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Why I’m not worried about Xbox’s lack of exclusives

Forza Horizon 5
(Image credit: Microsoft)

It’s no secret that the Xbox One was significantly less successful than the PlayStation 4. As of June 2021, the PlayStation 4 sold more than 116.4 million units throughout a near eight-year lifespan. While Microsoft hasn’t revealed Xbox One’s exact numbers recently, Ampere Analysis data estimates that it’s currently sitting around 51 million units sold.

Even when comparing the critical success of exclusives between PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Sony boasts a greater number of acclaimed games during the last console generation than Microsoft. If you disagree with the critics, that’s fine! However, the PlayStation 4 is undoubtedly more beloved in the public eye. 

Once November rolls around, the PS5 and Xbox Series X | S will reach their one-year anniversary. So far, fans have been asking: Where are all of Xbox’s exclusives? 2021 has been a soft year for the company, with its biggest launches so far being The Medium and The Ascent. It may seem like a troubling time for Xbox gamers, but I’m not worried.

Xbox has taken aggressive action to ensure this current generation is full of awesome stuff to play. Sure, we’re not seeing the full results of those efforts just yet, but I’m confident that the next few years will be good for the company.

Xbox’s recent acquisitions 

Over the past year, Xbox has made several risky moves to ensure its current console generation boasts an exciting lineup of games. These actions include expensive acquisitions, with the most notable being the $7.5 billion purchase of Zenimax Media, the parent company of Bethesda. The acquisition gives Microsoft ownership of a number of talented game studios, including Bethesda Game Studios (The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Starfield), id Software (Doom, Quake, Rage), Arkane Studios (Dishonored, Prey, Deathloop), MachineGames (Wolfenstein), Tango Gameworks (The Evil Within, Ghostwire: Tokyo), and Zenimax Online Studios (The Elder Scrolls Online).

This one sale alone should pave the way for Xbox’s exciting lineup over the next six years, but the company has also put money into other studios. These include Ninja Theory (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Bleeding Edge, DmC: Devil May Cry), Undead Labs (State of Decay), Compulsion Games (We Happy Few, Contrast), PlayGround Games (Forza Horizon, Fable), inXile Entertainment (Wasteland, The Bard’s Tale), Obsidian Games (The Outer Worlds, Pillars of Eternity, Fallout: New Vegas, Grounded), and Double Fine Productions (Psychonauts 2, Broken Age, Brutal Legend, Grim Fandango).

Psychonauts 2

(Image credit: Microsoft)

These studios don’t include the ones Microsoft already owned, with a few examples being 343 Industries (Halo) and The Coalition (Gears of War). Microsoft even built its own studio from the ground up in 2018. Called The Initiative, the studio is working on “the first AAAA game,” which is now confirmed to be Perfect Dark.

So if Xbox has so many talented game studios under its belt, why has 2021 been such a dry year for Xbox exclusives? Well, video games take many years to make; for example, PlayStation’s God of War (2018) was in development for five years. Xbox’s earliest mass-acquisition dates back to 2018, so it’s not surprising that these studios don’t have games ready to launch yet. 

However, once the floodgates open up, Xbox could boast a lineup competitive enough to challenge PlayStation. And this renewed spirit could kick off with Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 launching later this year.

The power of Xbox Game Pass

Beyond Microsoft’s talented studios, Xbox Game Pass is a unique advantage within the industry. Knowing you'll automatically have access to every Xbox Game Studios exclusive over the course of a subscription gives gamers the option to play games they wouldn't otherwise spend $60 on. While I’m not an avid fan of racing games, I enjoyed my time with Forza Horizon 4. And if it wasn’t available to me for free with Xbox Game Pass, I never would have played it. Now, I’m more excited than ever for the launch of Forza Horizon 5.

I’d only spend $60-70 on a game if it were something I have genuine excitement for prior to it being released. With everything else, I wait for a deep sale or just ignore it entirely. This has been an issue with my Nintendo Switch; there are plenty of titles I am mildly interested in playing, but Nintendo games are notorious for not being discounted throughout their lifespans. Something like Astral Chain is still $59.99 on the Nintendo Store, yet it launched in 2019. In comparison, The Last of Us Part II launched last year, but it’s already $29.99 on the PlayStation Store.

Xbox Game Pass

(Image credit: Microsoft)

I’ve wanted to try Astral Chain since it launched, but the high price of entry has stopped me from taking the plunge. However, if it were on Xbox Game Pass, or had sales as deep as those found across the PlayStation Store, I would have already played the stylish hack-and-slash game.

Xbox Game Pass is even more advantageous thanks to the company bringing many of its games out onto PC. It’s already confirmed that any Xbox Game Studios exclusives will be launching across Xbox consoles and PC simultaneously. As a result, I don’t own an Xbox Series X and I won’t ever need to. My subscription to Xbox Game Pass gives me access to every upcoming Xbox Game Studios exclusive, and I won’t have to pay another dime to hop in and start having fun.

Xbox Game Pass has even coordinated with EA Play, providing free access to many of EA’s biggest titles at no extra cost. Xbox Game Pass is a shockingly good deal, and once Microsoft’s slew of exclusives begin rolling out, we'll all be sitting back, amazed by what Xbox has carefully built.

Outlook

There is no denying it — 2021 has been a soft year for Xbox. PlayStation 5’s biggest games this year included critically beloved titles like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Returnal, with Deathloop and Kena: Bridge of Spirits still to launch later in the year. For Xbox, there hasn’t been much to be excited about, with the most notable games so far, The Ascent and The Medium, receiving only lukewarm reception.

Halo Infinite

(Image credit: Xbox)

Despite the rocky start, I’m not worried about Xbox — it just needs more time. Microsoft has secured top studios in recent years, and we’ve seen some of what’s coming next, a list that includes Halo Infinite, Fable, Redfall, Forza Horizon 5, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Perfect Dark, Everwild, Avowed, Psychonauts 2, Starfield, The Elder Scrolls 6 and many more.

And thanks to Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft is now behind the most rewarding video game subscription service out there. Once we get our hands on some of the company’s bigger exclusives, Xbox could gain a reputation as heralded as PlayStation's.