It's been a big year for Microsoft and their game console. While the Xbox has been struggling against the PlayStation 4 since launch, 2016 saw them make some serious headway. They have a long way to go to be sure, but forward momentum is a good thing for gamers in general. Though along with several steps forward, there were also a couple steps back. Here's a look and the major wins, and the epic fails, of Microsoft and the Xbox One in 2016
Win: Games Anywhere
While Microsoft only has a fraction of the console market with the Xbox One, they essentially own the PC business thanks to their operating system. At this point, pretty much everybody has Windows 10, whether they like it or not. The good news for gamers is that by leveraging that side of the business Microsoft has been able to provide more value to players. This year they launched Play Anywhere, a system by which gamers who purchase the PC or Xbox One version of certain games, get the other version for free. Anything that makes gaming more flexible for the player is a good thing.
Fail: VR Support
While 2016 wasn't the year that VR took over the world, it was certainly the year that it began to try. Two major PC devices hit the market with the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. While Sony launched the PlayStation VR, Xbox decided that rather than to do their own thing, they'd partner with Oculus. This has made the barrier to entry for Xbox owners much higher than it is for PlayStation users. PSVR may not be cheap, but it's significantly cheaper than an Oculus Rift, and that's before any cost of upgrading your PC, something PSVR does not require.
Win: Backward Compatibility
2016 wasn't the year that Microsoft launched backward compatibility on the Xbox One to allow the playing of games from the Xbox 360. It was, however, the year that we learned that the idea wasn't simply a gimmick. As of this writing, 300 different games have been added to the library of titles. This year Xbox added multi-disc titles like Mass Effect 2 and 3 to the list and they even added the Bioshock series of games, titles that also saw Xbox One remastering in the same year, giving gamers not just the ability to play the old games but a choice as to how to do it.
Fail: Recore/Quantum Break
Game exclusivity is one of the few things left that really differentiates consoles. Since there are significantly fewer of them than in previous generations, it's all the more important to both console makers that the ones they have really draw players to their side of the fence. While one Xbox exclusive, Gears of War 4 performed more or less as expected, two other major exclusives did not. Neither ReCore nor Quantum Break are actually bad games. They're both fine, but both of these games should have been better than fine. The fail hurts all the more because so many were really expecting something great from these games. The games had a solid premise but the execution just failed to live up to the expectation.
Win: Console Sales and the Xbox One S
When the Xbox One launched it was $100 more expensive than the PlayStation 4, primarily due to the required Kinect. Even after removing the peripheral from the box the console struggled. However, the Xbox One spent a large part of 2016 at the top of the console sales chart. A big reason for this was the release of the Xbox One S, a smaller, quieter version of the console at a much more palatable $299 price point. Many who hadn't given the Xbox One a chance previously, apparently figured the new model was the time to start. While Sony still has the overall lead, Microsoft is clearly moving in the right direction.
Fail: Cortana on Xbox One
The number of people who actually use the Kinect on the Xbox One is a fraction of the userbase but I still like to use the system's voice commands. I turn the system on with my voice when I enter the room and will occasionally pause or start up a video if my controller has gone to sleep because it's faster than waking it up. At least it was. In 2016 Microsoft added Cortana to the system and while it seemed like a good idea, it made commands much slower, and require and internet connection in order to function at all. Add to that the voice control seems to have become less precise and it's a good thing the system allows you to go back legacy control.