The First Look Xbox Series X Gameplay stream back in May was rough. An hour of pre-rendered and “in-engine” trailers with no gameplay left a bad taste. When an expensive new console is the topic of a stream, people want to see gameplay. Many anticipated that the Xbox Games Showcase would finally bring the smorgasbord of gameplay and in-game trailers like we saw in Sony’s PS5 reveal stream last month. After all, Microsoft had already stated the stream’s emphasis on games. Surely, there’d be some deep dives into upcoming titles for the Xbox Series X.
Well, that wasn’t the case. The stream started off strong with a demo of Halo Infinite — though that game didn’t do much to show off the Xbox Series X’s power. It was a good opener for what we thought would be an exciting hour of authentic Xbox Series X gameplay. However, after the Halo reveal, the stream went back to the same boring pre-rendered cinematics.
We can assume that given no delays, the Xbox Series X is going to drop in mid-November. That’s four months until Microsoft will be asking people to drop $400 or $500 for an Xbox Series X. We’ve yet to see a candid look at either next-gen console, but Sony has avoided raising red flags by trickling out info about their platform and showing gameplay with the unequivocal statement that it’s captured from PS5 consoles. This isn’t the case with the Xbox Series X, as even today’s Halo Infinite gameplay premiere was captured on hardware “representative” of the console.
In fact, I can’t find a single instance of actual confirmed in-game footage of a next-gen Xbox Series X title. In March, Microsoft invited journalists to take a look at the upcoming console, but the only gameplay shown was from current-gen titles. Both major Xbox showcase streams haven’t shown anything that’s explicitly labeled as being played on an Xbox Series X. This was an opportunity for Microsoft to highlight the strengths of its next system, and it ended up being lackluster.
The big takeaway I saw on social media was that people were happy that all the games shown would be on Xbox Game Pass. That’s cool and all (and a hell of a deal), but it’s bad news for Microsoft. When you’re about to launch a brand-new console, you don’t want people pumped up about how thrifty they can be. With the statement that there won’t be Xbox Series X exclusives for a few years after the console launches, I’m not sure what Microsoft’s endgame is here. The company almost seems like it’s taking measures against people moving to its new console.
Today’s stream was a great example of how the marketing paradigm has changed over the last year. Companies can’t show a bunch of trailers and depend on influencers and the media to come to visit their booths and play their games and disseminate info to the public. Microsoft hasn’t adapted well to this, and it really shows. Furthermore, the Xbox Series X marketing is confusing, and this stream didn’t do a lot to convince people to buy the new console.
Microsoft seems divided with where it wants to take the Xbox brand. The Xbox One was created with the thought that it could be an all-in-one entertainment device. Well, no one wanted that. So, Xbox leaned into becoming a platform, and Game Pass, and that’s become the company’s niche. However, Xbox, as a platform and Xbox as a console, haven’t formed a cohesive package. Instead, they seem to be two competing products intertwined together, leading to mixed messages from Microsoft and a confused ramp-up to the Xbox Series X.