Xbox Series X gameplay reveal shows the danger of its lack of exclusives

The Xbox Series X continues to be revealed by way of droplets of information rather than a single flash flood, as today we got to see the console in action with its first gameplay footage. The technology showcased is impressive, revealing dramatically shorter loading times than the Xbox One X, and a Quick Resume feature that allows players to switch between different games within a few seconds. However, this latest reveal also highlights the uphill battle the Xbox Series X faces with its lack of exclusives.

Microsoft has previously stated that the Xbox Series X won’t have exclusives over the course of the next two years. Xbox Game Studios boss Matt Booty confirmed (via MCV) that games released during this time period will instead “play up and down [the Xbox] family of devices.” This means that in its launch year and the year after, players can expect games to release across the Xbox One, Xbox One X, and Xbox Series X.

Historically, exclusives have been used to sell new consoles. Every console manufacturer aims to publish a “system seller” that will get players through the door, and while launch line-ups often don’t feature such a game, there is at least an effort to allure customers with something they can’t get on other consoles. Like Knack.

The Xbox upsell

Xbox Series X gameplay was revealed earlier today, along with new specs. (Image: Microsoft)

The Xbox Series X isn’t going to have any games in its first two years that you can’t also play on an Xbox One. This is great if you’re already invested in the Xbox family of consoles, but it also completely eradicates the big unique selling point of new hardware. This is no more evident than in today’s Xbox Series X gameplay videos.

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Microsoft has used games such as State of Decay 2Gears 5, and Halo 5 to highlight the differences between the Series X and older Xbox consoles, showing how the Xbox One X chugs along when loading new areas as opposed to the Series X’s near-instantaneous load times. Everything looks better, too, even if many of the videos aren’t in 4K 60 FPS, a weird oversight considering these gameplay reveals are intended to highlight the Series X’s technical improvements.

But these technical advancements don’t count for much if the games aren’t there. Now, when Microsoft inevitably holds its big Xbox Series X event showcasing all the info we need to know about the console, it’s all but guaranteed that this will come with several game announcements. The Series X isn’t going to solely rely on the Xbox’s back catalog to sell itself. However, it does need to come with key reasons to either make the upgrade or not buy an older, cheaper model.

Why use State of Decay 2 to sell the Xbox Series X?

The cross-platform game ownership between Xbox One and Xbox Series X isn’t that alluring when you consider that the Xbox One’s lack of exclusives is what made it trail behind its competition in the first place. That the games used to showcase the Series X in these demos are the middling State of Decay 2, along with older releases such as Forza Motorsport 7 and Halo 5, is indicative of how much Xbox has struggled in this department.

Being able to play these games across Xbox consoles isn’t a huge selling point, considering that there aren’t exactly a wealth of major Xbox One exclusives to choose from. Without exclusives, the Xbox Series X’s “This plays your existing games, but faster!” makes the console feel like more of an iterative upgrade than a brand new generation.

Microsoft clearly wants to keep current Xbox One owners playing its games for as long as possible. It’s not difficult to see why considering how much the company has pushed its Game Pass subscription service. But it also needs swarms of people who don’t own an Xbox One to pick up the new console if it wants to get ahead of its competition again. If the market is repeatedly told that Xbox Series X is just making Xbox One games look prettier and run faster, then is that enough to attract a wide new userbase?

Everyone who wants an Xbox One has already bought one. Comparing Xbox One games running on the Xbox Series X isn’t going to do much to convince new customers, considering that these games haven’t worked on them thus far. As such, if Microsoft maintains its reliance on cross-platform play over new experiences,  the Xbox games library needs to dramatically improve with the Series X.