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Xbox in 2016: the year in review

2016 was the year of the Xbox One.

Project Scorpio

Following a rough start in 2013, and an uphill struggle to claw back consumer trust throughout 2014 and 2015, it finally seems as though Microsoft's Xbox division is finally hitting its full stride in this console generation.

Microsoft took the sales lead against PlayStation for several months in the US and other key territories, while shipping huge game-changing feature updates, high profile exclusive titles, and ultimately, completing the company's UWP convergence journey across all Windows 10 devices. And of course, we must not forget the launch of the stunning Xbox One S, and the announcement of the monstrous next Xbox — the six teraflops Project Scorpio.

2017 will be a year of refining and building upon the springboard they've created up in the past year, but Xbox cannot afford to be complacent. Here's my Xbox year in review.

Gigabytes of new features

A year of updates

At the end of 2015, Microsoft pushed a large dashboard refresh to the Xbox One in the form of the New Xbox One Experience. Over the course of the year, Microsoft has fine-tuned the new dashboard, improving its speed and adding various improvements. Just some of these include the ability to see who's in a party before joining, a Gamerscore leaderboard, improving download speeds by up to 40%, customizing Game DVR clip length, and the ability to include party chat in Twitch broadcasts. There were dozens, perhaps hundreds of little tweaks and refinements over the past year, but we also got some major new features that revamped the way the console is used in general.

Universal Windows Platform (UWP) comes to Xbox One

In Summer 2016, Microsoft allowed Windows 10 UWP developers to target the console with their apps for the first time. While the rollout has been slow, we've already seen great UWP apps for major services like Netflix and Just Eat, but also great indie apps like Theme My Xbox and Readit.

Microsoft is blurring the lines between console and PC in more ways than one, but it might not be too long until we get UWP Office and other apps typically associated with PC and mobile on the console.

Xbox Play Anywhere

One of the biggest features Microsoft dropped on us this year was the Xbox Play Anywhere program, which grants users a license for both the Xbox One and Windows 10 Store version of a game. These games also feature progress roaming between Xbox and PC, meaning you can literally play anywhere with an internet connection for data syncing.

While very few third-party developers have supported the program so far, all future Microsoft Studios games will work across devices, including Halo Wars 2, Sea of Thieves, and State of Decay 2. Some smaller developers have also jumped on the Xbox Play Anywhere train as it's a very easy way to add a ton of value to a game. Some of these titles include Astroneer, Everspace, and soon, We Happy Few.

Microsoft will face a battle to get more third-party developers not only to support Xbox Play Anywhere but also the Universal Windows Platform in general. It remains to be seen whether any larger publishers will support license roaming between Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs in 2017, but it's certainly a compelling feature for those of us who invest in the Xbox ecosystem.

Cortana support

Microsoft also rolled out Cortana support for Xbox One, adding natural language commands and additional capabilities to the console. You can now ask your Xbox One for weather reports, sports scores, flight details, and almost everything else Cortana is capable of on Windows 10.

Sadly, however, Cortana requires internet polling to process voice commands, which decreased the speed of basic functions like "Volume up/down" and "Go to app/game" making the experience far slower and more clunky. Cortana also often falls back to a snapped internet search when she mishears you, adding additional frustration.

The situation has improved with subsequent updates, but since Microsoft has thankfully given users the ability to switch back to the legacy Xbox voice commands, I'm not sure whether Cortana's failure to make a positive first impression will hinder her future on the console in general.

Clubs, Looking For Group, Arena

Microsoft added a wealth of new social features to the Xbox One this year too, including user-created Clubs, Looking for Group ads, and the ability to create Arena tournaments based around competitive Xbox games.

Clubs, for the first time, allow users on Xbox Live to create their own communities. Players can create Clubs based around any topic, styling them as they see fit. The tools and customization features available to Clubs are a bit limited so far, however. If Microsoft wants Xbox Live to become truly social, they need to open up Clubs to the same sorts of features seen in products like Discord, including image support, and custom avatars.

Beyond Clubs, we also have Looking For Group. With this feature, Microsoft is offering a solution for the multiplayer games out there that do not have robust in-game group finding features, such as Elite Dangerous and Destiny. Hopefully, Microsoft will provide developers with the tools to embed LFG ads directly into games to make the experience even more seamless.

Arena is Xbox Live's first foray into eSports systems, providing professional organizations like MGL the opportunity to create tournaments directly on the network. Arena is still in preview (and US-only at that), but the feature has lots of potential. It's easy to imagine a future where spectator and commentator tools are baked directly into the console, leveraging one of Microsoft's most intriguing purchases of 2016 — Beam.

Beam.pro

One of Microsoft's most exciting acquisitions in 2016 was Beam.pro, a fledgling live streaming service developed by an incredibly passionate team with a penchant for innovation.

What sets Beam.pro apart from it's most obvious competition, Twitch.tv, is its unprecedented lack of latency between streamer and viewer. This makes streams more entertaining, as the dialogue between the streamer and viewer can take place in near-real time, and the speed is improving with every update.

Additionally, Beam.pro features an SDK that allows developers to bake web controls directly into their games. This allows viewers to spend "Sparks" — currency accrued for watching streams — on interactivity buttons streamers place on their web pages. Some of the current implementations include sound boards, and even the ability to spawn monsters in games like Minecraft.

Microsoft is wasting no time in capitalizing on Beam's features, baking the service directly into Windows 10 in the near future to allow gamers to forego complex streaming tools and begin broadcasting with something as simple as a Win Key combination press. Beam will also pick up integration with Xbox One early in 2017, giving creators an alternative to the viciously competitive Twitch.

A platform for the future

There are dozens of other major updates that hit Xbox One this year, and it would take all day to list them out. And that's a good thing. Microsoft has been incredibly responsive to user feedback across the board, not just for Xbox One, but for Windows 10 and other apps and services too. The pivot to a customer-driven company has benefited Xbox immeasurably in 2016, and we know it's only going to get better in 2017.

Microsoft has spent the past few years creating the basis for the gaming network of the future. Whether it's new social features, tools to connect games with gamers, Beam streaming, and Arena eSports tools, it's plain to see Microsoft has created an incredible amount of additional value for Xbox Live users on the service, both on Windows 10 and Xbox One.

Xbox dashboard

Xbox dashboard (Image credit: Windows Central)

Moving into 2017, we know that the Xbox One will share an OS with Project Scorpio, and perhaps even a user interface. In 2017, Microsoft should focus their attention on making refinements to the dashboard itself, which is still far slower than it ought be. Navigating elements developed for the multiple endpoints of UWP could also use a lot of refinement, as many apps on Xbox One either use a mouse-like joystick cursor or force you to thumb around snappable objects in directions that aren't always clear.

We know that Microsoft is developing a new design language, and it seems likely we could see it appear in some form on Xbox One and Project Scorpio. If so, Microsoft should focus its efforts on creating a modern dashboard UI that is equal parts beautiful, functional and, above all fast, putting content at the forefront.

Platform features are only one pillar of the Xbox effort, and while the bells and whistles are important, a video games console is only ever as good as its games, and I'd say it was a mixed bag for Microsoft in 2016.

Risk vs. Reward

Games, games, games

2016 in games was a year of unexpected triumphs and extreme disappointments. Blizzard salvaged the remains of their failed MMO — Project Titan — and created Overwatch, which will define hero-based shooters for years to come. After a disappointing multiplayer tech test, Bethesda launched DOOM to almost unanimous praise, delivering a shooter that was aggressively old-school in its pursuit of glorious (and gory) gameplay purity.

Despite reservations about the setting, DICE delivered one of the most sobering, immersive, and beautiful shooters ever made in the form of Battlefield 1, that just so happens to be Windows Central's official pick for Game of the Year.

Of course, 2016 wasn't all plain sailing, particularly in camp Microsoft.

It wasn't all about shooters, though. INSIDE broke ground and blew minds with its meticulously crafted puzzle platforming masterpiece, while the RPG Final Fantasy XV finally emerged after over a decade in incubation — and thankfully it's pretty great. We also saw solid efforts from Far Cry Primal, Mafia III, Dishonored 2, Titanfall 2, Watch Dogs 2, XCOM 2, and Deus Ex Mankind Divided. While games from the indie scene, including Firewatch, Virginia, Astroneer, The Flame in the Flood, and The Witness, generated some serious budget buzz. Of course, 2016 wasn't all plain sailing, particularly in camp Microsoft.

Before we get to Microsoft Studios' efforts, 2016 might be remembered as the year marketing hype finally jumped the shark. No Man's Sky launched without piles of promised features, and "Destiny Killer" The Division failed to live up to the massive hype it generated all the way back to the start of the generation. After their initial sales bursts, both games saw their player bases diminish rapidly.

Gamers also took to social media in droves to slam Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, granting its trailer the title of one of the most disliked YouTube videos ever. Sales of major titles like Titanfall 2 failed to live up to publisher's expectations. Commentators blamed everything from gamer fatigue, an over-saturation of AAA titles in Q3 and Q4, and the rise of Games as a Service, which sees titles like Overwatch perpetually updated on the back of cosmetic micro-payments, giving them an abnormally long life span. I expect in 2017 we'll see even more titles go down this route, for better or worse.

Mixed success at Microsoft Studios

Microsoft itself saw some mixed commercial and critical successes in 2016. While Microsoft praised Quantum Break as its best-selling new IP ever, reviews were mixed as critics reacted negatively to the way the shooter's 20-30 minute-long live action cutscenes impacted the game's pacing. Quantum Break's developer Remedy Entertainment is no longer working with Microsoft, and you have to wonder if Quantum Break's mixed reception and large budget is at least partially to blame. This is particularly upsetting as Alan Wake, another big Xbox exclusive title developed by Remedy back for the Xbox 360, may never get the sequel it deserves.

Microsoft itself saw some mixed commercial and critical successes in 2016.

Another game with big names attached to it was ReCore, which was co-developed between the studio behind Metroid Prime, and the legendary creator of Megaman, Keiji Inafune. Despite the intrigue generated by its enrapturing reveal trailer last year, the full game disappointed many. Not only did it launch at an almost apologetically lower-than-usual price point, ReCore was also brief and lacking ambition, standing in the shadow of far more impressive open world titles of recent years. ReCore, while conceptually enticing, was hammered even harder by critics, granting it a score below 7/10 on Metacritic.

Nothing in Microsoft Studios' 2016 was as catastrophic as the closure of Lionhead Studios, leading to the death of Fable Legends, and most likely, the entire Fable franchise along with it. Reports suggested that the 4 vs. 1 free-to-play RPG ate up $75 million dollars before getting canceled, and was developed more to showcase Microsoft's cross-platform efforts and simply wasn't the game Lionhead (or fans) wanted for the franchise.

Forza, Gears, and backward compatibility hold the fort

It wasn't all bad news, of course. Forza Horizon 3 launched to near-unanimous praise, earning itself a place as one of the greatest titles of the year. Its gorgeous visuals, high-octane gameplay, and wealth of content put it head and shoulders above the competition, exemplifying the potential Microsoft Studios' titles have to deliver the goods.

Speaking of delivering the goods, Gears of War 4 also made a splash when it launched earlier this past fall. While Gears 4 didn't build on its formula or "betray" fans expectations as teased by The Coalition; it refined and elevated what the franchise is known for.

I wrote in my review that Gears 4 felt like the return of an old friend, but The Coalition should probably consider taking more risks with the next installment to prevent the franchise from getting stale.

2016 was also the year that Xbox Backwards Compatibility really began to shine. Classic blockbusters like Mass Effect 2 and 3, Oblivion, XCOM: Enemy Within and Red Dead Redemption graced Xbox One consoles for the first time, with fan favorites like Catherine, Lost Odyssey, and Blue Dragon also breaking cover.

2016 was also the year that Xbox Backwards Compatibility really began to shine.

Backward compatibility provides key differentiation for the Xbox One family, and it remains an incredibly compelling reason to pick up the console. Phil Spencer recently tweeted that 50% of Xbox One users currently use backward compatibility, making it a feature enjoyed by millions.

No room for complacency

Even before 2016 with games like Sunset Overdrive and RYSE, Microsoft Studios has begun to earn itself a reputation for fire-and-forget second-party efforts that fail to live up to expectation of the wider audience. State of Decay 2, Crackdown 3 and Scalebound have every opportunity to repair the damage, but they will undoubtedly be held to some seriously intense scrutiny. Halo Wars 2 is certainly shaping up nicely, and Sea of Thieves should also provide quality exclusive content to Xbox One gamers everywhere. And of course, there's the inevitable Forza Motorsport 7.

I personally loved Quantum Break's slick TV show portions and time-warping gameplay, and I adored ReCore's characters, systems, and combat system. I even enjoyed what I saw of Fable Legends. All three titles had solid foundations that simply failed to resonate in execution, and I feel that it casts a shadow of doubt over future titles.

Scalebound (Image credit: Xbox)

Sony is offering glimpses of far-field AAA PlayStation 4 titles such as God of War, The Last of Us 2, and Hideo Kojima's intriguing Death Stranding, leaving Xbox One fans in the dark regarding what their ecosystem will look like beyond 2017 — for now.

I feel as though there's a real danger of Forza, Gears, and Halo becoming stale, which would only compound the sense that the new IP Microsoft Studios have been putting out seem to lack the scale and scope required to resonate with the expectations of the wider core gaming audience. Hopefully, Microsoft is simply playing its cards close to its chest, preparing to launch an all-out assault for the full reveal of Project Scorpio.

It's a monster

Scorpio Rising

Perhaps Microsoft's biggest Xbox announcements this year revolved around hardware. At E3 2016, Microsoft unveiled the Xbox One S. The S is a slimmed down Xbox One, with largely the same internals. A more efficient processor meant that Microsoft could shrink the Xbox One S by a large amount without affecting airflow, while also baking the power brick directly into the console. To top it off, the Xbox One S became the first console capable of outputting 4K resolution media for apps like Netflix, in addition to supporting High Dynamic Range for games.

The Xbox One S led the charge for Microsoft in 2016, giving it several months of leadership in the US and other territories. The beauty, quality, feature set, and sheer value of the Xbox One S puts it in a far stronger position than the 2013 Xbox One, and I think it's safe to argue that the landscape would look very different if the Xbox One S was Microsoft's current-gen launch console.

2016 marked the death of the "console generation."

Microsoft has been aggressive with price cuts and generous bundles which will undoubtedly hurt the division's bottom line, but the current battle revolves around building up a user base. 2016 marked the death of the "console generation," as future PlayStation and Xbox consoles will be forwards and backward compatible, shifting towards a smartphone-like ecosystem which sees more frequent hardware revisions. Software sales, micro-payments, and service subscriptions are more important than ever to Microsoft and Sony, and it's with that in mind that you should expect the next Xbox to be competitively priced ($399 is my prediction).

Project Scorpio exploded onto the scene in 2016, complete with an inspiring teaser trailer, testimony from industry greats, and the promise of high-fidelity VR and 6TF-powered full 4K resolution gaming for all.

We learned that it was the high-profile leak of the PS4 Pro that led Microsoft to out Scorpio at E3. Microsoft pounced on the leaked PS4 Pro specs to announce that the next Xbox would be significantly more powerful. The PS4 Pro rarely outputs in full 4K and requires an external GPU for its PSVR experiences.

Microsoft leapfrogged Sony in the power narrative with Scorpio and provided a cheaper, and sleeker 4K media player in the form of the Xbox One S, which has the PS4 Pro beat on 4K Blu-ray playback too. For those with the long-term in mind, the Xbox One ecosystem may look more attractive as a result, as the cost of entry into the 4K ecosystem is not only cheaper with the Xbox One S, but Scorpio will provide a higher quality 4K experience than Sony can offer until the inevitable PlayStation 5. All this without mentioning those large Xbox 360 collections will also work on Project Scorpio thanks to backward compatibility.

Microsoft can't afford to be complacent with the launch of Project Scorpio, given the appeal of Sony's exclusive video game catalog. Scorpio needs the right price point, the right look, and the right features to stay ahead of the PS4 Pro, which will not only have a much wider library of high-res content towards the end of 2017 but will undoubtedly get competitive price cuts of its own.

Microsoft can't afford to be complacent with the launch of Project Scorpio, given the appeal of Sony's exclusive video game catalog.

Microsoft would be smart to tease upcoming 4K games when it reveals Project Scorpio in full, keeping its unique aspects in the forefront. Beyond raw power, hopefully, Project Scorpio will have a Surface-like "plot twist" that gives it definition in its category, providing a compelling differentiator against the PS4 Pro and the wildcard that is the Nintendo Switch.

Project Scorpio will also power development for the Windows 10 Store, giving developers a standardized set of hardware for building games that scale correctly across Xbox One, Scorpio, and compatible Windows 10 hardware. We can only hope that Microsoft's insistence on bringing games to the UWP Windows 10 Store won't alienate and complicate things for developers looking to compete in the existing landscape, as any form of resistance could derail Xbox's efforts in the console space. Project Scorpio seems amazing, but there is no room for Microsoft to rest on its laurels with developers and gamers alike.

The Scorpio Zodiac emoji, used by Xbox fans and staff excited for the next Xbox.

The Scorpio Zodiac emoji, used by Xbox fans and staff excited for the next Xbox.

Looking ahead

Conclusion

I have mentioned complacency a lot in this article, and really that is the only thing that will stop Microsoft taking a leading position in 2017. The right pieces are in play, with the Xbox One S, Project Scorpio, possibility of further dashboard improvements, and a robust video game catalog for 2017 should help Xbox have another stellar year.

2016 was all about positioning and refinement. The updates to the Xbox One OS improved things, but things are far from perfect. The Universal Windows Platform started bringing apps to Xbox One and core PC games to the Windows 10 Store, but Microsoft is still struggling to bring developers to the UWP table, and the Windows 10 Store is still a hideous, alienating mess for any serious PC gamer accustomed to Steam.

The Good:

  • Backwards compatible games
  • Xbox One S
  • Beam acquisition
  • Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3

The Bad:

  • Second-party exclusives struggled
  • Dashboard is still too slow
  • Closure of Lionhead and Fable
  • Third-party UWP support is nearly non-existent

Microsoft had a great 2016 with Xbox, making headlines with significant additions to backward compatible Xbox 360 games, great Xbox One titles in the form of Gears 4 and Forza, and tons of new features like Xbox Play Anywhere, background music, Clubs, and Looking For Group. As we march towards the launch of Scorpio, Microsoft will have to make a case for the long-term vision of their Windows 10 gaming ecosystem, especially since they continue to blur the lines between PC and console for gamers and developers alike.

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!

36 Comments
  • i think the playanywhere has been the best thing about the xbox in 2016. The ability to not just smooth cross play but seamless party chat with PC players has been the biggest feature i've seen. This could open up a new era of PC/Console cross play features. Hopefully 3rd party's jump on board.
  • For Microsoft to succeed and start benefiting from Xbox Anywhere by bringing PC players to the Xbox app and Windows/Xbox Store ecosystem from Steam , GOG and other competitors, Microsoft needs to implement something like GOG Connect which would enable Steam users to migrate parts of theirgames library to Windows Store at no cost. This has helped GOG in a big way, as I was 95% tied to Steam, but since GOG Connect I have had around 30+ games matched on GOG and I have finally stated buying games there as well instead of Steam, mainly due to the DRM free attraction. If Microsoft does not make deals with game publishers that enables something similar with the Windows Store, it will be really hard convincing people that have hundreds of games on Steam to all of a sudden switch to Microsofts game store for anything more then the one or two games like Forza Horizon, or hopefully Halo MCC in the future.  
  • pick f rom windows
  • It's early to talk about Scorpio as anything but a launch trailer. Microsoft and Sony both have a history of overstating the performance of their upcoming consoles, and I don't think 6 Tflops is going to be enough to reach 4K/60FPS. You can't really say it's going to be a winner based on a vague trailer.
  • I don't think that 60fps will be delivered for $399. Though I think that more than $450 would make it dead in the water, for the base model (1TB) anyway. I reckon they may come in at the $399, but at the expense of horsepower. I'll be looking to get the 2TB version, but I expect it to be between £400 and £450.
  • I don't think it'll be that cheap either and that's fine: they already have the One S as a entry level console. I'd be surprised to see Scorpio for less than $500 on release day.
  • $399, remember this comment!
  • Do you reckon that they can get the 60FPS 4k at that price point though? Clearly gonna be a precarious thing to balance performance against cost. Particularly as a PS Pro price cut is guaranteed.
  • You'll be lucky if Scorpio is in the $600 range, more likely it will be $800+. Just my opinion, we'll see soon enough. But don't expect a cheap price point considering all MS is promising it to be.
  • Don't understand this comment, especially since the Head of Xbox himself said that the price of Scorpio will be one that gamers have seen before ...
  • Did we all forget the PS3 60GB launched at $599? That would be the absolute upper limit, and it would be suicidal to do it again.
  • Wouldn't it depend on what the console can do?  If Scorpio can do 60fps in 4K, I think it would be reasonable at $600.  You can't build a PC capable of that type of performance for less.
  • The bad, killing OTA dvr support for us cordcutters was a major negative for me and others. The problem is in the us we just don't matter enough because everyone is dumb and pays for cable
  • I want people to start asking about this again. The user voice has gone up 2.5x since they said it was "on hold." This puts it at #30 (not including BC titles). That's pretty far up there. If you remove the hand full of "I want cheaper" and "I want free" items, it drops below 25.
  • Thank you for this post. I was about to buy the Xbox TV tuner thinking I could now DVR until this post made me research it. Going with a cheap box to record now that can't do the streaming functions of the Xbox. WTF would they do this?
  • Yep, it really sucks. It seemed like it was very far in development too. I bought a second console and tuner around the original announcement.
  • I'd actually put this under a new category entirely, perhaps 'The Shameful' or 'The Backstabbing." "You know, something that gets across how Microsoft promised a really appealing feature, it even went so far as having a major bit about DVR at a major conference (can someone please add a link to the picture? It's hilarious to see it now after Microsoft cancelled it), and then failed to follow through on its promise. Why was it cancelled? Though Microsoft claimed it was due to lack of interest citing its user voice hocus pocus (why would anyone vote for a feature that was already promised?), my guess is that it's money related. Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, etc. are all vying to be the one that "figures" out TV. Microsoft offering an elegant method to record OTA TV is not in its favor when negotiating with media companies that would rather have you pay for its content. I could be way off here, but there is more to this story than meets the eye.      
  • I agree that it'll cost $399. No more than $450 fo'sure is my guess. I bought the One S. I bought it mainly to play Gears with a friend and because of Backwards Compatibility(Catherine is a cult classic, love that game). Newegg had a hard deal to pass on. Figure if Gears gets crossplay with PC, I can always sell the Xbone S. Or maybe I'll keep it. Ima enjoy it for a bit either way.
  • Gears co-op modes have cross play with PC, they'll never allow it competitively though.
  • They are currently running a social playlist for crossplay competitive. Not sure it will be permanent - depends on the numbers I suppose. As long as it's unranked, I see no problem keeping it.
  • I'd call it the exact opposite. To me, it's the start of a long drought of disinterest in MS exclusives, with Forz aHorizon 3 the exception. I'd call Beam a neat idea, wbut puzzling when they gut the actual console content (game devs) and don't have MS account integration ready yet. I'd call killing the Kinect, for all intents and purposes, a joke--same for shutting down Xbox Fitness. Watching my Elite Controller warranty and MS leave me hanging sucked. The design of the XB1S is disappointing (to me). Not seeing the Elite Controller'a $150 butt refreshed with the $60 controllers is hilarious.   Really, it's hard to say I was excited by anythting from the XB1S this year. That's why I FINALLY broke down and supplemented it with the PS4P; there just isn't enough content exclusive to either platform to entertain me for long right now. I need both just to have something to do. That's what happens when Quantum Break loses your save 80% through the game and you see lots of projects get canned.
  • My Xbox backlog is utterly endless, I couldn't find time to fit in a PS4P even if I wanted to lol.
  •   I suppose, yeah. But I look at your wrap-up points, and I don't see how it comes out as great. You've got 2 games listed as bright spots, then point out 2 studio closures, bad sales on the other stuff, and an unwillingness by devs to support UWP. It reads like a Windows Phone or Nintendo console summary--good hardware with bad software support by third- parties. Me, my backlog is the 4 PS4P games I got (playing Mordor GotY now, then have Bloodborne, Ratchet & Clank, and MLB 16), plus 3 on XB1S (Horizon 3, BF1, Dying Light). Downside there is that it's 3 exclusives vs. 1, though one on the PS4P is a 2015 release. I guess the fact Halo 5 (which I don't really enjoy when I play it) is still the XB1 go-to shooter and I couldn't muster any bit of excitement for Gears 4 is what made it so bad for me. That, and shutting down Xbox Fitness (only thing I ever did with my Kinect, to the point I haven't even bothered applying for the free XB1S adapter) and setting MS up to have a bad lineup of exclusives sucks. That they turned the games division into 4 studios that will likely do little to branch out from Minecraft, Halo, Gears, and Forza saddens me, because IDK how you there can argue for Microsoft's lineup of games when the long-term looks so weak, to me. Scalebound will surely be another one-off. There's little to suggest any different for Crackdown, given how long it took to get another installment. So, you basically have a first-party lineup that amounts to just those 4 franchises, until we see MS hire some new talent. Gears was unable to get to buy either of its last 2 games (Judgment and 4), and I barely touched 3. Minecraft interested me for about a week, then I never wanted to go back (couldn't even justify the $5 upgrade from 360 to XB1). Forza's on a Motorsport cycle, and I've gotten weary over redundant track racing, especially in the face of FH3, so I'm not looking forward to my 15 millionth lap on Sebring International of Mazda's Laguna Seca (even though I enjoy the latter track's steep S-curve turn a lot). That leaves me with just one franchise to look forward to, Halo. Of course, Halo's my all-time favorite franchise, but what's there to look forward to? I'm not an RTS person, so Halo Wars never got into my 360. That also means Halo Wars 2 doesn't have my eye either, since I wouldn't know the story. I CERTAINLY don't care to spend $80 to commit to two games I don't think I'll like, simply because it's Halo. "Maybe Halo 6 happens in 2017," you say. Well, after the imbalanced multiplayer maps of Halo 5 (seriously, they made a SECCOND Pegasus?!), and how badly the botched the campaign (Locke is a terrible character, and pushing Chief into a cupboard felt like some moronic, Affirmative Action move), I can't even get excited for Halo when 343 has shown such an ability to mess it up. I guess I just feel like 2016 is the year Microsoft tried its best to chase me away, especially when you throw in killing the Band line, refusing to service their Elite Controllers, and showing W10M so much neglect (not to mention the build quality of the 950, since I technically got that in late-2015, but the hardware problems came in 2016). Such a messy year for MS as a whole, in my book, and they didn't even have a new version of the Surface, Surface Pro, or Surface Book to celebrate as a win (minor hardware refreshes on the latter two really don't count as good alternatives to expected successors, though I get why they are waiting). Lastly, what is your baklog full of? I feel that it's not full of 2016 exclusives, particularly first-party ones. My guess would be that it's mostly full becasue your job gets you a lot of games for free (not an attack on you at all, just a statement of the situation), rather than because 2016 was dropping great exclusives left and right.
  • Dude you're a downer. After reading this it's apparent you're bored of todays gaming landscape. A PS4Pro is not going to give you what you need. To me it sounds like you need a break from gaming or something; gaming should be fun and you sound a little too critical. I've been having a blast with the X1 since launch and see no need to get a different console (PS4 or X1S), I'm already backlogged games deep! Between Battlefild 1 and Ark I hardly have time for Forza Horizon and I abandoned Tomb Raider half way through to play Fallout. I still have Batman, Mordor, Gears 4, Oxenfree, Life is Strange, Outland and a slew of games still untouched, not to mention all the Games with Gold! To me Backward comapitibility and play anywhere sealed the deal fo me. I have zero need for a suppliment console and couldn't be a happier gamer. Your gaming attitude is a little too serious and I think you'll find your view on the Xbox to be WAY in the minority.
  • Thanks for running in two days late with this hit take. I suppose that's just how long it took you to read my comment. Really, though, this would have been SO helpful a month ago. If you had told me I needed to stop playing games, it would have saved me from buying a PS4P and getting back to playing a baseball video game. I wouldn't have wasted tens of hours on just the first half of Shadow if Mordor, enjoying being a completionist with all of the missions. I wouldn't have sunk 20+ hours into my New 3DS and Pokémon Y. I wouldn't have spent a few hours last night catching up with a friend from high school over a freshly bought Rocket League. I wouldn't have gotten Dying Light, Bloodborne, Ratchet & Clank, Dishonored Definitive Edition, or any of the other games I have set to play while I wait eagerly for Horizon Zero Dawn and Kingdom Hearts 2.8 on that stupidly bought PS4P. If only you had been here in November, letting me know that while I thought I would enjoy all of these games I bought and have had fun with, I would subconsciously hate them and need to stop playing them altogether. Just because I like different stuff doesn't mean I hate all games. Get out of here with your stupid statement.
  • To me, the closure of Press Play was easily the worst Microsoft Studios-related news of the year. All they did was make excellent games. People seem to already have forgotten about them...
  • The reason I didn't include them here is that the studio lives on as Flashbulb Games, and might actually end up being a good thing for them. I haven't forgotten them. :)
  • I think the unglamorous, but most important story is backwards compatibility. It fills in the weak next gen catalog (to date) and beings a ton of 360 owners on board.
  • Definitely, bc is a key differentiator that gives the Xbox One a compelling proposition vs. PS4, which doesn't, and won't ever offer that. We're lucky.
  • It's definitely a plus, though not for all. If you don't have things to go back to on 360, it ends up being something MS dumped a lot of resources into for nothing gained, in my case. I get the love for it, and like that MS put in the work, but I don't have interest in hitting up the 360 library. I'd rather MS have committed to more XB1 software and new IP.
  • QB and Recore were my two favorite games of the year. I hope they both sold enough to get a chance for sequels.
  • Very nice Article Jez to bring everything Xbox related into one article, you gave your opinion and yet was unbiased in your writing, I agree Xbox has worked extremely hard at getting things right this year bringing features that we have asked for, Dolby Atmos Support being one of my wants, but I'm not going to get a Xbox One S, I'm waiting for that Scorpion!!!! I hope its everything they have said it's going to be and then some, I also like how they are trying to be different by offering special editions, different colors and even a Gears of War 4 Console, Controller and Elite Controller, they have found something people love and world off of that!!! I hope they carry on this trend!!!
  • Great article Jez. I great read for my bus journey to the shops. I hope that Microsoft take risks with new Ipswich. QB is a great game and an interesting concept. I just hope that their first party studios do not get stuck making the same games and look to experiment with new IPs. Xbox needs a naughty dog. It has Rare and it needs to take advantage of the talent it has there. I am disappointed about kinect I use it regularly for Skype but I could see it making a return with project Scorpio.
  • Migrating Steam Data to Xbox Live would be awesome!
  • I just really want them to roll out the DTT DVR features they shelved. I recently updated from a 360 to a One S with the TV adapter and it is brilliant. You turn on the XBox it launches into TV mode, you have the rewind controls, can stream to other devices, lovely. Have a remote so my Mrs is happy to use it too. If they would add that feature, with the TV, and OTT support it has it would be the perfect ent's device. Also for the Wish list is: support for Bluetooth Accessorie (Keyboards, Mice, and speakers) and bringing the Connect App out of beta for general use to allow Miracasting to the device.      
  • Since only few others wrote this: Thank you, Jez, for writing this. It was a wonderful look back into the great, the not-so-great and the horror of Xbox history 2016. Much appreciation from here - and thank you for being such a great host and co-host of the Windows Central Beam streames :)