What I'd like Xbox to improve in 2018

Every year at E3, the heavy weights of the gaming industry outline their plans for the remainder of the year, announcing new games, features, and hardware. With Microsoft enjoying some solid momentum on the back of the powerful Xbox One X, it'll be interesting to see how Redmond leverages its resources as it takes on Sony's PlayStation and a remarkably resurgent Nintendo.

Whether or not these are the smart choices is up for debate, but here are a few things I would like to see Microsoft improve in 2018, as we move through the year.

1. Games offering

Quantum Break: awesome, underrated.

Quantum Break: awesome, underrated.

I think first and foremost, Microsoft needs to move to reassure fans that it is capable of delivering "AAA" experiences that have become synonymous with Sony's PlayStation in recent years. Microsoft had a fairly strong start early on, but it hasn't had much luck with its first-party portfolio in general, save for the genre-dominating Forza series, and titles like Gears of War 4.

Hopefully, Microsoft will begin to outline how it plans to win gamer's affections with its exclusive portfolio.

New IP like Quantum Break, RYSE, and Sunset Overdrive didn't seem to capture the audience's imagination in a way Microsoft likely wanted, despite being decent in their own rights.

Microsoft has found success licensing exclusivity rights over titles like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Cuphead, but when it comes to photorealistic action games that grab headlines and, presumably sell consoles and drive the perception of ecosystem value, Microsoft is coming up short.

Things are looking up already for Microsoft, with Sea of Thieves capturing remarkable mindshare on streaming sites, beating out titles like League of Legends and Overwatch for the top spot. Microsoft also plans to release Crackdown 3 and State of Decay 2 this year, with at least timed exclusivity for the intriguing Ashen.

Is Sea of Thieves an impending smash hit?

Is Sea of Thieves an impending smash hit?

Hopefully, Microsoft will begin to outline how it plans to win gamer's affections with its exclusive portfolio at E3. In previous years, Xbox lead Phil Spencer has noted how E3 is all about "games, games, games," and I doubt that sentiment is going to change this year. I just hope we see some big, bold, must-have titles that can slam home the idea that Xbox is the best place to be, without sacrificing the range and genre diversity Microsoft has put forward in more recent years.

2. Xbox Live communities, and that pesky Xbox app

As Xbox's platform team works to improve other areas, such as dashboard performance, other aspects that have been a tad neglected are becoming a little more obvious. The Xbox app for Windows 10 and other platforms is a pet peeve of mine, for it's unbearably slow speed, clumsiness, and generally poor usability.

Redmond could be doing a lot more in this area to provide a quality experience for Xbox gamers away from their consoles.

Nowhere is this more apparent than Windows 10 itself, where the Xbox app is prone to crashing (particularly on the Game Clips page), while being miserably slow to navigate, as though you were struggling through a lake of treacle. Considering Microsoft uses engagement to illustrate Xbox's growth and success, Redmond could be doing a lot more in this area to provide a quality experience for Xbox gamers away from their consoles.

Discord has become the de-facto way to create and engage gaming communities online and mobile. Microsoft had both Skype and Xbox Live years before Discord even existed, which marks Discord's rise as a spectacular failure on Redmond's part. If Microsoft could fix the speed and usability of its Xbox Club systems, and its apps, it might have a shot at catching up. But as with many things Microsoft, it may be too late.

3. PC gaming and the Windows 10 Microsoft Store

Speaking of "too late," it would be nice if Microsoft at least attempted to make meaningful improvements to its oft-derided app and game store.

Gamers hate the Microsoft Store, and they have plenty of reasons to do so.

Many improvements to the Microsoft Store (previously known as the Windows Store) hinge on OS updates and platform features that simply aren't there yet. The app offering is an entirely different topic that I'm well aware Microsoft can't fix overnight (but, they are making steps, recently announcing PWA support). When it comes to games themselves, you only need to browse YouTube comments about Age of Empires Definitive Edition, which is a Microsoft Store exclusive, to get an idea about how people feel about this store. Gamers hate the Microsoft Store, and they have plenty of reasons to do so.

If Microsoft ever has a prayer of casting off any of the Win32 legacy that shackles Windows and prevents it from competing with more modern operating systems, getting gamers on board is an absolute must. Gamers drive PC growth, they represent some of Microsoft's most hardcore, savvy, and influential users, and Microsoft has pretty much done everything in its power to alienate them over the years. And it's a shame, because UWP as it pertains to PC gaming has some truly great features, such as Xbox Play Anywhere, Xbox cross-play, and more.

Hopefully, 2018 will mark at least some form of meaningful growth and development in this area, particularly if Microsoft has any desire to win over PC gamers.

4. Xbox hardware

Invoke Speaker

Invoke Speaker (Image credit: Windows Central)

With Kinect vanquished, I think we absolutely have to see some form of dedicated speaker play for Xbox One this year. For millions who purchased the OG Xbox One back in 2013, Microsoft made a promise that the Xbox One wasn't just a console, but the center of your home entertainment system. Without Kinect, that vision is a total bust.

The failure to capitalize on the Xbox's Cortana possibilities is staggering, and a continued point of perplexity for yours truly.

The Xbox One picked up Cortana digital assistant support a couple of years ago, and her capabilities are practically non-existent without a microphone. You can use a headset microphone, of course, but sometimes when you're sitting in your living room playing games solo, you simply don't want to be wearing one.

Microsoft's failure to position Cortana has practically given the connected speaker market away to Amazon, who have come to dominate it with their Echo devices and their own digital assistant, Alexa. Alexa is even encroaching on Windows itself now, coming to PCs throughout 2018, and I wouldn't be surprised if it comes to Xbox too some day. Microsoft has all the tools and software features in place to make Xbox an incredible home automation center, hooking in Cortana to control IoT devices, your TV via the IR blaster on the Xbox One S and X, and beyond. The failure to capitalize on the Xbox's Cortana possibilities is staggering, and a continued point of perplexity for yours truly.

Beyond Cortana, we're likely going to see an updated Xbox One Elite controller this year, bringing in some much-needed refinements to the previous model. Hopefully Redmond can solve the quality issues with the original version, which suffered from wear and tear on the rubber grips and triggers.

A new Xbox Elite Controller is probably coming this year.

A new Xbox Elite Controller is probably coming this year.

Heading off into more speculative territory, it would be cool to see new Xbox One X SKUs this year as well, perhaps with expanded HDD space, or even a slimmed down version which omits the Blu-ray drive. However, to do that, they would need to improve the Microsoft Store for 4K content, which leads me onto my next point.

5. Movies & TV, where is the 4K goodness?!

Xbox

Xbox (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft trumpeted "4K" with choral enthusiasm all throughout 2017, but when it comes to movies Microsoft's 4K offerings are, well, pathetic. Almost every new movie hitting the Microsoft Store is available in SD or HD versions, with only a handful coming in 4K. Apple, on the other hand, announced last year that they would be updating every HD movie purchase from iTunes to 4K for free as the higher resolution copies became available. Apple lists around 300 4K HDR movies in iTunes, Microsoft has maybe a dozen — what's the deal here?

Not only that, but Microsoft's maligned store was also left out of the Movies Anywhere party, which is a new consortium that aims to bring titles from Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, and more, under a single roof. The very notion of investing in Microsoft's store for digital entertainment content might seem a risky proposition in general considering what happened to Groove Music, and Microsoft's (lack of) effort to improve the range of 4K titles available, combined with the Movies Anywhere fiasco, doesn't exactly bode well. Hopefully, Microsoft will work to improve things in 2018.

Wrapping up

On the whole I'm more than happy with my Xbox One, and the things it does well it does very well indeed. Third-party multiplatform games almost always look better on the Xbox One X, Xbox Live is arguably the most stable and user-friendly of all the major gaming platforms, and the features, from Xbox Backwards Compatibility, Play Anywhere, and now Xbox Game Pass, have just been getting better and better.

Where Xbox goes from here is anyone's guess, but I think 2018 will be an exciting one for Microsoft, as Gaming EVP Phil Spencer moves to implement his vision now as part of Microsoft's senior leadership team.

Where do you think Xbox is failing? Where would you like to see improvement? Let us know in the comments.

Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for 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!

58 Comments
  • Most people didn't use Kinnect at all regularly
  • I used it almost daily.
  • Daily user here
  • Only people that go to Windows Central used it, everyone else didn't. I would say that most people were actually impressed by the amount of time that Microsoft supported the kinect.
  • Everyone? You personally know EVERYONE else?
  • Yeah. That's why it was killed. Because many people used it...
  • Daily
  • Why drop it if most xbox owner use Kinect daily?
    I have a day1 version, even bought a case + stand for it. Except FRU, never really used it.
  • Exactly. The majority of XBox games clearly didn't care about Kinect. Furthermore, the majority of gamers period don't care about motion controls anymore. Sony Move hasn't been supported by developers (and Sony) on the PS4 well at all, because their gamers didn't want motion controls either. Even Nintendo hasn't made motion controls the focus of the Switch like they were for the Wii and Wii U.  Microsoft killed Kinect because the 15 minutes of fame motion controls had because of the Wii is up. The "dirty little secret" about the Wii is that despite the fact the console sold like crazy, the attach rate of games was terrible. Well below the PS3 and 360. People bought a Wii and used it for Wii Sports and a couple other games and that's it. Motion controls were always a gimmick that was bound to die out sooner rather than later. 
  • In our house, we used it almost exclusively, particularly the gesture control.  We kept that stupid controller in a drawer.  Once they killed gesture control and we realized how very limited voice controls are on Xbox, we bought a Logitech Harmony remote so that Xbox controller could go back in its rightful place: the drawer.  We still use the voice control for as much as possible, though.
  • The Xbox One in 2013 was far more interesting and far more useful than the Xbox One today. Kinect was fantastic with gesture navigation and voice commands, Snap mode was convenient too. Microsoft turned it from an innovative and exciting entertainment hub to a boring PS4-clone.
  • Good article, let's hope Phil Spencer reads it... He probably won't though... 😣
  • I'm not a big XBox one user, mostly use it as a media center, but my main grip is just about a missing setting.  If I configure my XBox as English Canada, there is no way to change the clock to 24h format, and French Canada have the reverse problem, cannot change to 12h format.  All versions of Windows since forever have this setting available, even Windows Phone have it, so why can't a device as advanced as an XBox, running a version of Windows 10, doesn't have that setting?
  • I think the problem with the Microsoft (Windows) Store is how cheap all of it's contents look.  Too much of the store is rubbish shovelware apps and games.  It makes the AAA games look less appealing to be lumped next to such "random" titles.  I do, however, appreciate the fact Xbox Live and games are seperated from these ordinary apps but I think the Xbox section should have a tab on the top and not a tile in the center of the page.  On a side note, I appreciate how the Microsoft Store now sells hardware.
  • Huh? Are we looking at the same thing?
  • Buy valve and combine Steam with the Microsoft Store! Microsoft should unapologetically own one of Windows strongest assets: It's gaming dominance! and put it front and centre in the consumer side of Windows 10 Devices!
  • MS don't need Valve. Valve need to accept UWP or else it's gonna become obsolete.
    And if MsStore failed, there'll be no Windows for Steam cause consumers are on either Android or iOS.
  • I'd like to see the ability to have a network attached HDHomerun Prime content show up in the TV guide, with the ability to schedule recordings to network storage devices and play back those recordings. Basically, I am describing a media center extender functionality without the dependance on windows media center.
  • When are we going to see flight stick support?  The PS4 already has it. I'd really like it for playing Ace Combat. 
  • Thrustmaster has a flight stick for Xbox.
  • Improve re-platforming so MS goes back to its roots, PC gaming, where it belongs. So we can have actual control, actual usage, and actual multipurpose with a stronger push for gaming, actual, real, gaming. Let sony have the garbage of consoles. This has all become nonsense and screaming kids with consoles. Seriously. Let it go.
  • A)  Not everyone wants to game on PC or on a Sony/Nintendo console and both of those companies have a nasty habit of not listening to their customers once they reach any kind of success. B)  The Xbox currently offers some of the best value in both features and services and Xbox Live is a very good network for connecting and playing with your friends.  If it were left to either Sony or Nintedo, console would continue to stagnate while costing a premium price.  Do I need to bring up the Switch which is $300, has non-existent internal memory, and almost none of the features expected of a modern console, let alone necessities like being able to move and back up your saves because they lock them to the console?  It is the weakest console yet is the most expensive to own at the moment and excused only on the merits of being portable and having access to Mario and Zelda. Competition is good, including MS being in the console business, and don't you believe for one second that Steam and other PC storefronts would be near as generous with their sales of they weren't competing with consoles.
  • True, i quite enjoy the little surveys in the preview program for Xbox as well.  Rather like the point system too. 
  • This is a bad take and you should feel bad.
  • I consider myself to do "real gaming" on my 'pathetic console'. Screaming kids can easily be ignored, and usually are.
  • I used to build mine, now I own Alienware desktop & NB + Surface Pro and game mainly on xboxes. Sometimes I do XPA on plane or during my coffee break. Looking forward to dock a ARM on my gamepad later this year.
    Forceful Win10 update affected many with old dirvers and my old win8.1 Alienware wasn't affected cause Alienware blocked the upgrade even if I requested manually.
    How about the news about MS patching for Intel?
    I'm not interested in asking-for-trouble box or cheap pre-build.
    Someone can do the care and I'll spend my time or either game or game programming experiments (active ragdoll + AI / dynamic keyframe animation).
    Besides, there's no instant-on and Steam cannot process DL queue during hibernation.
  • Fix the fundamentals first, then we can worry about everyone's wishlist.
  • No mention of VR which is something that Xbox is falling way behind in. PS has about 2.3 million VR users, is way ahead in developer relations and is for sure working on killer next gen VR. Another boat Microsoft is going to have to board late from misreading the market.
  • Not enough people care compared the investment that is needed to release the hardware. The best bet would be to incorporate Vive or Oculus Rift support for Xbox.
  • Actually I would argue for Windows Mixed Reality support instead. It's all Microsoft property that way. Plus, didn't Microsoft say once they can get VR working in wireless they'll support it on the Xbox? Though I'd be happy with a wired implementation too.
  • MS just need to ready the MR/AR api for xbox (runs UWP) if you know what's programming.
  • A new Xbox media controller with a mic inside to control Cortana.... Problem fixed. Just like a Samsung tv controller. And about VR... F that, bring MR wireless next year kkthxbye
  • Why do people need voice control? It's slower to respond to requests than just doing it yourself. 
  • If controller is charging, voice control still works. I turn on and off my whole media center and jump to the channel I want to watch via voice control every day. I can't imagine going back.
  • I agree about Cortana and the Xbox communities.. we also really need some solid exclusive games and more freedom to customize the dashboard like on Playstation. Playstion killed it with Nier, Nioh, Horizon, Crash, Hellblade...All the menus are way more crisp on there, too, while Xbox is bloated with ads, other media, and just ugly thumbnails overall. If I don't want to see that, I shouldn't have to. The only reasons I have an Xbox are that's where my friends play and the hardware is slightly better for third parties... Make it something more than that for people. 
  • You surely have to be joking ? the PS4 dashboard is a complete mess. The PS3  had neatly laid out menus for everything and was a breeze to use. The PS4 is a complete dogs breakfast of mishmashed ideas that don't work very effectively as a cohesive operating system. The latest Xbox Dashboard is excellent compared to the PS4 layout. They could both improve the store layout considerably though.
  • > Xbox is bloated with ads
    On the home tab of xbox dashboard.
    1 button for Gold Deal and another for new game ads. On the ps4 (old memory, I don't use it anymore).
    After login, your first stop is the "What's New" tab and the ads starts loading on its own.
    If you stayed till the loading ends, there goes ads for you.
    (Even if you move away instantly, bandwidth is spent)
    On the main dashboard, sometimes games-you-don't-own hidden-in with your recent activity.
  • Games and VR, thats all, everything else is pretty good and better than the competition with the exception of power on the base models. I have a PS4 (and PS VR) and I feel that there is absolutely no reason to get a Xbox One, the only reason i wanted a Xbox One was because of Sunset Overdrive but Sony already has Spiderman made by the same studio (Insomniac) coming that will be basically Sunset Overdrive but much better.
    Nintendo on the other hand on the first day that it launched already made me jealous of people that have one.
  • Me... XPA announcement makes purchasing multiplats from PsStore illogical.
    I do use XPA on my Alienware when I travel on a plane or long train ride. I sometimes do XPA on Surface Pro during coffe break and I'd love to dock a ARM on my gamepad later this year.
    Switch has many flaws (biggest one would be no cloud sync) so I'll wait.
    I bought more than 50 games in 2017, 90% untouched, 5% only played the begining and prob only 2% are beaten. I'm not missing much.
  • I think if they enabled cross-play between PC games bought in the Windows 10 store and games bought on Xbox One, they would beat all competition.
  • They've tried that with Quantum Break. I believe they found that there's still the mouse/keyboard vs gamepad discrepancy and lag. That's a huge issue for multiplayer games like COD or the GTA V multiplayer. I don't know whether that's a fixable problem or not. It sure seems like PC and console developers have been trying to fix it for years and still haven't quite gotten there. 
  • My OG Xbox One WAS front and center in my living room. It provided the best (for me) experience around multimedia, including games, movies with offerings like Netflix and MS store movies, and music with Groove. All controlled through either Kinect or the media remote. With Groove dead, I still wind up using the hamstrung Spotify app, but the experience is, in a word, incomplete. Netflix is still solid, but SmartTVs have caught up to the point that it's not worth waiting for the Xbox to boot up just to watch some Criminal Minds. The games have re-taken a priority for Xbox, but the titles just aren't what I was hoping for at this point, especially when Sony and Nintendo are dropping absolute dimes right now. Also, with Kinect dead, no voice control and the experience with Skype calling is too dreadful to excuse anymore. I like what Phil has done after Ken completely dropped the ball on the gaming side, but the idea of the Xbox being the Entertainment Hub of the living room is lacking both vision and execution at this point. I still have a good experience playing Titanfall 2 over Xbox live and playing Spotify or Grover Pro podcasts in the background, but it doesn't feel pleasant. It feels like I'm asking the Xbox to do something it, begrudgingly, lets me do what I would like to do.
  • Dont forget market soon to be launched: cloud gaming - by streaming game runing in cloud. Would welcome something like Xbox Lite for gamers with low price and monthly payments for gaming and games. Google is already on it, beware.
  • Low price... how much $$ they gonna spend on internet for 4k 0 latency streaming? How about streaming on the plane, on the train, using public wifi?
    Internet in countries like Australia is much more expensive than Japan or Korea, because a cable line across the street has way lesser people using it.
  • That's been tried and died in the USA before, multiple times. The idea might work in Japan (where Sony is king and Microsoft's never going to even come close) or a country like South Korea that has much better and faster Internet speeds than the US, but it's not going to work here, especially without net neutrality.  Google lost buckets of money on Google Fiber and have stopped even considering new cities. The one thing they did right is cause Comcast and AT&T to have to compete, but not even Google has enough money to roll out a massive investment just to cause Comcast and AT&T to actually have to compete.Without net neutrality those corporations have even less of a reason to increase speed for a reasonable cost than they did before, and they didn't much care about doing it before. 
  • I would also welcome some sort of tech to allow play with hands, gloves with feedback would be ultimate. Or spell casting using just words. Simple more immersive and natural... Hopefully 5G and location capable gaming too. There is just no limit to what they can do...
  • This article was written by an obvious Xbox hater. Just a bunch of worthless complaining. Complaining about not having enough 4k movies to stream first of all is like complaining that your mustang doesn't have gas to drive when you have a Lamborghini with a full tank sitting right next to it. Who would even bother streaming 4k movies when you have a 4k Blu Ray player that has far superior video and especially audio quality. And aside from that there's tons of 4k content available to stream, not just 12. That's complete horse ****.
  • Great article. I dont know about number 2 (the xbox app doesnt facilitate communities as well as a web search and some forums), but the Smart Mic/Speaker thing I feel is huge. It's such a terrible oversight that as Alexa and Google Home (and soon the Apple-Music-only-pod) are shredding it up, that Microsoft with Cortana on XBox in millions of home networks is blowing what is basically a free install base. Make a Smart Mic/Speaker that connects to the XBox. Push a commercial of friends playing split-screen Halo-6 who then pause between matches to order their Domino's Easy Order with their voice over Cortana. Profit. If I was making my own top list, it would be:
    1. Buy EA or Valve and solve the game problem / microsoft store problem for life.
    2. Smart Mic/Speaker with Cortana skills promoted in ads. Make a +camera variant for people who use Xbox to Skype or Stream (you do support streamers, right Microsoft?). Windows-Hello sign-ons for bonus point.
    3. Bring back Snap. This was a performance issue that has been solved.
    4. Sell the living-room PC idea with phone-to-xbox screencasting and by linking Edge Mobile with Edge on XBox (the continue on another device function). It's sad that Google's YouTube apps do this but Microsofts own apps do not. Bonus points: Edge on Xbox adblocking and keyboard / mouse support.
    5. Why is it so damn hard to let us change our wallpaper to pictures found online or in the cloud? You even have a damn OneDrive app already. 1998 called and asked for its flash drive to transfer photos back.
  • I spend all day talking at work , who the hell wants to talk to a device when they get home?  The Xbox one / X has a great little media remote available. Maybe they should bundle that in with the system?
  • How about a nice wireless headset, similar to the one for 360. I have the most powerful gaming console on the planet but still have to be hooked to my controller with a tangled up wire. ☹
  • I agree with all being said above, Microsoft has all the technical resources to easily surpass Sony PlayStation but they are not marketing them, they are not positioning these advantages such as Cortana, exclusive games, & 4k Movies. They better step up to the plate in 2018 before Sony PlayStation releases a console such as Xbox one x and market these very technical advantages better than Microsoft Xbox. Microsoft is sleeping on the wheel, they need to wake up quickly before they find themselves at the end of the line again. Now they have a strong strike to take the lead with the powerful Xbox one x and it's technicality advantages over Sony PlayStation. One feature I would like to see added to Xbox one x is Dolby Vision or HDR10+ alongside HDR10.
  • Just a wish, that finally unify Xbox in PC - console, the same store, the same games.
  • All very valid points Jez. To be honest I'm very confident MS will address points 1-3 easily, especially with the direction and momentum Phil Spencer is going with Xbox. What really annoys me is how they are treating the Movies App, your points is well made regarding Movies Anywhere, I truly hope they do something about it instead of get left behind on the digital media bandwagon (again). They could even do what Sky are at the moment, ship a free Blu Ray with purchases.
  • 1 - No <removed> ads on the HomeScreen or Guide! 2 - Black UI instead of that disgusting grey 3 - Better Media experience, namely either via bringing snap back or rolling out the bloody PiP they said they'd do.
  • All I care about from this list is: MORE GAMES!! We'll see what happens with Sea of Thieves. I was originally very interested but after seeing things from the beta, I don't know if this is going to be a great game or another game like The Division that has a great concept with subpar implementation. Microsoft really made a huge mistake with their decision to shutdown Lionhead, and it feels like for too long they coasted on the sucess of Halo and Gears. The fact Crackdown 3 got pushed back hurt them in 2017. If Sea of Thieves and Crackdown 3 don't draw people and they can't find s