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It sucks that Xbox fans have to beg for sequels

Xbox Game Studios
Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Microsoft)

One of the biggest and most valid criticisms of Xbox in recent years is the quality of its first-party IP. Cancellations, like Scalebound, Fable Legends, and Phantom Dust, to over-marketed, under-realized games like ReCore and Crackdown 3 — disappointment is rampant among Microsoft's efforts in the space.

Microsoft has had some success stories too, of course. Publishing wins like Cuphead and Ori and the Blind Forest have been huge, and pillar games like Forza, Halo, Gears, and Minecraft have continued to do well. Even games that launched in a relatively disappointing state like Sea of Thieves and State of Decay 2 turned it around to some degree with strong post-launch support.

Microsoft has so many incredible worlds and characters in its portfolio and has built up huge fan bases to that end. Why doesn't Microsoft seem to notice this?

The battle for sequels

Serving millions of players, in what universe doesn't Killer Instinct get a sequel?

One of the biggest sources of frustration with the Xbox brand is the lack of consistency in its franchise curation. Microsoft is often viewed as the HaloForzaGears company because those seem to be the only franchises you can depend on for frequent support. Other franchises like Killer Instinct and Halo Wars, despite huge amounts of concurrent users, feel virtually abandoned by the big Seattle company. Can you imagine Capcom being done with Street Fighter, or Nintendo abandoning Super Smash Bros? The possibility doesn't even register.

Killer Instinct YouTuber Maximillian_ recently caused #BringBackKI to trend on Twitter globally, as fans got fed up with Microsoft's apparent apathy towards the franchise. In 2017, Microsoft revealed Killer Instinct had served 10 million players, and that was before the full game hit Steam or Xbox Game Pass. Although we heard rumblings that Killer Instinct might be getting a sequel, it never materialized in reality. Serving millions of players, in what universe doesn't Killer Instinct get a sequel?

Halo Wars, abandoned?

Halo Wars, abandoned?

On top of that, you have games like Halo Wars 2, which enjoys a surprisingly healthy player base according to stats APIs. Fans are petitioning for bug fixes and balance updates, along with Steam support. Microsoft reportedly rejected Creative Assembly plans for an additional Halo Wars 2 DLC, which may have included space combat. Yesterday, Microsoft noted that support for Halo Wars has ended for the "foreseeable future."

There are countless other examples where Microsoft has built up games, bragged about their success, then let them die. Quantum Break is another such example. The game ends on an excruciating cliffhanger, Microsoft bragged (opens in new tab) that it was their fastest-selling new IP ever when it launched back in 2016. So why is Microsoft refusing pitches for a sequel, according to Remedy?

As frustrating as some of this stuff is, there are business realities to consider, and Microsoft has been going through a huge period of disruption and upheaval practically throughout the entire generation.

Overmarketing, undermarketing, and business realities

Recore typifies overblown expectations created by expensive marketing.

I think one of the main things creating this air of frustration is how over-budgeted some of Microsoft's marketing for Xbox games is. Some of these older pre-rendered trailers for the likes of Recore, Scalebound, and Phantom Dust are utterly stunning, creating piles of hype from the outset.

Nintendo has been particularly transparent about its roadmap, I wish Microsoft could do the same

The gorgeous ReCore reveal trailer has almost 1 million views on YouTube, and it created the impression of something truly "AAA," a far cry from the rough (albeit fun) platformer we eventually received.

Microsoft generally doesn't do this sort of stuff anymore, swinging in the completely opposite direction. Microsoft is aggressively hiding its upcoming portfolio, ironically creating frustration in other ways. Microsoft was criticized across the board for its lack of Gears 5 campaign footage at E3, and has kept details on upcoming games like Halo Infinite extremely close to its chest. Practically everything else Xbox Game Studios is working on remains a mystery.

We know nothing about Age of Empires 4. We don't know anything about the RPG (probably Fable) Playground Games is working on. And we don't know anything about what The Initiative is working on. By comparison, Sony and Nintendo have a large slate of announced upcoming platform-exclusive content and have built up a reputation for supporting a broader range of "tentpole" franchises and delivering on expectations, catering fans with sequels. Nintendo has been particularly transparent about its roadmap, offering a good spread of info for upcoming exclusive games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Pokemon Sword and Shield. I wish Microsoft could do the same.

Matt Booty at E3 2019

Matt Booty, leader of Xbox Game Studios (Image credit: Windows Central)

As I mentioned, there are business realities to consider, of course. Microsoft's new leader of Xbox Game Studios, Matt Booty, is leading the charge for Microsoft's efforts to re-energize its portfolio. Xbox head Phil Spencer also commented in a recent interview, conceding that Microsoft hasn't "done its best work" with games in this generation.

As it pertains to sequels, it could be argued that non-service type games like Quantum Break simply don't make sense for investment in 2019. Without a service component for post-launch monetization, the upfront cost creates a risk that few publishers are willing to stomach nowadays. It could also be argued that they very much do make sense for Microsoft, for whom Xbox is utterly core to its platform. Upcoming device-agnostic streaming service Project xCloud is powered by Xbox consoles too. If the streaming war between Amazon Prime and Netflix is any indication, exclusive content will be gospel in the fight against Google Stadia. Stadia is rumored to be splashing the cash on big exclusives of its own. In a world where switching platform is as simple as canceling a subscription, what happens if fans cannot trust you to deliver consistent quality for franchises they love? They'll begin to look elsewhere.

Please stop letting us down

RYSE, abandoned.

RYSE, abandoned.

There are piles of reasons to look forward to the future of Xbox, from xCloud streaming to more investment in exclusive content than ever. But plenty of reasons to doubt as well. Phil Spencer recently noted to Gamespot that Satya Nadella tasked him to justify Xbox's existence, which accentuates my perception that Nadella doesn't care about the consumer-oriented parts of Microsoft's business.

There are piles of reasons to look forward to the future of Xbox. But plenty of reasons to doubt as well.

Spencer eventually did convince Nadella to give Xbox another shot after the Xbox One's dismal reveal in 2013. But as with anything in Microsoft's utterly vast, diverse business, no single thing is so critical to the megacorp that Microsoft would let a failing division stick around. Xbox has to justify its existence not just from a philosophical level, but from a business level, which is why I feel Spencer has put a lot of emphasis on global services like Mixer, Game Pass, Minecraft itself, and Project xCloud, to give Xbox a chance to grow beyond the confines of a flat console market.

These future-facing decisions for growth, however, don't necessarily benefit today's Xbox Game Studios fan. Those fan's investment is responsible for keeping the business afloat in the now. Sometimes I worry that Microsoft is looking so far ahead that it might lose sight of what it has today. The truth is, Microsoft has heard of all of these criticisms, acknowledged them, and responded to them by bolstering its internal studio headcount by several hundred people. Turning around a ship this large will simply take time.

Killer Instinct

Will we ever get Killer Instinct 2? (Image credit: Microsoft)

My issue here is less to do with the number of games coming. We know games are coming. It's more to do with how Microsoft seems to perceive franchise success. It's inconsistent for Microsoft to gloat that Quantum Break broke sales records or boast that Killer Instinct has served millions of players, while seemingly abandoning the fanbases it has built up around those games. Rather than ditching an entire world when Microsoft feels a single game underperformed, Xbox Game Studios should take it as feedback rather than failure. Unless it makes zero sense whatsoever, fight back with a sequel, come back bigger and bolder. Be dependable.

There's only a finite amount of times the Xbox brand can cut and run before people will begin tuning out and mistrusting anything and everything the company announces, games-wise. Xbox fans shouldn't have to beg and petition for sequels and support. It should be a given.

Related: Is Microsoft doing enough to nurture its game franchises?

Jez Corden is a Senior 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!

  • It's simply today's MS under Nadella: safe, profit-driven decisions, and it's difficult to fault them for it. But it's still disappointing, they have no soul anymore.
  • U must be seeing a whole different MS than I do. Sole they have for sure, it's Microsoft that is being run by many new leader divisions. Many still fixing previous mistakes.
  • Yeah, you must not see the confusing/punitive/ultra-monetized structure of their licensing, their abandonment of products when they're not immediately successful, and their opaque messaging and decisions that leave consumers and businesses high and dry at a moment's notice if they think they can make an extra nickel by changing course. Just to name a few things.
  • Things may be confusing to you.. Doesn't mean it's confusing to me. When it comes to Microsoft, people like to jump the hate train and never see the positive with the bad. Kinda makes such opinions useless.
  • Haha, I'm sure you understand all the various nuances of MS licensing. Keep rocking the rose-colored glasses.
  • @spicypathai
    I call that blind fanboyism. The guy is taking part of a console war. In their eyes MS never does anything wrong. If there are problems it's always the fault of others not the company they worship.
  • I agree. There were alot of products that could have been successful if MS would actually push for, but now just keep a safe net and undo anything that sounds scary. I'm still waiting for them to put a final nail in Cortanas coffin, cause you know... Let's just stop working on it since there's competition. Same happened to windows mobile and Microsoft band
  • If you are talking about Windows Phone or Mobile, then no, it will never succeed.
    IT's late to the market, so no user base = no dev base, no dev base = no user base. It's chicken & egg.
    Human only need 2 phone OSes. 1 is iOS, another one is not-iOS (and Android filled the gape). If you are doing phone apps, not just iPhones, you MUST also QA on 30~40 most recent / popular Android phones (thank you Android, the API-all-OEM-can-tamper OS), waste of resources, and it's tiresome. So, WindowsClassic, iOS, not-iOS, that's it.
    WCOS (for all HW architectures and form factors) is another story and it make sense (esp for Edge Computing). WP/M made no sense.
  • btw, just like how Google killed Android Things (and G+, Inbox, Nearby, Reader and other products and services), it knows it's not gaining traction.
  • MS's issues with licensing and communication predate Nadella. They've always been like that, at least since they became massive. Nadella's MS isn't as concerned with owning everything though. They're more willing to drop their own solutions in favor of going where people actually are instead of trying to fruitlessly compete in markets that they don't need to be in or have already lost.
  • Unfortunately this has been as issue since before the current leadership. Alan Wake was ages ago.
  • "There's only a finite amount of times the Xbox brand can cut and run before people will begin tuning out and mistrusting anything and everything the company announces, games-wise. Xbox fans shouldn't have to beg and petition for sequels and support. It should be a given." This sums up it perfectly imo as the penny pinching is rife and myself as well as other have said it before Microsoft's current fiscal policy is centered around short term stock price increases as opposed to the long view taken by Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates. It's evident as prior to Phil Spencer being promoted to the Senior Leadership Team, the xbox team + studios was cut down heavily thus resulting in many cancellations. As long Microsoft's penny pinchers are engaged in the unsustainable stock price raiding be prepared to see more cancellations. To me it's simple, as long Microsoft's stock prices goes up the CEO - Satya Nadella + the CFO - Amy Hood and the fiscal side of Microsoft avoid tough questions.
  • Crytek denying funding cause they didn't want to share the intellectual property of Ryse 2 with Microsoft, they must have hated themselves after all those failures. Game could have potentially saved 1 studio and kept it decent for making more games. Now.. Microsoft should still hunt for those rights or Ryse 2 will never happen. They saved the first game, they can do it again.
  • The game did not do well. Probably why we won't see a part 2.
  • Xbox and Microsoft itself is preparing for the next generation where I truly believe they will be extremely aggressive. I know the HW2 thing sucks, but I can't imagine we won't get another HW. Foundation takes time and tough choices. I too have been let down on some choices but looking at the moves they have made I think Phil and Matt truly intend to justify these choices. But maybe not. 🤷🏿‍♂️
  • I haven't played Killer Instinct since the original on SNES. However, I do like Halo Wars and it's sad that they would abandon such a worthwhile and enjoyable RTS game. There is so much that can be expanded, whithin the story and so much that can be expanded in playability and map content.
  • ive been saying this for over a decade now. Microsoft just doesnt give a **** about their first party unless it makes a certain sale. Halo, Gears, Forza sure theyre great. But to fully abandon games like Perfect Dark, Killer INstinct, Ryse, Recore, Quantum Break, and way way more like midtown madness, mechassault, all need to come back into this generation.
  • I don't think it is this simple. Let me try and give an example. Back in the day there was a PS3 game called Heavenly Sword made by Ninja Theory. It was heavily advertised, reasonably well reputed (79 on Metacritic), sold reasonably well (over 1 million in the 1st month), but they quickly decided no sequels though fans wanted them. Ninja Theory came out saying that they (and Sony) lost a lot of money on the game, and would have required twice the sales volume just to break even. Thus, future projects were scrapped. I think the same holds true to many current games. I think the production costs for many of these games (Ryse, Sunset Overdrive, Quantum Break, Recore, even Titanfall etc etc etc) are so high, that they were probably doomed for failure from a profit/loss stand point. Probably the same reason why Scalebound was cancelled. Killer Instinct was a 'free' game in that Jago was always free. They wanted you to keep buying characters and KI currency for cosmetics etc. Sure there could be a massive player usage, but probably most people did not buy characters. Halo Wars did get a sequel, Halo Wars 2. However, as a AAA title, the player base is still not enough to justify AAA support. If anything, I am impressed that MS is still 'trying' to develop AAA titles and probably losing significant money doing so. If anything trying to create new IP's and expand MS studios as a sign that they are not 'penny pinching'. If anything, the 'profits' from Forza, Gears, Halo, probably 'subsidise' all the other IP's.
  • You have a good point. Except Titan fall. Titan fall 1 sold over 10 million copies on PC and Xbox combined. It was a huge success. Hence a sequel. Unfortunately the sequel got rid of everything that made the franchise what it was.
  • Record is a great example of a game that was not complete when released. It is pretty great now and deserves a complete sequel. This phenomenon is not owned by Microsoft.
  • Do you know what all the titles that you want sequels or additional development for have in common? They were developed by external and independent studios. MS is spending a lot of money on acquisitions right now. They're bringing a lot of stuff in house. That likely means they're not going to want to dedicate lots of money to external AAA scale projects, as it would be pulling resources away from their internal teams, and in the cases mentioned, be unlikely to generate large enough returns to warrant it. They're still willing to do some publishing for external partners, we're getting an Ori sequel, but it's likely to be less of an emphasis. Especially since a big part of their pitch to studios that they're buying up is that they're primarily there to make sure they have the resources to do what they want to do without having to worry so much about where the money is coming from. If they're serious about making that true, it means they have to prioritize those studios. The other area they're investing in heavily is Game Pass, and that is a sizable outlay of resources as well. Something has to give, and the more marginal externally developed projects make the most sense to back burner.
  • Excellent article! We hope MS can clear the air before it's too late.
  • I agree with Microsoft for holding back on showing off game play. There is too much toxicity on the internet. When games are shown under developed, so many click bait sites go off on having to bash games. Microsoft is best to play it safe. Show games once they are ready for prime time. Rockstar does it with its games. People need to wait.
  • I think they got to get the balance right. Yes, it would be good if some games like QB gets a sequel. There are many old franchise that could get revived. We waited so much for AOE 4, so it was great to see them making it but no news from it after the initial announcement. Yes, sequels for those games are welcome but I would say not just have mindless sequels after sequels. For such a major Gears gets a new sequel after just 3 years. We know about the yearly Forza...
    They talked about State of Decay 3 when the 2 was just released. They talked of this game going on for 10 years. They also hinted that that they wanted Obsidian's new game the outer worlds to be a massive franchise which will last for years even though it's not even released. For me, this looks like they build a game and just want to build on that same game engine to just create content to make sequels after sequels... I don't think that's how it should be.
    They should try to listen to what fans want (real fans of the games not company fanboys), take their time and focus on quality and that will get them good reviews, a positive image and profit...
  • Hi Guest. Hope your well mate. I actually think they shouldn't listen to fans. Sony don't make games fans necessarily want. God Of War before its release caught alot of flak over its change of gameplay design. But the developers made the game they wanted to make. And it paid off.
    It probably gained more new fans from the The Last Of Us/Uncharted crowd, as opposed to pleasing fans of the original games. But it worked. I believe MS would be better to just let the developers build what they want. Like Sony do. And not pander to what fans want. Most of the time Sony fans don't know what Sony developers are working on until it's unveiled. I believe at least according to Phil that's what he is doing with the studios now. It's up to them what they make. Let's see how this pans out moving into Scarlett launch and it's first 2 years on the market.
  • Hi, I'm fine and you?
    When I'm saying listening to fans, I'm talking about seeing if there is a real demand for a game. It's cool that some people wants Ryse 2 but if there are not enough people wanting it, it's just not worth making it.
    When it comes to what games to make and game design I say it should mostly be the devs that should decide. No one else. Not MS. MS should not try to push it's own agenda on the studio. What's important is creative freedom. MS should not tell a studio "you are the Halo studio", "you make only halo games". I don't think it's good that MS tells a studio we want this studio to keep making sequels of the same franchise for the next 10 years.
    Also they should not push their studios to make games as a service. They should not ask devs to design their games for game pass.
    Creative freedom is so important. We've seen what Sony did. They let Guerrilla games the freedom to move from making FPS Killzone games to 3rd person action rpg game like Horizon ZD. Same with Sucker Punch and Ghost of Tsushima or ND with TLOU after the uncharted series. A sequel for Horizon Zero dawn makes sense but it should be the studio that pitches the idea. Not Sony. If the studio ask for it, Sony will probably just allow it and not worry about not making enough money through microotransactions...
  • Really good thanks. Been so busy with all the summer sport. And playing Tales Of Vesperia DE alongside PES 2019. Well I'd say looking at Platinum as a start under Phil Spencer's Xbox is a good thing. They wanted to make an RPG and they are doing just that. Making them not just stuck to making Forza Horizon. I think I saw a recent interview with Ferguson that The Coalition has plans for a game that is nothing to do with Gears of War as well. But they are concentrating on finishing Gears 5 for the minute. Be interesting how it goes over the next few years. I don't think Gamepass affects anything really. All MS games single player or otherwise will all be Gamepass going forward. Including Ninja Theories new story IP they are currently working on. I believe also The Initiative are a Single player story focused Dev studio as well.
  • As much as I enjoyed Quantum Break, KI, Ryse, and many of their other new titles, the only one I desperately want is Sunset Overdrive 2, the first game was a masterpiece!
  • Microsoft are making a lot of positive changes lately, most of which we won't see until next gen. I'm curious to see what each studio's first MS developed/published title will be like. Quality 1st party games is the only area xbox has been lacking IMO.
  • It's all dependent on what the consumer wants. My interests in buying an Xbox One was mainly for the Forza series. Both consoles play AAA 3rd party games I tend to play more. Microsoft's Play Anywhere feature allows me to play games like FH4 on my PC and Xbox One as well. I have a PS4, it's collecting dust at my friends house that doesn't play it either.
  • MR Satya, i respect you, dont get near my Xbox or ill shoot the duck :(
    i have a feeling that Age of Empires 4 will be cancelled, i really want a new Ryse game, that was the reason i upgraded to xbox one x.
  • I think Ms have sole its just very calculated what that do. I wish we did see sequels. Quantum break was amazing, pgr was the best racing game, quantum redshift was awesome, ki and halo wars need to be getting updates and sequals. It's a shame.
  • I think it's pretty obvious at this point the majority of stuff being worked on is for Xbox Scarlett from in-house studios. Evident from the lack of showing of 3 quayers of its first party studios at last E3. Next Gen games will be saved for next E3, that much is blindingly obvious. Sure the last couple of years fans have wanted to see something now. But buying studios and building games takes years. Also I don't trust a word Remedy say. They finished Quantum Break and immediately according to Sam Lake started Control. Refusing MS to making Alan Wake 2. When MS are on record saying they wanted them to make that next. Yet apparantly Remedy wanted to make Alan Wake 2, but Remedy are on record saying they feel they need a multi-player game? Remedy have been slimey for a few years now.
  • I think we are giving MS a hard time here for something that Sony is also doing with Playstation and other brands do too. Sony dumped brands and whole studio's like "Wipeout", "Parappa The Rapper", "Singstar", "Buzz", and thats not to say they wont re-establish them at some point (maybe), but MS have a really large breadth of games they've tried and just no sequels in the pipelines they've revealed. Yes, they've had their fingers burned by projects like Scalebound, but if I had a niece or nephew who had never owned a console before, id be buying them an Xbox, and a back catalogue of some great console exclusives to play that outnumber the volume of games i'd get from doing the same with Sony, so maybe we should be a bit more positive for things like Game Pass allowing newbies into our eco-system and an enjoyment of a back catalogue most humans wont have time to play through, enjoy the exclusive online multiplayer worlds of Forza/Halo/Crackdown/Gears, whilst also waiting for all these single player adventures people are crying for....
  • Created a user account just to refute this article. I get that it is opinion. But the reason I don't buy games on my PS4 is they are all remakes of games I've already played that they want to charge full price for all over. Playstation is notorious for this. I've had to repurchase FFVII on every iteration of the Playstation it existed on. While the Xbox One allows me to play the games I already bought with enhancements at no cost. Now Sony expects us to pay $60 3 plus times to play the FFVII remake. I'm sick of remakes. I guess people are stuck in yesterday. Not me.
  • The problem, and has always been, that Microsoft doesn't fully understand that games sometimes need to build up their fanbases. Every time, literally every time they release a game and it doesn't sell whatever number of units they attach to it, they drop it. they're sitting on dozens of IPs. Uncharted sold "ok" but not great: Sony still understood it was a good game and a potential franchise, so they greenlit a sequel that a lot of people now have on their greatest of all time lists. Microsoft looks at their gaming division from a purely financial standpoint. game doesn't sell 5 million units? we're out. Would Sony have made Sunset Overdrive 2? Killer Instinct 2? Hell, Sony would be advertising Crimson Skies 3 by now. If the fans have a generally favorable opinion of a game, Sony tends to try again. they made Knack 2 for Chrissakes! They have the exact opposite mindset as Microsoft when it comes to their exclusives library....and who has sold more this generation? I'm an Xbox one user, by the way. I love it, but like a lot of people, I'm frustrated with Microsoft's bullheadedness. They'll either change, or the next Xbox is probably the last Xbox. that would be a shame.
  • It sucks that Xbox fans have to beg for actual games too..............never mind sequels.