Video Games

Xbox 2021: Microsoft’s ambitious gamble has finally paid off on Xbox Series X/S.

 

2021 was a great year for Xbox. It’s been a long time coming, but the investments Microsoft made in 2016 finally paid off this year — and Xbox gamers are reaping the benefits.

We’ve seen the power of Xbox Game Pass in full force in 2021, with critically acclaimed first-party games like Microsoft Flight Simulator, Psychonauts 2, Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite all arriving on day one on Microsoft’s subscription service.

Xbox Game Pass has also secured several indie games like Unpacking and Hades throughout the year, as well as notable first-day third-party releases like Back 4 Blood, Outriders, and MLB The Show 2021, all of which help bring home that Xbox Game Pass It is a must-have addition for any Xbox owner.

Play the long game

(Image credit: Xbox)

Microsoft’s success may seem like it’s mainly due to Xbox Game Pass and simply having a bunch of great titles this year – of course, that was a big factor – but it’s actually so much more than that. What really helped take Xbox to the next level was the calculated gambling and investments that took place during the turbulent early years of the Xbox One generation, many of which surprised the gaming community at the time.

In 2016, Microsoft began announcing Xbox Play Anywhere, a co-purchasing program that allows users to purchase a game once and play it on Xbox One and Windows 10. This was the beginning of Microsoft’s efforts to make Xbox and PC games more homogeneous, something that is now a reality incident in 2021.

However, the main catalyst for Microsoft’s success came in 2017. The unveiling of Xbox Game Pass, a subscription service that gives users access to hundreds of games for a monthly fee, has grown exponentially since its release.

The biggest change that undoubtedly pushed Xbox Game Pass to new heights came in March 2018, when Microsoft announced that all first-party titles would hit the service on day one. This started with Sea of ​​Thieves, and soon Rare’s will join titles like State of Decay 2, Gears 5, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Doom Eternal, Ori and the Will of the Wisps to name a few. For many, access to Microsoft’s first-party lineup alone is enough to keep their subscription running.

Xbox and PC combine their power

Cheap game pass deals final sales price

(Image credit: Microsoft)

2019 was the year Xbox Game Pass came to PC and that coincided with the arrival of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, a top-tier subscription service that gives gamers access to both Xbox Game Pass on console and PC, but also various perks and exclusive discounts. and Xbox gaming clouds.

However, the most significant announcement for PC owners came in October 2020. Xbox boss Phil Spencer revealed that every Xbox title developed by Microsoft’s Xbox Game Studios will also come to PC in addition to the console. This led many to speculate that people wouldn’t buy an Xbox console because all the games would be available on PC, but as Spencer said at the time: “I think great games should be played by as many people as possible.”

Cloud power

Xbox Cloud Games

(Image credit: Microsoft)

And it’s the goal — opening up the Xbox ecosystem to as many people as possible — that Microsoft has seen will pay off in 2021. It has changed the conversation and direction from the number of hardware units sold, to the number of people playing Xbox games and subscribing to Xbox services. For example, Xbox Game Pass had 18 million subscribers in January 2021, a number you’d expect has continued to rise exponentially in the months since.

Removing the need for people to have a single chest to play the likes of Halo or Sea of ​​Thieves means huge numbers of players can be achieved, especially because of Xbox Cloud Gaming. In other words, the mobile market is an extraordinary opportunity for Microsoft to take advantage of, as billions of gamers have access to a smartphone. Being able to play an extensive library of titles anywhere with an internet connection is a game changer.

By allowing gamers to play Xbox games on console, PC, or via the cloud, Forza Horizon 5 has been able to bring amazing numbers to players – More than 10 million players in one week Which would not have been possible if the game had been an Xbox Series X/S exclusive.

But what does 2021 offer Xbox fans?

Backward compatibility with Xbox Series X / S

(Image credit: Microsoft)

So Microsoft’s strategy is now clear for all to see, but that also didn’t stop the company from adding a lot of new features to the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S in 2021. We’ve seen the dashboard go from 1080p to 4K on Xbox Series X game support added and Dolby Vision, and cloud gaming has arrived on consoles — meaning those who own an Xbox One can play Gen 9 exclusives like The Medium on their box from 2013.

Microsoft also revealed FPS Boost in 2021, which raised the frame rate for older titles to 60fps or 120fps, and added more than 70 new titles to the backwards compatibility program in November. We also have a number of Xbox One titles getting free Xbox Series X/S improvements, including Destiny 2, Doom Eternal, and Hellblade.

The Xbox is in a strong position as 2022 approaches, then, with more momentum behind the brand than we’ve seen since the Xbox 360 launch days. If Microsoft can continue to deliver high-quality games and add innovative new features, the darkness of the early years from the Xbox One launch will feel very soon. Like a distant memory.

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