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Halo 5 might miss 2014. If so, will Titanfall really be enough?

If word from the very mouth of Master Chief (voice actor Steve Downes) is to be taken as gospel--and it isn’t entirely, as of yet--then the release of the Xbox One’s Halo 5 could slip to 2015. Obviously, if that happens, then it’ll be very disappointing for players, not to mention a rather sizeable blow for a console increasingly struggling to compete in the face of much faster-selling competition. The most recent sales figures give the PS4 a 2:1 lead against Microsoft’s machine for January in the US, and the (relatively) imminent return of the Xbox’s biggest franchise would have gone some way toward building the One’s momentum.

Both next-gen machines are currently lacking killer apps, but the PS4 is making great headway by way of a lower price and its attractive status as a PS+ machine. There might be little in the way of big hitters landing soon, but the constant flow of strong, free games gives the PlayStation 4 a unique value all of its own. So if the Xbox One is to compete in the near-term, what does it have to fall back on? With work on the next-gen Gears of War only just starting, surely the console’s biggest hope is EA and Respawn Entertainment's Titanfall.

Titanfall, arriving in mid-March, is excellent. I’ve played rather a large amount of it at various preview events, and I continued to have a great time with the beta at lunchtime today. I’m thus far finding it to be the freshest, most interesting, most exciting multiplayer-only shooter I’ve played in years, and I’d heartily recommend it to anyone, based on my current experience of it. Is it enough to turn around the Xbox One’s fortunes though? I’m not entirely convinced.

Because as fantastic a game as Titanfall is, it has three attributes that I feel might limit it as a hardware saviour. Firstly, it is only one game. For those looking forward at the tangible future potential of a console (ie. those who Microsoft really needs to convince to buy an Xbox One), one great game, however great, probably isn’t enough. Secondly, while it’s the best MP-only shooter I’ve played in years, that caveat is important. It is an MP-only shooter, and historically those don’t set the console world on fire. It’s ironic, of course. Millions buy a new Halo or Call of Duty, only to rinse through the campaign in a matter of hours before spending months online. But give a console player a game that caters only to multiplayer and--unlike on the PC--its commercial prospects seem limited.

The third problem? Although not heading to the PS4, Titanfall is not an Xbox One exclusive. It’s releasing on the PC at the same time, and on the Xbox 360 a couple of weeks later. That third format in particular could be a problem for the XO. As I've mused before, this new hardware generation is plagued like none before it by cross-generation releases, and that’s seeing the new consoles struggle to distinguish themselves as must-buys with exclusive selling points. Titanfall will look better on the Xbox One, but mechanically it does nothing that couldn’t be replicated on a 360. And does it look £400 worth of better? No, no it doesn’t.

I’m in no way writing off Titanfall or the Xbox One. The former is an amazing game, and the latter has years to prove itself. But Microsoft’s first steps in doing that cannot rely on one single release. The PS3 started out troubled, but Sony realised that long-term consolidation of a strong, eclectic exclusive line-up was the key to success, not quick-fix hype. If Master Chief really is going to be delayed in his arrival to next-gen, Microsoft needs to be thinking in those same terms. The spirit of Sony’s successful PS3 strategy is arguably alive and well in its generous approach to PlayStation Plus. Going in a similar direction, ideologically if not strictly in terms of emulated policies, would be a great way for Microsoft to start. 

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19 comments

  • rxb - February 16, 2014 6:21 a.m.

    The dev time for the new consoles was predicted to be very long. We're seeing what that means in practice now. Also I know you mention Sony's lack of games too, would their biggest game be the new Uncharted, when is that due?
  • javier-dixon - February 15, 2014 9:30 p.m.

    honestly ppl don't know that xbox360 and x1 arnt different other than blue ray.. still playing at 720p and 30f. please and ur asking if they need halo? hahahah might as well play halo on xbox360 again its gona be same graphics other than new story.. ppl don't know we in 2014 not 1999 while ps4 is more than xbox right now u can see the difference between ps1 to ps4 when u see xbox 1 to xbox1 whats new??? really? blue ray? and stream? that's it? haahhaha honeslty I played halo 2 graphics I did not like compared to ps3 at the time I did not see any difference between any other ps games honestly no lie!! so in the end no matter what xbox does they still behind in Sony but there r the ppl who think 499$ consol and 50$ online for new when they get the same shit in xbox360 o well stupid ppl hahahaha good luck with that
  • Biohazard82493 - February 16, 2014 9:29 p.m.

    First of all, dude calm down and could you write a little better please, and second, how can you compare the halo 2 graphics with a ps3 game? Maybe halo 2 look bad because it was a xbox game NOT a 360 game, compare it to a ps2 game and you'll see the difference, first do some basic research and then come to critizice, you sad little fanboy
  • baschoen - February 15, 2014 8:20 a.m.

    the one thing missing from this article is why online only usually doesnt go so well and its because whats the story around the environment we are in. If titanfall can find a way to tell a story through MP it may be more successful if they dont its gonna flop.
  • baschoen - February 15, 2014 8:11 a.m.

    I have the beta and have played a good amount. Its not gonna be a system seller. I love my xbox one but im sick of this game drought. Titanfall being all online is going to kill it completely. Its not innovative enough and theres not enough variation in the gameplay. Also how did the world get the way it is? This game would be a blast with single player and more of a system seller but it just feels like cod w mechs. There isn't enough unique about it and I think people will tire of it quickly. Microsoft should have waited till Destiny to release the xbox one. My guess is they wanted to get it out around the same time as the ps4 which was stupid as hell considering their lineup and NO ARCADE OR ANY BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY. This drought is pathetic and the PS4 is going to run away in terms of sales when Infamous comes out, titanfall has NO CHANCE against that for people who are on the fence. Also not getting SP Stick on here is a huge loss for them and a huge fu to us who got rid of our 360s to raise some money for an insanely expensive investment when u include a few games especially. in response to the comment above me about E3 better be good, how many games come out around E3 that havent been announced already... NONE everything exciting at E3 we will probably be waiting AT LEAST a year for.
  • universaltofu - February 14, 2014 10:20 p.m.

    I got a 360 in anticipation of Mass Effect, back then I felt justified with what was out (gears, dead rising, oblivion) and with what else was coming (halo 3, call of duty 4, bioshock, etc). Not only were there some good exclusives, but there were little things like timed exclusives and 'better' multiplat releases. When I got a PS3 later on it was for Metal Gear 4 and what I mistakenly thought would be a short wait for Last Guardian, I luckily got some time Uncharted. Money got tight and I had to ditch the ps3 eventually, but it was just before Sony got their shit together and really put together a prolific string of stellar exclusive titles, while Microsoft was operating within increasing smaller circles sticking with Gears, Forza, Fable, and Halo. I preferred the 360 controller and all my friends had it so I dealt with losing out on those Sony games. Now 7 years later and I own neither, and don't really want them, at least not yet. Titan Fall is love at first sight and coming right at the time tax money comes back and I'll be all 'look how much money I have, new console time!' but it really concerns me just how out of order Microsoft seems to be at the moment. These people have had long enough to make some games, it's mystifying just how empty-handed they seem. I mean this gen should have started off with an absurd amount of 'Astounding' games, and been rolling more out every other week for the first several months, then slow it down a notch, come out at e3 with a rock solid set of titles, have Christmas in a choke-hold, and then let nature take it's course and as more people buy the consoles and games, more developers become interested in bringing games to that console. I have friends who already have a ps4 though, so as it's been since the last e3, the people have sided with Sony, and their indie efforts are exemplary, I would be foolish in a sense to not get a PS4... but Titan Fall, the CONFLICTION
  • Swedish_Chef - February 14, 2014 10:14 p.m.

    I'm totally cool with Halo 5 being delayed until 2015, means they get more time to polish it up, bring on Halo 2 Anniversary edition hopefully the multiplayer doesn't suck this time around.
  • Vonter - February 14, 2014 1:47 p.m.

    Well wouldn't this make for a better game? I mean if 343 thinks the game can be more than the average annual release shouldn't it deserve the extra time to truly show the Xbone capabilities? I think extra time could make Halo 5 do what Halo 2 did for the first one. I know from a business perspective is a risk, but from our side that means the game will likely be above average. Also Destiny, even though it's on all platforms will keep people entertained this year.
  • pl4y4h - February 14, 2014 11:45 a.m.

    It's just funny when I look through facebook timelines of all the people I know who were super hyped about "next gen" and now they just have shiny paper weights.
  • Dfc2896 - February 14, 2014 12:34 p.m.

    I'm actually getting plenty of use outta my PS4, XB1 not so much :p
  • BladedFalcon - February 14, 2014 10:31 a.m.

    I'm afraid fanboys from both sides are going to find a way to bitch or find fault with this article in one way or another, but actually, I think it's very soundly written, to the point I don't think there's anything I can comment on without echoing in agreement. Titan Fall does look pretty neat, but those 3 factors Houghton mentioned are all very true. Also, the other problem I see is that it's not just the lack of exclusives or games, Regardless of what i actually think about it, I think MS has done a TERRIBLE job selling the reason it costs 100 bucks extra: The Kinect 2.0. Despite them making a huge deal about it prior to launch, they haven't really done shit with it, and unlike even the first Kinect with dance central or kinect advertures/sports, I don'0t think they have released or announced a single game that justifies the use of the thing. I mean... not that I'm complaining since I DO think the Kinect 2.0 was gonna be shit ever since it was announced, and I'm more than happy to see it fail so spectacularly. But I felt like pointing it out because it seems like an extra factor that's heavily against MS right now.
  • Jackonomics2.0 - February 14, 2014 10:42 a.m.

    It is practically useless, they just shove it in the box for you and expect you to use it. It's cool but otherwise it's useless, Kinect Sports rivals is just flat out unresponsive unless you sync %100 which isn't easy in the slightest.
  • BladedFalcon - February 14, 2014 11:16 a.m.

    That's all the reports I've been hearing, even from those who actually had hopes for the thing. I just find it baffling that, useless or not, MS insisted on bundling every system with it and making it so much more expensive... Yet hasn't really bothered to support it at all, it just doesn't make sense from a business perspective.
  • Jackonomics2.0 - February 14, 2014 12:49 p.m.

    The Kinect is just shoved in the box forcing that $100 Sony was about to do the same but said "Ah fuck it" and didn't pack the eye camera.
  • BladedFalcon - February 14, 2014 1:34 p.m.

    Sure, I've no doubt Sony was also seriously considering making the PS camera obligatory, but at least they had enough sense to realize that was a mistake, and as we're seeing now, it's paying off for them to have done that, whereas MS is starting to struggle because of it. I hope they don't sink too hard though. I WANT Sony to have direct competition, it's never good in the long run for any corporation to get too far ahead.
  • Jackonomics2.0 - February 15, 2014 9 a.m.

    Nah they'll catch up eventually, next gen has only just begun. And while it may not seem like it, Wii U will eventually reach them in terms of serious competition, sure it still has lead sales only because it was sold a year early, but PS4 is about to catch up. Apparently the most preordered shit in Amazon by Japan is currently Mario Kart 8, which is funny considering that's Hyrule Warriors Job, to sell Wii U's in Japan. It's still struggling a bit in the US, and Ubisoft delaying Watch Dogs isn't helping, they almost made up for it by announcing that RPG nobody's talking about on thursday.
  • BladedFalcon - February 15, 2014 9:38 a.m.

    Yeah, I hope they do. And yeaaah... I'm gonna disagree there. In order for the Wii U to stay relevant, it needed some serious upping in the amount of games and experiences it offers. And despite the whole fiasco last month regarding it's sales, none of Nintendo's actions recently indicate that they will step up in that regard. (Miyamoto even declared that he felt their current output of games was fine.) At best the Wii U will survive as a niche machine to play Nintendo games, but I honestly don't see any way they'll be able to catch up, much less top the other two in terms of sales.
  • baschoen - February 15, 2014 8:14 a.m.

    completely agree and when they stop forcing you to buy kinect which they will a lot of early adopters are gonna be really pissed. Besides Kinect Sports (Which this system had NO BUSINESS launching without) It doesnt add any value to the games available right now and its just easier to use the controller.
  • Talvari - February 14, 2014 9:27 a.m.

    All 3 next gen consoles are missing a steady flow of games right now :| E3 is still 4 months away and not many hard hitting games are in that time gap. E3 better be the best thing ever yo. Also this article sums it up pretty nicely..TF isn't exclusive, not even timed exclusive, features only Multiplayer and is going to cost over £40 here in the UK. I wouldn't personally use that much money on something like TF but a huge number of people are going to I guess. But with only a few game modes available I gotta wonder how long people will play before craving something else.

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