Twitter comment plucked from a die-hard PlayStation fan. It’s a statement made by someone who covers video games for a site I actually really, really like.
“When you have an Xbox One X, the Xbox Series S does not feel like an upgrade and the Series X feels like too much of an upgrade. I feel like I’m in this weird wasteland created by Microsoft’s bad decisions for the last 7 years.” You can attribute that quote to GameIndustry.biz‘s Editor-in-Chief, Matthew Handrahan, who uttered those words on the site’s latest podcast.
That sounds ridiculous, right? Some people, like Windows Central‘s Jez Corden, have called it out for being a “legendarily” bad take. I, as someone who writes for an all-Xbox site, am here to tell you this: that cut-out looks bad on its own, but the argument that surrounded it was actually pretty sound. Here’s why.
What Microsoft attempted with the Xbox One X was a mid-cycle upgrade — kind of like going from an iPhone 6 to an iPhone 6S. The way the company went about this, however, bridged this generation with the next one in a way that wasn’t ideal.
In a perfect world, the Xbox One X would’ve been what the Xbox Series S is now; a console that slightly ups the resolution and can play games at much higher frame rates. Then, when the Xbox Series X arrived, there wouldn’t have been a need for two next-gen Xbox consoles. Microsoft would’ve had the lower end covered by the One X, and the higher end covered by the Series X.
Instead, Microsoft sold a $500 machine that, just three years later, was discontinued. Microsoft left everyone who owns an Xbox One X holding the bag a little bit.
Which new Xbox do you move to now, having just spent $500 three years ago? The Xbox One X is not considered “next-gen.” Support will go away at some point. What Microsoft is asking is for you to cough up another $500 to have the next-gen machine that can do 4K. To play the newest games at that resolution, you will need the newest top-of-the-line machine. There is nothing below the Series X capable of doing that.
The Xbox Series S certainly looks like a worthy system, but it dials things back. It can do the same 60 frames-per-second in titles as the Series X, but it is meant to play games at 1440p. In terms of resolution, it can’t do what the Xbox One X can. In terms of what is “next-gen” and what is not, however, the Xbox Series S will have support for years to come. The Xbox One X may not.
I honestly feel for those who purchased an Xbox One X. Microsoft touted 4K as the future of video games, and then changed course a little bit leading into the next generation. Now 4K isn’t the focus so much anymore — it’s all about the “feel” of games and getting those higher frame rates.
The Xbox One X — a console that was top-shelf just three years ago — isn’t even in the conversation. It isn’t a step below the Xbox Series X, which is what you’d expect. Instead, it’s flat-out not being manufactured anymore. Microsoft is essentially making it disappear. That’s not how a mid-cycle refresh is supposed to work.
Anyway, that’s where I think GameIndustry.biz‘s Matthew Handrahan is coming from. It’s easy to single out that one quote and ridicule it. GamesIndustry.biz‘s Twitter account certainly didn’t help matters by highlighting it. It’s a lot harder, as someone who is an Xbox fan, to admit the Xbox One X wasn’t handled all that well.
The start of a new console generation typically means leaving your older games behind, only to buy them as upgraded remasters later on down the road. I say typically, because this generation is going to be a whole lot different than those that came before. Microsoft is actively pushing a feature called Smart Delivery, which automatically upgrades some Xbox One titles to their Xbox Series X counterparts at no additional cost. On top of that, Microsoft is going back and patching up some of its older games for the new system — Forza Horizon 4, Gears 5, and so on.
It’s a consumer-friendly move, no doubt. But we think Microsoft can do more.
Just as Microsoft’s done with a number of Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles, could the company potentially upgrade Xbox One games without the developer’s help? For instance, could Microsoft somehow unlock the frame rate on The Witcher 3 or Red Dead Redemption 2? Could players somehow see better performance in something like Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey?
Even better: could titles that released early on in the generation get a resolution bump on top of that? Could Microsoft pull off some magic and, say, force something like Ryse to run at 1440p or even 4K? Microsoft is certainly doing more than it has to with certain games on legacy Xbox consoles. But why stop there?
Now that Halo Infinite has been pushed back to 2021 and the Xbox Series X is prepping for a launch without a new first-party title, perhaps Microsoft should do more to examine what else it can offer players in Infinite’s absence. A beefy machine doesn’t hurt, though games that’ll take advantage of the Series X’s power may be in short supply this holiday season.
Maybe it’s time to think about all those fantastic older games that aren’t getting the Smart Delivery treatment. If Microsoft can somehow work some magic on those, it’ll have yet another box checked off that the PS5 doesn’t when both launch this holiday season.