Xbox is on the up and up, with Xbox Series X|S consoles selling faster than any previous Xbox generation before it, even the Xbox 360. With Xbox cloud gaming, the biggest studio portfolio in the company's history, and an industry-leading subscription service in Xbox Game Pass, Xbox is poised to have a really great console generation.
As good as Xbox has been doing lately, things could always be better, right? Recently, I asked on Twitter what Xbox fans' biggest concerns were currently about the Xbox platform, and solicited over 1,000 replies with user feedback. Over the Christmas break, I sat down and analyzed each bit of feedback based on various categories. If a feedback item appeared only once, I added it to an "other" column. The vast majority of complaints did, in fact, appear multiple times, and the range of feedback was quite broad.
Here's an overview (and wholly unscientific) look at the ~1,000 user feedback sample I gathered, and what seem to be some of the biggest trending issues among core Xbox fans.
Xbox feedback overview
On Dec. 28, I asked Xbox fans in my Twitter following for feedback on the current state of Xbox. Each time I tracked an issue from an individual user, I added it to a tally on Excel and produced the above pie chart based on the results.
This should by no means be taken as scientific, given that it focuses entirely on my personal Twitter following and disregards the experiences of users who are perhaps playing more casually and don't get involved in the online discourse. Still, it gives us some good indication at what the prevailing pain points are for heavy Xbox users, and may give us some idea of where Xbox may prioritize development for future features and expenditure.
As you can see above, no single issue wholly dominated for Xbox gamers. The biggest pain points for most pertain to the Xbox Game DVR, which records game captures, screenshots, and handles live streaming. Another big pain point was general issues with the Xbox OS, with many complaints about the abundance of "ads" on the dashboard. Another concern for Xbox gamers is the perception of decreased support from Japanese studios, who increasingly seem to bypass Xbox in favor of exclusivity deals with Sony PlayStation or Nintendo Switch.
Below I'll offer some more details on the complaints, and also we'll start to track where Microsoft is on some of these issues over the course of the next year.
Xbox game DVR
There were many, many complaints about various aspects of the Xbox Game DVR, and for good reason. The Xbox Game DVR has fallen into a bit of a state in recent years, in a variety of ways. The way the system handles HDR for captures is a bit off, with screenshots appearing washed out and weird when you upload them to a PC. It's also weirdly difficult to obtain your captures from a PC, with no system in place currently to access cloud files without manually uploading them from your Xbox to an adjacent service like OneDrive.
Another complaint I combined in this category revolves around streaming. Since the death of Mixer, Microsoft had no way to stream directly from the Xbox to streaming platforms until recently, when it finally re-integrated Twitch. However, Twitch isn't the only streaming service out there. The Xbox currently offers no native support for YouTube Gaming, for example.
The Xbox Game DVR also has no system for editing clips together, offering only a basic trimming service. In a social media world, it seems odd that the Xbox Game DVR is so bare-bones when it comes to some of this stuff. The old "Upload Studio" app was left abandoned and finally deleted entirely from Xbox a little while ago.
Thankfully, Xbox engineering lead Jason Ronald said on a podcast a little while ago that the Xbox Game DVR is a high priority for the team in 2022, so hopefully, we'll see these issues solved sooner, rather than later.
Xbox OS customization and improvements
For this, I lumped many complaints about the Xbox dashboard into a single category, since there were many issues that were a little less specific. The most prevailing complaint revolved around the abundance of tiles perceived as "ads" on the dashboard. The larger tiles across the bottom generate "recommended" content from various sources, including achievements, game recommendations, and so on. Many users seek the ability to hide this row of panels and desire a "cleaner" dashboard that showcases more of the background.
There were other complaints, ranging from the lack of HDR on the dashboard which causes flickering on some TVs while switching HDR modes. Also, general speed of the dashboard often came up as an issue, too. There were some complaints about the complexity of the Family Settings system, too, while others requested Discord integration for messaging and voice chat.
Support from Japanese studios
Another frequent concern revolved around support from Japanese and other third-party studios.
With Sony buying up exclusivity deals around the Final Fantasy franchise, and other franchises like Persona just arbitrarily ignoring Xbox all together, it's clear that many Xbox fans feel Microsoft needs to work harder to get some of these developers interested in building for the platform.
Xbox has seen a bit of success here and there from Japanese studios. Microsoft helped bring Phantasy Star Online 2 to the West via Xbox, for example, and Sega also brought the entire Yakuza franchise to Xbox, after years of exclusivity on other platforms. Microsoft has even garnered some wins from Square Enix, nabbing Octopath Traveler for Xbox Game Pass. Yet still, major gaps in the lineup persist. While not Japanese-made, Genshin Impact skipping Xbox has proven a pain point for some, and Atlus' continued absence on Xbox frustrates JRPG fans everywhere.
Microsoft has previously described Japan as one of its fastest-growing markets, so perhaps the situation will change in the coming years. But it's clear Xbox still has a lot of work to do in this area.
Another large bout of feedback fell against the Xbox achievement system, which has been a bit neglected in recent years. Save for the inclusion of a special "rare achievement" toast notification, there have not been any meaningful additions to the system in years. Meanwhile, PlayStation's Trophy system has become the object of some jealousy, given that it offers a more granular look at how players tackle achievement hunting.
Many players were asking for some sort of recognition for 100% completions of games, while others want to be acknowledged for their dedication to a single title. It's certainly true that professional gamers may spend more time in a single game learning to play at a higher level, rather than hunt down achievements in many separate games. Additionally, there were complaints about some indie publishers who deflate the quality of achievements with purposefully easy Gamerscore harvesting opportunities, devaluing the system as a whole.
Xbox first-party concerns
There continues to be concerns about Xbox's first-party output too, despite the acquisitions Microsoft has made in recent years. Many of these complaints were about different specific things with regards to first-party, ranging from requests to revive old IPs like Banjo, to the perceived lack of information about major upcoming games like State of Decay 3, Perfect Dark, Fable, and others.
It's clear that Microsoft still has some work to do to fully repair the perception that it can't meet Sony's PlayStation platform on raw quality. They've had a large range of positive wins last year, with more award nominations than any time in recent memory. Flight Simulator, Age of Empires IV, Forza Horizon 5, and Halo Infinite were all well received, and continue to bring people to the platform who may have never considered Xbox before. That being said, games like God of War, Horizon Zero Dawn, Ghost of Tsushima, and others on PlayStation just seem to still be at a level of quality Xbox hasn't been able to reach yet, despite the variety that Microsoft is putting out.
Players in the thread continued to request high-quality cinematic third-person action games, akin to the likes of God of War and Horizon. There were also calls for Microsoft to explore superhero games, in response to Sony's confident command of the Spider-Man IP. Fixing this perception will take time, still, likely frustrated further by the pandemic and work-from-home disruption of the past two years. In 2022, some of the most anticipated Xbox games include Starfield and Redfall, as the purchase of ZeniMax starts to bear fruit for Xbox.
Other Xbox concerns
There were various other concerns that appeared frequently in the thread. Localization issues continue to be a subject of concern outside of U.S. and U.K. markets specifically, with many users upset at the lack of support for Microsoft Rewards in their region. As someone who uses Bing and Microsoft Edge across PC and mobile, it almost gets me enough points every few months to effectively pay for Xbox Game Pass for free. It's understandable that people would be mad about missing out on this, but unfortunately, it's not on the Xbox team to solve this one, since Microsoft Rewards is handled by a different part of the company. However, it also includes concerns such as poor language support for first-party games, with many games receiving no local dub in their language of choice, or in some cases, not even subtitles.
Many users were also requesting some sort of Xbox Game Pass family plan, for multi-console households. Right now, you can share Xbox Game Pass with up to one other user using the console-sharing workaround method, but for people with multiple kids and multiple Xboxes, those costs rack up quite quickly. Considering even Office 365 has a family plan, it seems a bit of an odd omission that Xbox Game Pass does not. Hopefully Microsoft and its partners can work this one out.
Many users were also bringing up forced crossplay between consoles and PC on games like Halo Infinite and Call of Duty, exposing Xbox gamers to hackers on PC and perceptions of unfair competitive play when you start mixing controllers with mouse and keyboard players. Many users also complained about the quality of the Xbox apps across mobile and PC, which have inconsistent features at best, and horribly bad performance at worst. The Xbox app on PC is particularly bad, and something we've written about extensively here on Windows Central.
Another issue that came up frequently was the quality of backward-compatible games on the Xbox Series S. On the Xbox Series X, backward-compatible games use their Xbox One X resolutions and frame rates, but even though the Xbox Series S should be capable enough to handle these higher resolutions in older games, the system downloads the Xbox One S versions of backward-compatible games by default. This may be a precaution to ensure smooth gameplay, but I'm sure Microsoft could explore workarounds to make these features a little better on the Xbox Series S, considering many users likely picked up the smaller console as a secondary platform to take advantage of backward compatibility.
A never-ending process
I think the fact the issues people have are fairly spread out could be interpreted as a good thing. There's no central major problem facing Xbox for most users right now, with most aspects of the platform boiling down to refinement of things that are already there. I suspect in earlier years, concerns over the first-party lineup would've by far made up the bulk of fears about the future of the platform, but it seems confidence in this area has gradually improved over time.
Microsoft does have its work cut out when it comes to things like localization, support from Japanese and other third-party studios, and the constraints on the Xbox operating system. The Xbox OS is starting to show its age a bit potentially, given the limited resources allocated to running system-level features on the box. Opening the dashboard while running an intensive game reveals just how sluggish it can still be in certain scenarios, and the quality of the Game DVR and stagnation of the achievements system remains a bit painful.
One thing is for certain: Feedback and platform development is a never-ending process. Competition between the platform holders leads to innovation, which in turn leads to requests for more features and content. It felt a bit like Xbox was being run on a shoestring budget at the start of the last gen, but this gen, things absolutely feel completely different. With more investment than ever before, gamers ultimately stand to benefit, but we should keep up the (constructive, respectful) pressure on Microsoft to ensure that the complacency of yesteryear doesn't return.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!