2015 is just about done and dusted. It was a great year for gaming with some amazing games, big surprises and the odd turkey filling up the gaming calendar. So with the year almost over Matt thought it was time to have a look back at the year that was for three consoles. It is now Microsoft’s turn up to bat.
2015 The Year That Was – Microsoft.
Starting the year well behind in sales Microsoft came into 2015 all guns blazing. With new big boss man Phil Spencer at the helm Microsoft took a consumer first approach to proceedings that has served them well all year. Gone was the focus on pushing the Xbox as a media centre and in its places was a firm focus on games and providing experiences that customers had asked for. This approach has seen a steady increase in sales throughout the year and while it is unlikely they will ever catch up to the PS4 they are certainly making the Xbox One a more attractive proposition.
I think the key message from Microsoft this year is that they are listening. With constant monthly updates that include meaningful new features the Xbox One barely resembles the console that was originally released. With extensive media player capabilities, Xbox to PC streaming, much improved multi-tasking and much more I feel safe in saying that the Xbox One is well on its way to having the best feature set in console history. The Xbox One has become an essential part of my living room and I can’t wait to see what more can be added to the system (better music functionality would be nice).
But the real reason to own any console is the games and Microsoft was well served this year in the exclusives department. Forza 6 continued to be Forza, Halo 5 brought some great new things to the multiplayer space, Gears of War: Ultimate was a very well put together remake of a classic game and Rise of the Tomb Raider was my personal game of the year. Microsoft also managed to get a few surprise games out the door like Screamride (a game that is a cross between Burnout and Rollercoaster Tycoon) and Ori and the Blind Forest (perhaps one of the most beautiful 2D platformers ever).
Perhaps the biggest problem with the Xbox One line up this year was the reliance on the “same old” franchises. Forza, Halo and Gears all made up a big part of this year’s release schedule so it was easy to feel that Xbox offered little in the way of innovation as far as games are concerned. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy Forza, Halo and Gears as much as the next fellow but some variety would be nice. This was alleviated somewhat by Microsoft’s improved relationship with Indie developers and an increase in indie titles coming to the system.
Microsoft’s E3 this year was also amazing. Personally I feel it was the best in show but I know Sony dropping the FF7 bomb will probably leave me in the minority. Microsoft showed off a tonne of great games with looks at all of their 2015 titles plus a show stopping Hololense demo that surprised almost everyone. Gamescom however was where the really exciting news was released. Demos of Crackdown 3, Scalebound and Quantum Break as well as surprise announcements of Halo Wars 2 and some great looking indie titles such as We Happy Few made me feel confident that Microsoft is looking like having an even better 2016.
I don’t think I can write this without mentioning Microsoft’s big win with consumers by announcing backwards compatibility at E3. It was a great move that no doubt took some serious technical flim flammery to get working. It was a smart move to give Microsoft a big win over Sony who, let’s face it, are notorious for monetizing their back catalogue. Hopefully the publishers see the benefit in this move and allow Microsoft to include their games in the program. It has pushed my Xbox 360 one step closer to my spare room that is for sure.
The fact that a fresh outlook for Microsoft this year has paid dividends is without doubt. Sales are high, projections are high and consumer sentiment is high. It is probably too late however for Microsoft to catch up to Sony’s massive lead but it is clear they are going to fight all the way. It quite often takes a humbling experience to change someone’s perspective and I believe that the Xbox One’s launch was just that experience for Microsoft. It is great to see a company as big as Microsoft listening to their consumers and with a wider range of new franchises it is hard to see anything but exciting things in the future of Xbox.