Is The Scorpio A Hail Mary From Microsoft?

The short answer is: yes, but it’s one that is most promising. The Xbox One is well into its third year on the market and even though the console has a strong and dedicated following, the console is lagging behind its major competitor the PlayStation 4. The console itself boasts a hefty number of bells and whistles and a great backwards compatibility system, but is lacking in quality exclusive titles. With cancellations of highly anticipated games like Scalebound and Fable Legends, it’s no surprise that Xbox One consumers are a little worried at this point at the state of their exclusive gaming experience. Another thing to keep in mind is that the Xbox One S was just released in August of last year with mediocre sales.

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This is where Microsoft’s new console, code-named Scorpio, comes in. Microsoft recently announced the specs of the Scorpio and it’s nothing to be laughed at boasting an impressive 12GB of GDDR5 RAM and a custom CPU and GPU. But why does this matter? According to Microsoft, it’s to win over developers. After seeing the initial stumble of the system and then the quick take off of the PS4, developers have found creating games for the PS4 to be easier and more beneficial. Microsoft hopes to change that with the Scorpio and honestly, I think they might be able to do it. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never been an Xbox fan and after briefly owning an Xbox One, I can’t imagine why I would purchase another Microsoft console with their wonky and clunky UI, unnecessary features and sparse library, but the Scorpio has me intrigued. They’re ditching the traditions we’ve expected of console generations. Instead of just releasing newer, slimmer and faster versions of the same product, they’re giving players a second a true and unique second option.

Scorpio Specs

Unfortunately, the announcement and the expected late 2017 release of the Scorpio does mean something else, Microsoft is desperate. It’s a little too familiar to something else that happened in the gaming world recently, namely the Nintendo Switch. The Wii U had a lot of similar problems to the Xbox One. I’m not going to say that the Xbox One is as bad off as the Wii U was because that certainly isn’t the case, but the correlations between the two are undeniable. The Wii U suffered for a couple years until its final breath this year with the release of the Switch and it looks like Microsoft is taking a page from Nintendo’s book. Instead of trying to salvage the current system which would take a huge amount of time and money, they’re betting all they have on one major attempt. The biggest things the Scorpio has going for it is that, unlike the Switch, it has a whole library of games from two previous generations to work with. Microsoft has announced the console will be able to play Xbox One and Xbox 360 games proving that their wonderful implementation of backwards compatibility won’t be leaving any time soon. But even with that and the new powerful specs of the Scorpio is that enough to pull in consumers and developers? I don’t know, but I’m optimistic.

 

Written by G. S. Martin

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The Problems With Sequels to Beloved Franchises

Recently I’ve been playing through the first Dark Cloud for the first time in over a decade. I don’t remember much beyond the first couple worlds of the game, but the second game is engraved into my brain. It made me think about potential sequels to some of my beloved gaming franchises.  Where’s Dark Cloud 3? Where’s Black 2? Rune Factory 5? City Of Heroes 2? Condemned 3? TimeSplitters 4? Dear lord, just give me a TimeSplitters 4.

Now some of these have valid reasons for not existing such as Rune Factory 5 whose developer has gone out of business. But for games like TimeSplitters which is an IP that was purchased from Free Radical by Crytek, the makers of Crysis, you’d expect there would be a little more pressure put upon them for a true sequel. Sure, we’re supposedly getting a fan made remake of TimeSplitters called TimeSplitters Rewind sometime this year, but that’s not really the same thing, now is it? What makes things worse is when you check back on the history of Crytek’s comments regarding the TimeSplitters IP. It’s a wishy-washy mess of “there’s no interest” to “we’re definitely considering pursuing this, the fans want it” which just seems to make no sense.

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It makes me think of games like Yooka-Laylee, a spiritual successor (a term I hate) to the incredible Banjo-Kazooie series. It’s a game born out of its fans and crowdsourcing. Doesn’t that show these big AAA companies potential ways of inquiring about interest? Doesn’t it show someone like Microsoft how stupid they are to have pinned Rare to Kinect games for so long?

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In reality the problems are much larger than they seem at surface level. From a business standpoint it almost seems like a giant missed opportunity, but it’s also a case of following trends, looking toward the future and realizing that while some games were great and/or revolutionary in the past, their formulas might not work in today’s gaming world. How much money do you want to spend in practically re-developing an entire IP? The rebirth of a franchise is a lot riskier than it seems. It’s an all or nothing attempt, so if you get it wrong, like Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, it could prove fatal to a whole brand. Who’s going to trust them to get it right the second time? Don’t you think we’ve experienced enough pain with Nuts and Bolts? Why would we let ourselves get hurt like that again? It leaves me torn between wanting a sequel to something I cherish and wanting to preserve the franchises’ legacy. Ultimately, is it worth the risk?

 

Written by G. S. Martin