Steam, PlayStation, and Nintendo all offered their customers an end-of-year stats round-up, but there's one major player that was suspiciously absent.
Popularized by Spotify Wrapped, major service and data-driven companies have taken to offering end-of-year fun stats and figures for their customers to wrap up and round off the year. This year, it feels like more companies than ever had an answer to Spotify Wrapped, with gorgeous graphics and interesting data points that showcased their users' activity on their platforms. Spotify showcases your music and podcasts, as well as genre tastes and so on, and the same is true for gaming platforms too.
PlayStation, Nintendo, and Steam all had these end-of-year stats featurettes. You can grab your Steam Replay for PC over here, for example, showcasing all of your activity across the Steam platform for the past year. This year, it was TrueAchievements who stepped up to offer the same 2022 stats showcase for Xbox, though, as Microsoft bowed out.
It has become almost a tradition for platforms to offer this kind of retrospective, and Xbox has done it in the past. Where is it this year, though?
Is Xbox Game Pass cannibalizing other Xbox features?
Increasingly I do wonder how much of Xbox's engineering bandwidth and budget is being vacuumed up by Xbox Game Pass in recent years. As such, I suspect any "Xbox Wrapped" stats retrospective was probably sacrificed on the Xbox Game Pass pyre.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. You could argue Xbox Game Pass is the platform's greatest "exclusive" right now, offering hundreds of games across every platform for a maximum of $15 per month. Microsoft sees its future as a cross-platform affair, with Xbox Cloud Gaming leading the charge on the hunt for new-to-Xbox users (an important internal metric Microsoft measures). A significant amount of engineering bandwidth is falling entirely on improving the Xbox Cloud Gaming offering, reducing latency, improving the user experience, and so on — across mobile devices, the web, and more recently TV via the Samsung Xbox Game Pass app.
But, the downside here is that Xbox as a console seems to have taken a few steps back in utility, and dare I say fun. Xbox joined Nintendo in pioneering and popularizing 3D personalized avatars, something even iPhones now offers. Microsoft revamped their Xbox Avatars a few years ago, then oddly abandoned them, shutting down the team making them. Microsoft also started building an extension of the Xbox Achievement system referred to internally as a so-called Xbox "Career" system, to showcase more of your gaming accomplishments. It was also scrapped. Last year, Xbox said that the Game DVR quality was a priority for development, but it took almost a whole year to get some of the basic improvements we received in the Autumn update. The Xbox dashboard has become a gigantic Xbox Game Pass ad, with minimal customizability.
In previous years, we had Xbox end-of-year stats showcases, and even an amazing 3D interactive Xbox museum dedicated to your stats, but this year? Nada.
Don't forget the fun, Xbox
Do Xbox Avatars matter? Probably not. Is the Xbox Game DVR going to prevent you from having fun gaming? Not really. But increasingly, I wonder how much Microsoft is willing to invest in features that fall outside the Xbox Game Pass spreadsheet. Some of these "fun" features add flavor and heart to the overall gaming platform package. Nintendo experiments relentlessly with these sorts of features. Steam has fun features like stickers and trading cards.
Xbox used to innovate in this area too — it literally created achievements. People have been begging for the return of 1 vs. 100, a massively-multiplayer Xbox quiz show that literally used Xbox Avatars. People asked for improvements to the usability of the Xbox Game DVR, and Microsoft responded by removing sharing to social networks, oddly.
I've written before about my concerns that Microsoft relies far too much on telemetry over "human" intuition. The lack of end-of-year stats in itself isn't a big deal, but it's a symptom of a wider problem Xbox seems to have right now. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is new Xbox games — and they're well and truly on the way. But, how come other platforms find time to squeeze in fun and fresh platform features?
If it doesn't fit into an Xbox Game Pass spreadsheet in some form, are platform features no longer important? I'm starting to wonder.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!