News Article

Opinion: Next Xbox Development Woes Could Spell Trouble for the PS4

Posted by Sammy Barker

Modern warfare

Microsoft is supposedly struggling. According to reports coming out of Kotaku overnight, the platform holder is as much as six months behind on producing content for its next generation console. The site’s sources claim that the company recently canned a number of internally developed titles for its impending machine because they weren't coming together as expected. However, the firm’s aiming to compensate for that by pulling out its cheque book, and is aggressively targeting third-party exclusives for its machine. That spells danger for the PlayStation 4.

One high-profile title that’s being touted as an exclusive for the Redmond-based manufacturer’s system right now is the unannounced shooter from Respawn Entertainment, the Californian studio established by former Infinity Ward founders Jason West and Vince Zampella. The report lines up with previous rumours, seeing as the developer is currently aligned with Electronic Arts, who is rumoured to have something brewing for the next Xbox. Assuming that there is substance to the reports, the loss of such a large title could be a huge blow to Sony’s system.

The game itself – believed to be called Titan – is supposedly a futuristic first-person shooter featuring nimble mechs and a multiplayer focus. The title will apparently require an online connection, but not necessarily due to sinister means. Supposedly, much like Sony’s own MAG, the game will only be playable online – there’s no single player campaign, according to Kotaku’s sources. It doesn’t sound particularly appealing on paper, but it would be foolhardy to underestimate the next title from the studio behind the groundbreaking Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. However, it’s the precedent that has us more concerned.

While there have been some attempts from Microsoft to bolster its first-party portfolio over the past couple of years – it added Max and the Magic Marker developer Press Play to its roster not long ago, in addition to founding a new Canadian outfit named Black Tusk – it’s a long way behind Sony in this regard. The PlayStation maker has access to a seemingly limitless pool of top-tier developers, with the likes of Naughty Dog, Guerrilla Games, and Sony Santa Monica currently divided into multiple teams. That means that the PS4 is unlikely to be starved of exclusive content, but if its primary competitor opts to invest in third-parties to counteract its shortcomings, it could spell trouble for the console.

The real problem is that the Japanese manufacturer still doesn’t have a single bankable brand. Gran Turismo comes close, but the next entry in that series is thought to be in production for the PlayStation 3. God of War and Uncharted are both also on the cusp, but outside of that, the platform holder’s struggled to produce titles that make the mainstream market sweat. inFAMOUS: Second Son is certain to be a quality game, but it would never be able to hold its own against a franchise such as Grand Theft Auto, and depending on how aggressive Microsoft’s getting, that’s the kind of series that Sony could cede to its closest competitor.

Of course, aligning with third-parties is a risky and expensive venture, which is why blockbuster exclusives from multiformat publishers have all but faded out over the past decade. In addition to covering the costs of ‘lost’ sales, manufacturers are also generally expected to foot some of the marketing bill. It’s an expense that may have little long term incentive, too. Mass Effect started life as a Microsoft Game Studios franchise, but has subsequently spread to the PS3 and even Wii U. And the likes of Gears of War – which remains owned by Epic Studios – could quite easily be next on the agenda if the Xbox maker fails to pony up again.

But if this generation has proved anything, it’s that the first few years are the most important. Mass Effect may have gone multiplatform eventually, but it’s a franchise that still enjoys most of its success on Microsoft’s platform. Perhaps that’s an isolated case due to the manner in which the series maintains progression between sequels, but a similar phenomenon also occurred with the likes of BioShock, too. The Xbox maker may feel that if it’s able to establish a large fanbase for certain brands on its platform, it doesn’t really matter if those games release on other formats at a later date.

Of course, we’ll need to wait until the 21st May to see what the firm’s actually got in the pipeline, but there’s no denying that the addition of a handpicked roster of third-party exclusives – timed or otherwise – could really hurt the PS4. Sony will put up a fight with its own selection of software, of that there’s no doubt – but it may not be enough. Its competitor has deep enough pockets to really the damage the impending console if it wants to, and the failure of its own first-party endeavours may prove the catalyst that the company needs to flash its cash.

Are there any third-party franchises in particular that you think would be a huge loss to the PS4? Do you think that Microsoft is likely to spend heavily on securing exclusives for its console? Let us know in the comments section below.

User Comments (31)



Epic said:

Microsoft will start buying 3rd party exclusives thats for sure but must of this contracts always dissolve with time just look at minecraft creator he is planning to develop a PS4 version when this happens.
Like always Microsoft will only be different from their competitors in just some aspects:
-Few great exclusives like Halo and Gears of War
-Xbox Live "quality"

The rest is going to be the same as the others thats my guess.



charlesnarles said:

Halo used to be a force to be reckoned with, but nobody even mentions it now. And if 720 is as close to ps4 as this gen was, then who would even care which version came out first, even exclusively for 6 months or whatever? MGS4's exclusivity helped me spend 599 US dollars, but that may have been circumstantial, as its the best series ever lol



hYdeks said:

A exclusive shooter on the next Xbox isn't something that concerns me, REALLY sick and tired of almost ever game being a shooter ¬¬ I don't think Sony will have any problems, May 21st will come around, people will get stupid excited, the system will come out and it will have a huge failure rate like the 360, and people will fix it in stupid ways with pennies and crap -_-

In case you haven't clued in, I have zero hope for Microsoft, no matter what they show. There a poopoo console company, I would rather see Atari try another freakin' console. Ohh, and Microsoft says there gonna have a minimal of 20% failure rate with the new system.....THAT'S STILL TOO [email protected] HIGH! Morons....




ShogunRok said:

Panic mode Microsoft would be extremely dangerous to Sony. They'd be throwing money around right left and center. It would be interesting to see, nonetheless.



Snorky said:

Personally the Titan exclusive doesn't phase me whatsoever. I definitely wouldn't base a £400+ buy on such a trashy game, but then again I fell out of love with the constant stream of low grade FPS a while ago.
I'm sure it will work out for them anyway though, tons of kids love teribad console fps, and N-Americans seem to favour xbox over ps.

All said and done I won't be purchasing the new xbox.



rjejr said:

The new Xbox will have games? I thought it was just going to be a HTC

The PS3 finally caught up in sales w/ the 360 despite coming out a year later and at an extremely high price. Same time release at same price, I don't see a problem. And even if MS slightly outsells Sony in the US, it will never happen in Japan, so Sony will still get it's share of 3rd party support. How many Level 5 games has MS had?



Jaz007 said:

I'm not sure how many exclusives Microsoft would be able to secure. GoW already will run their check book considering that would be very damaging to lose and I'm pretty sure epic will take full advantage on that or put it on PS4. To have third-party exclusives like that would be so expensive I can't imagine them getting very many. They certainly won't get anything of the caliber of GTA or COD. Sony might also offer them incentives to not go exclusive too. It wouldn't be as expensive too because the third-party wouldn't have to make it exclusive. Microsoft is in big doo doo right now.



InsertNameHere said:

Losing Gears would be too big a hit for them to recover from very well. Even massive 3rd party support wouldn't really help.



GraveLordXD said:

I don't care how much money Microsoft throws around or how many 3rd party's they buy up, I will never buy another I'll stick with wii u, ps4 and pc thank you



Stuffgamer1 said:

@hydeks: Yeah...20% definitely is too high. Based on that link, I now predict the forthcoming Xbox meme: The Sad Face of Death!

Really, I don't care about Titan, and I do somewhat doubt that Microsoft can afford to buy enough exclusives to get them out of the hole they've dug themselves into...especially if they DO go with always-online. I do think it's sad that Microsoft can't seem to come up with their own talent...but then, what developer in their right mind would WANT to work with them when Sony and even Nintendo are available? Madness.



3Above said:

I can definitely see MS doing this. But Sony will a few tricks up there sleeve too. Rumor has it the next FF will PS EXCLUSIVE and maybe a few other surprises. Andbit would bebtoo detrimental for franchises like AC, Gta, and certainly CoD to exclusive beven for a time. DLC is another matter. Either way im not buying an xbox.



Bob4 said:

if that is a case then its just off my radar until available.



Zombie_Barioth said:

Securing such high profile franchises has some pretty steep costs, likely too high to secure more than a few. Mean while Sony can probably play that game too, at least to some degree. After all the Xbox doesn't have much of a market in Japan, and being a Japanese company themselves I imagine Sony would have a much easier time working something out with the likes of SquareEnix or Capcom than Microsoft ever will.



Gamer83 said:

I went with 360 over PS3 initially in large part because of third party games that looked to be exclusive. I won't be suckered in by that again and if the rumors of the always-on requirement are indeed true none of this matters anyway because I will not support that business model. I also keep hoping that Gears will get announced as a multiplat franchise moving forward. It makes sense for Epic, even at 6 mil that can't be enough in sales to make up for what it's losing by not offering the games to the PS fanbase.



Slapshot said:

Microsoft buying out Respawn's upcoming title will indeed pull a lot of sales for the upcoming console if it turns out to be as good as most anyone would expect it to be. This will be a huge plus for Microsoft in the West, but . I won't budge the console in other regions too much, most likely.

Sony needs the PS4 to hit the ground running with Vita still struggling so severely. If Microsoft plays this card, which is genius on its part, it will indeed have a high probability of dampening the PS4's sales in the West. Sony better put every major third party developer on stage at E3!



3Above said:

Comments about this on other sites are are decidedly less positive than you would think. I expected them to be calling PS4 Doa but they are put off by the Multiplayer only premise. Rumor: Respawn's game to be Xbox-only and always-online



Holyfire said:

And thus begins the head-on clash between PS4 n 720. They'll fight at each other while. Just another one of my predictions reigning true. Cone launch PS4/720, they will be diluting each others sales while WiiU is in its stride.
Two orher points to be taken from this article
1, development is proving to be getting too hard and too slow for bigger and bigger studios.
And 2. This article cites a hellava lot of first person games. The next gen better have a broader genre range than that to be successful. Can't all be about FPSs
No one realises how tough Sony n M'soft are about to have it when their consoles actually face the real life market



3Above said:

I dont think either company will be limited to FPSes. And niether company is worried about the WiiU.



Kage_88 said:

@3Above - Well, they weren't worried about the Wii, either...

On topic. Even if Microsoft DID gain the exclusive services of Respawn Entertainment, I seriously doubt it would pose a threat to Sony. The company has already lost its biggest exclusive 3rd party series (Metal Gear Solid), but that is the least of its worries. 3rd party exclusives are pretty much a thing of the past; an exception, rather than the rule. It is very doubtful that Microsoft are spending big money on attaining 3rd party interests; the company has lost $8 billion this generation, thanks to the RROD and flops such as the Zune, Windows Phone, Surface and Windows 8. It can't just throw around money forever.

But really, this story (the way I see it) is a reflection of a greater issue; the stagnation of the traditional console model. Things are beginning to implode, with high development costs and too much red tape. Returns are diminishing on all fronts, and both Microsoft and Sony are surrounded by debt.

Sony in particlar is in bad shape:

Still, Sony have alot of great studios and IP, and seem to be going all-out with the PS4. Its biggest strength over Microsoft is its franchises and brand loyalty (IMO). Hopefully the 'all or nothing' gamble taken by the PS4 will pay-off!



artemisthemp said:

Let's for fun say Microsoft secure a lot of quality exclusive, that ain't shooter the first year for NXbox.

Where is the Warranty, that Microsoft will be able to keep delivering those quality exclusives?, because let's face it 360 didn't enjoy a lot of exclusive last year beside Kinect Kinect.

My hopes is that Microsoft is smart enough to show a Dev chart ad the event on May 21, 2013, so ppl can get a idea of what to expect of NXbox.



DarthDiggler said:

That worked so well for MS last gen. You know with their year head start and PS3 and Xbox 360 only less than a million units delta on install base.

Tossing money at studios doesn't produce good games. Look at ACM.



lacerz said:

EA must have some contract language tied to performance to limit their market share, especially with them laying off 10% of their staff of 9,000 employees. If sales don't meet the contractual requirements, exclusivity gets pulled. I just don't think it's a great business strategy to limit your availability to one system for an untested IP coming out sometime in 2014 when you're handing out pink slips to 900 people.



3Above said:

@Kage_88 The Wii was only a success in units sold and the minds of some fans. Software didnt sell on it well and in the long run thats where the money comes from. The biggest software success of last gen didnt come from 1st party devs but 3rd party publishers. And as long as 3rd party devs continue to ignore the WiiU it will be of little concern to MS and Sony.



BlueProxy said:

Well MS will do what they've always done. Use their money to get exclusive or limited content, them spin the marketing for it as if it's the greatest thing in existence... only available on their system. Never mind making diverse, quality first party games. They have their audience, and they aren't worried about grabbing the more open-minded, adult gamers that are looking for more than a FPS experience.



Kage_88 said:

@3Above - I see what you're saying.

However, you say that the Wii's hardware sales were successful. Well, that kinda helps me prove my point. Nintendo made big money on the console; Microsoft and Sony didn't. In another thread, I mentioned that both companies have lost $8 billion and $3.5 billion respectively this generation. Great software sales for both X360 and PS3 didn't exactly help ease these losses; with over 130 developers & publishers going out of business.

Also, the Wii had MANY titles that passed the 1 million sales mark (which is especially good, considering the lower budgets of the games), not to mention mega-sellers like Mario Kart Wii (selling 35 million units) Wii Fit 1 & 2 (43 million) & NSMBW (26 million) - these are numbers that Activision could only wish for their COD games; not to mention Nintendo's 'lesser' successes such as Galaxy 1 & 2, Metroid and Skyward Sword - which all still sold millions.

Still, I do realise that the majority of 3rd party games DID suffer on the console; and fingers of blame could be pointed at various guilty parties all day. Unfortunately, I can easily see the same thing happen with Wii U.

That being said, it's pretty disingenuous of you to say that the Wii was only a success in "the minds of some fans". No, it was a success both financially, and creatively. Don't believe me? Then why are the Mario Galaxys the highest rated games of this gen? Why did Skyward Sword get praised by many outlets for 'proving' the superiority of motion controls? Why did Wii Sports become a mega-phenomenon that helped expand the games industry? Why? Why? Why? Even Al Alcorn - co-founder of Atari - praised Nintendo for the Wii; whilst Will Wright called it the only 'true' next-gen console. Heck, if you want, I can post a giganto list of great Wii games. The stigma of 'no' games can be attributed to mountains of shovelware over the years, and (IMO) an inherant bias of the gaming media that preferred to cover the 'shiner' and 'hardcore' HD consoles, instead of the 'casual' Wii.

Also, I want to mention the fact that both Sony and Microsoft saw the need to directly copy the Wii's big selling-points; with PS Move for the former, and Kinect & 'Avatars' for the latter.

Oh, and again;
Sony & MS - swallowed by debt.
Nintendo - NOT swallowed by debt.
That's the bottom line.



3Above said:

@Kage_88 I see your point about the sales but it brings me back to my point. The highest rated and highest selling games on the Wii were 1st party Nintendo published titles. They wont get royalties from their own games. So in the long run (4-5 yrs from now) the Wii may not be bring in alot of money since most of the Wii revenue probably came from selling hardware. Not mention Sony and MS had the costs of maintaining a large online community and infrastructure. Nintendo had friend codes....

You can argue the creativity of the Wii because of the control scheme but considering the lack of creativity in the IPs I would have to disagree. Take Kirby's epic yarn for instance. It was orginally a new IP with anew character until some decided to shoe horn Kirby in there. There is little little creativity in slapping a mario lable on a soccer, tennis and god knows what other games they put him in. Nintendo gets by on the nostalgia factor in alot of cases, not innovation or creativity.

As for MS and Sony copying motion controls, yes they did. That tends to happen with FADS. Eveybody eventually hops on the bandwagon to try to get a piece of the pie. But thats all motion controls were, a fad. One that I think Move and Kinect proved is not a viable replacement control scheme. If it was we would still, be using Move and Kinect right now. Without it motion control gimmick the Wii would have been little more than an after though of last gen. And with the fickle casual market now enamored with their tablets and smart phones the WiiU will be what the Wii should have been, just another Nintendo system.



Munkyknuts said:

I may have hated GTA4 but I'd still hate to see grand theft auto fly away to Xbox exclusivity....just one of the games I'd be sad to lose. Microsoft buying out 3rd party exclusives is exactly the kind of sh*t I'd expect them to pull, and it would indeed be dangerous to Sony...Microsoft has a lot of money to burn through.



Kage_88 said:

@Jaz007 - Yes, Sony DID work on motion-sensing tech years ago; but the PS Move WAS a direct response to the Wii. Sony even admitted as such.

Using the same principle; Nintendo did not invent touchscreen gaming, but companies like Apple and Sony only began to adopt the tech after Nintendo proved its viability with DS.

@3Above - There was a recent interview with Miyamoto; who stated that Nintendo comes up with a core gaming concept first, before deciding what franchise woud fit it best. I would argue that this causes the perception of the company being too reliant on a set number of franchises (i.e. Mario and Zelda). Whilst I do agree that Nintendo like to jam Mario in a lot of titles (he WAS designed to be versatile, after all), in reality, they are equally as innovative in mixing-up their series' mechanics. Few would say that Super Mario Bros. was the same as Super Mario Bros. 3, or that Mario 64 was identical to Super Mario Galaxy. Likewise, the Zelda games display a lot more variety than they're given credit for; with Skyward Sword being very bold in its new design choices. Regarding Nintendo's creativity with Wii software, I guess we'll have to just agree to disagree on that front.

In regards to motion controls, well, time will ultimately tell if they are indeed a passing fad. With that said, the Wii U Game Pad uses gyroscopic controls and Wii Remotes. Also, the new Xbox is very likely to adopt a new Kinect system, so it seems that motion isn't entirely dead yet. (EDIT: Oh, that's right, the PS4 controller also incorporates PS Move tech). New technology tends to go through a 'rest' period before undergoing a resurgence; as seen with 3D and Virtual Reality (Oculus Rift). With that said, there were actually a few examples where the Wii Remote proved to be superior alternative to a regular joypad (IMO of course). I felt that Skyward Sword's swordplay was simply superb, and proved that motion controls could possibly be a viable evolution to videogame input methods. Likewise, the Wiimote was excellent for FPS games; and was something I regarded as a genuine leap for the genre (imagine my disappointment in seeing Killzone PS4 rely on a 25-year old control system). I can't be alone in thinking this; after all, COD: Black Ops 2 on Wii U supports the Wii Remote set-up, and I've seen many other people ask for future FPS games to continue supporting the set-up. Also, the Wiimote was great for point n' click titles.

Finally, why should the Wii have been "just another Nintendo system?" What does that even mean?

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