Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) seems to have run a rut since its initial unveiling of the Xbox One back in 2013 when it comes to getting third party exclusives. This can partially be blamed on the mammoth success of the Sony PlayStation 4 which has sold more than 6 million units this holiday season alone.
However based on analysis from various quarters including a particularly well-documented Reddit post, this might actually have a lot to do with Microsoft’s own approach to its target market. When Scalebound’s cancellation story hit the press on the 9th of Jan, earlier this week, it was a disappointment for a lot of Xbox fans but various industry insiders and analysts seem to link it to a much larger pattern, laying the blame primarily on Microsoft’s handling of the situation that can be seen across multiple similar situations.
As pointed out by various users, this might primarily be Microsoft’s heavy handed approach that has at best, caused a game to be cancelled and at worst, pushing an entire studio out of business altogether. With-run-of-the-mill rumours essentially establishing the amount of Xbox Ones sold at roughly half of the PlayStation 4, it must be noted that the numbers not being available is strictly a Microsoft decision. One thing the industry however agrees on is that Microsoft is increasingly haemorrhaging market share as Sony continues to extend its lead in terms of total consoles sold over time. This has however done little to quell Microsoft’s demands and expectations that many developers claim are unrealistic in the current console generation and market scenario.
Some of the key examples cited include Fallout: New Vegas developer, Obsidian Entertainment being pushed to the brink of collapse and being forced to lay off as many as 30 employees due to Microsoft essentially cancelling its Stormlands project, an Xbox One exclusive. While the company essentially went to Kickstarter and rebranded Stormlands into Tyranny, this indicates that it was hardly Microsoft’s first major issue over exclusive 3rd party content with the Xbox One.
Another well-documented issue was Phantom Dust, a reboot of the original series with the developers stating that Microsoft did not give them a significant budget and set abnormally high goals to boot in addition to the developers having no input when it came to the actual E3 trailer stating that they did not even know that it was expected to be displayed at E3 that year. Microsoft’s Creative Director, Ken Lobb claimed in an interview that it would be a “30-hour long JRPG”, a far cry from the initial developer vision in 2014 which saw it as essentially a multiplayer-only title.
Many disagreed with Microsoft’s decision to essentially make Lionhead Studios publish only Fable games and based on what information is now publicly available, Lionhead was essentially bared by Microsoft from creating a new Fable title in addition to essentially shutting down the developer outright when costs ballooned. This was in addition to completely shutting down Fable Legends which the developer was working on.
Microsoft might be considered to be not at fault if the case was a singular interaction at best, but given its current position as well as the lack of 3rd party exclusives and complaints and issues essentially mirroring each another means that developers and publishers do have some substance in their claims and both Microsoft’s Xbox platform and its proponents as well as the developers choosing to side with them eventually have to bear the brunt of what can only be surmised as poor decisions by the Redmond-based tech giant’s entertainment division.