While modern-day video game consoles offer a myriad of services, one enduring fact remains: You can’t sell hardware without great software or, at the very least, the prospect of great software.
The Xbox One has sold well, so it’s ridiculous to believe the system is in trouble. As the previous generation stretched farther than anticipated, gamers everywhere were champing at the bit for new consoles. Therefore, even though two new systems arrived at the same time, there was enough anticipation – and enough “generational fatigue” – to support both.
However, it’s also true that Sony’s PlayStation 4 has opened up a significant gap in the early goings.
As of the end of 2013, the PS4 had sold 4.2 million worldwide and the Xbox One had sold only 3 million. The most recent update said Sony had pushed PS4 sales over 5.3 million and Microsoft hasn’t given us a solid figure. Furthermore, the PS4 appears to own every major territory, the US included. This is a huge blow to Microsoft because the Xbox 360 dominated North America throughout the previous generation. In January, the PS4 was the best-selling console in the US; it sold “nearly double” the units of the Xbox One.
Today, we hear about a surprising Xbox One price cut for the UK, a mere 94 days after the console first hit the market. Not a good sign.
But here comes Titanfall…
Let me reiterate what I said in the intro: Without great games, even the most powerful, most incredible piece of hardware ever devised is just one giant paperweight. I suppose some may purchase the Xbox One purely for its enhanced TV viewing and various multimedia capabilities. But for $500, that’s tough to swallow. No, it needs the games, and the biggest one on the horizon launches in just a few weeks time.
This is why Titanfall may be more critical to the early success of the Xbox One than anyone originally expected. The downside is that it’s not an established franchise; undoubtedly, Halo 5 would hit harder. However, one thing is for certain: Respawn Entertainment’s extremely promising title is the hottest game on the Internet right now. Everyone’s talking and when everyone talks, sales forecasts rise.
The biggest plus for Microsoft should be obvious. Titanfall won’t be available on the PlayStation 4. It’s not technically “exclusive” as it will also be on the Xbox 360 and PC (and rumors continue to spread that it’ll eventually come to Sony’s console), but that may not matter much. With a game like this, most core gamers will want to play it on the best platform available. It’s the perfect incentive to upgrade from the 360 to the One, if you haven’t done it already.
Positive feedback AND controversy are bonuses
Titanfall isn’t the hottest game just because it’s supposed to be great. It’s the hottest because it has generated plenty of controversy. Some say it’s just a glorified first-person shooter; others say it represents the evolution of the rapidly aging genre. Either way, people read these things and it piques their interest. “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” doesn’t always hold true in this industry, but controversy isn’t the same as negative press. It means there’s a question, and curious gamers will want to answer that question for themselves.
Considering all factors, this game needs to be big. Between now and Halo 5, there isn’t much in the way of compelling Xbox One exclusives (and let’s face it, exclusives prompt sales spikes), and that $500 price tag is still a big stumbling block. So, either Titanfall hits big and allows Microsoft to close the gap on Sony’s PS4, or the Xbox One falls in price around the globe. Currently, those are the only two ways Microsoft can catch up (at least for the time being).
One last note: We shouldn’t forget that inFamous: Second Son is a major PS4 exclusive and it also launches next month. Personally, I’m far more interested in that than Titanfall, but I’m probably in the minority. Still, it’s just another reason that Respawn’s title needs to be that impressive.