Game News

Microsoft didn't break a promise, but their messaging lacks clarity.

Published: 15:51, 24 July 2020
Updated: 17:52, 24 July 2020
Key art for Xbox Series X
Set phasers to fridge.

As we digest the extravagance of Game Pass' insane value proposition and Geoff Keighley's choppy stream, there's a lot of conversation following the Xbox Games Showcase concerning whether Microsoft have already broken their cross gen promise.

There's plenty of prior references we could cite that define Microsoft's position on cross gen releases and bridging the gap between Xbox One and Series X. But what matters is where we're at today, and the Xbox Games Showcase did, at first glance, muddy the waters somewhat. 

The subsequent attempts at clarification on social media have done little to dissuade a growing frustration that Microsoft have done a swift about face, perhaps in response to their own internal teams pushing for the better hardware, Sony's more aggressive generational shift, a combination of both, or neither. 

At least on the surface, it's tough to make that call. However, when you really dig in to what they showed, Microsoft are guiltier of not setting realistic release windows for these announcements than anything else. 

Remember: the existing line has been "1-2 years of cross gen releases", but given the mostly CG teaser debut's for their more enticing first party efforts, games like State of Decay 3, Everwild, Fable, Avowed etc... are all likely coming out in 2022 (at the earliest). This would place them outside their previously stated window for cross gen releases, and therefore make sense as targeted Series X / PC experiences. No harm, no foul.

Xbox Halo Infinite screenshot showing master chief Chief knows best.

Where things get tricky is the timing of these announcements, perhaps out of necessity to capture some conversation following Sony's strong, but largely unsurprising PlayStation 5 games slate reveal. 

Both companies have made it clear they have more to show, but Sony and Microsoft have struggled with unveiling games too early, and setting unrealistic release dates for them that were never going to be hit. 

Furthermore, Microsoft have been having a messaging problem of late; poor use of the term "gameplay reveal" for their Inside Xbox May event, and now the befuddling inconsistency between their showcase key art and their specific game websites contradicting each other over release platforms.

The big takeaway here is that, while Halo Infinite remains their big bet for the holiday's (and is likely to capture more overall positive sentiment that Insomniac's standalone Miles Morales experience for PS5), they have a lot of work to do to ensure this kind of kerfuffle doesn't happen again. 

For Microsoft, if the competition from Sony is forcing their hand into making announcements well ahead of time, they should give these super early reveals a release window. While 2022 might seem a long way off for the average consumer, it would help reframe expectations without locking in an unrealistic target for their development teams.

Microsoft Xbox Series X artwork showing hardware specs Look at those innards!

They would be able to stand by their oft repeated position on cross gen support, and invalidate the (somewhat flimsy) argument that somehow games being developed for Xbox One are holding back their Series X counterparts. Folks spouting such drivel forget of course that PC gaming, which is at the bleeding edge of graphical fidelity and experimentation, has been scaling to Microsoft Paint levels of desktop hardware for decades. 

On top of that, these kind of PR inconsistencies are exacerbated tenfold because up to this point Microsoft have been very upfront about what the Series X looks like, its technical specifications, and the studio acquisitions they've been snapping up. 

That transparency is appreciated and effective, but it comes with a cost: heightened accountability. Looking ahead to the launch of Series X and beyond, Microsoft will once again have plenty to consider as they continue to carve their own path.

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