“Xbox doesn’t have good exclusives” seems to be a commonly accepted truth among most gamers, but what I think is more accurate to say is that Xbox doesn’t really get the kind of prestige, single-player exclusives that PlayStation or Nintendo get. Everytime a new Uncharted launches or a new The Last of Us Part II trailer pops up, I—as mostly Xbox player—end up staring into the distance, a blank expression on my face, wondering what could have been.
The thing is, I don’t really blame Microsoft; I blame the players.
Let’s look at 2018, for example. PlayStation 4 got God of War (prestige), Detroit: Become Human (prestige-ish) and soon will have Marvel’s Spider-Man (superhero levels of prestige), not to mention two—two!—Yakuza titles (the most prestige you can possibly have). Xbox One, on the other hand, gets Sea of Thieves (barely finished) and State of Decay 2 (just State of Decay 1 with co-op). Even worse, both of those games are playable on PC and neither of them really work better as single-player experiences. Xbox One has “a lot” going for it, but a healthy library of prestige exclusives is not one of them.
Sure, you can blame Microsoft executives for cancelling interesting new IPs like Scalebound (still sore about that, to be honest) and instead focusing on parading out an endless series of games in the Forza, Gears of War, and Halo franchises. But it’s not like Xbox never had great single-player exclusives. It did, but Xbox players just didn’t embrace them the way PlayStation 4 players embrace their exclusives.
There are two Xbox One games that really stick out to me as prestige exclusives: the criminally underlooked Sunset Overdrive and the criminally underrated Quantum Break. Both, I’d argue, are great single-player exclusives, both happened to launch on Xbox One, and neither one got any real commercial love from Xbox One players.
Quantum Break launched in April 2016 and made it as high as seventh on the NPD report for that month before falling from the top 10. Sunset Overdrive, which launched on October 28th, 2014, didn’t even hit the NPD’s top ten in October or November of that year. The Last of Us, meanwhile, has sold over 17 million copies between PlayStations 3 and 4, and God of War raked in $131 million in its first month. Xbox One players had the chance to embrace exciting new single-player IPs, but they just didn’t take it.
I’ve mostly played on Xbox systems since Gears of War came out in 2006. Before that, I was a PlayStation 2 player who flocked to PC for Counter-Strike: Source. Halo 2 might have made online multiplayer a necessity for console makers, but Gears of War was the first game that took advantage of the new-and-improved Xbox Live, and it was the game that turned me into an Xbox player. In some ways, I still think that Microsoft is chasing the success it experienced during that golden 360 era between 2006 and 2007, when Halo 3 launched, by pumping out exclusives that focus more on online multiplayer, because that’s what has traditionally sold.
It seems like Xbox is going to give single-player exclusives another go after announcing at E3 2018 that it’s acquired studios like Ninja Theory and Compulsion Games, but recent comments have me worried that Microsoft is simply using these studios as seat fillers for Game Pass rather than letting them run amok with their imaginations and giving us something truly unique.
One thing is clear, though: if Microsoft starts giving us a bunch of awesome single-player games, Xbox One fans better put up or shut up.