The Digital Future Has Finally Arrived on Consoles

Last week Microsoft announced that all their future exclusives would be released as part of Xbox Game Pass’ library the same day as they are released. More than just a bold move by the company, that will allow every consumer to play their biggest franchises without the requirement of purchasing them, it represents a movement that has been long in the making when it comes to consoles. At last, the digital future has arrived.

From now on every new exclusive title released by Microsoft such as Crackdown 3, State of Decay 2, Sea of Thieves, and the new Halo, Forza, will all be available at launch. And that aligns with Xbox’s focus on digital services like Games with Gold, EA Access and Game Pass itself.


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Sea of Thieves will be the first title to debut their new strategy


It also works in tandem with what Phil Spencer declared on Unlocked #285, where he talked about his focus on reworking their first party slate and on the subscription service and its future, that after this announcement appears to not only receive more attention from the company, as it also shows that it is an integral part of their business strategy going forward.

That’s not to say that everybody was happy with the news, like Gameware, an Austrian retailer that won’t sell Microsoft’s products anymore, a movement that was followed by more retailers worldwide. Gamestop’s stocks also dropped right after the news came out, failing to recover. And there’s a clear reason why that happened, as it represents the inevitable undoing of physical stores, that lost the PC market, and sooner or later will see the same scenario with the console market.


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From the 23rd forward, Gamestop’s stocks have fallen steadily, struggling  to recover


Even though it’s a clear sign of things to come for the physical market, that, unfortunately, will be the most affected party by this decision, in the past few years we have seen the digital market growing aggressively whilst companies like Gamestop have seen their business losing space. But in the end, it is a consumer-friendly strategy that was bound to happen. And we can expect benefits for gamers and for Microsoft.

For Gamers

  • The first and clearest of all is that like Netflix and Spotify, consumers will have access to more content for a low price, and now, at launch.
  • If proven to attract consumers, more publishers will adhere to the service, possibly releasing exclusive titles to the service.
  • Games will take less time to be released to Game Pass.
  • If successful, it will force Sony and Nintendo to create similar programs.

For Microsoft

  • More consumers will feel attracted to subscribe to the service, that has received quality additions monthly, and if that keeps up, they may become regulars.
  • Customer perception regarding the company will certainly be more positive, as we’ve seen in the past few years with customer-friendly strategies.
  • Non-customers might feel inclined to buy an Xbox console, as you can easily assemble a library for a reasonable price.
  • It clearly differentiates the company from its competitors, that through innovations (quietly coming back to the original Xbox One ideas), has created an identity that company didn’t have for years now. Of being a ground-breaking, fresh, bold division willing to take risks, looking into bringing the easiest and best experience to the Xbox consoles.

We may see some downsides, as publishers might try to force microtransactions given that they’ll lose their early windows push when the majority of sales happen. In order to attract more companies, or to appease to the physical market, the price can rise. But as we saw recently in the Star Wars Battlefront 2 controversy, the market is not afraid to use its voice, and they will probably leave the price alone since it remains as it most appealing factor.

Whether we like it or not, the video game market is just following the example of other entertainment industries, that changed their entire behavior to adjust to a digital future. It took some time, but finally, we see the console market willing to take the first step for that to happen. A step that at first will bring some pain, but that will advance the industry as a whole.






E3 Highlights

E3 has come and gone, and despite not having as many announcements or incredible moments as the previous years, it was a great show. And here I’ll talk about my favorite games that were part of the conferences.

A Way Out

Sometimes a new project comes with real innovation, and this is a perfect example of that. We always hear about innovation on games, but we rarely see it, and A Way Out brings it to not only storytelling but to gameplay as well. A couch co-op game in which you control two inmates willing to escape from prison.

The difference is that each player will control a different character at the same time with different perspectives, and ways to push the story forward. Creating scenarios that could be played in several ways, with each character having personalities that could make a situation easier or harder to deal with. It’s great to see EA bringing an experience with such an unusual approach to the market.


Speaking of EA, here’s a demonstration of their range. From an indie game like A Way Out, to a colossus called Anthem, a huge AAA project from Bioware. Closing Microsoft’s conference, Anthem, a Destiny with an apparent bigger focus on story, impressed everybody with an incredible demo, showing what Bioware’s main team had been working on for years now.

The graphics looked simply breathtaking, to the point it was too beautiful to believe sometimes, we’ll hardly see it looking like that on consoles. What was very surprising was how easily the game could change from a jetpack, to ground combat, to water without hiccups or meaningful changes. They claim it will be released next year, let’s hope.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

A prequel to the franchise, Assassins Creed Origins looked to show how the franchise would shape up after taking a year off. And from what we could see, it looks like a soft reboot, telling the story behind the beginning of the brotherhood in ancient Egypt, a setting that allowed the team to make some interesting changes.

With a larger focus on the RPG aspect, Origins appears to be a lot more profound the previous titles of the franchise, something Unity tried to do before. Combat was revamped, taking notes from Dark Souls, with a slower pace, that requires players to think before attacking. The world looks beautiful, reactive, alive, the animations on the other side didn’t look like they were very improved. If they deliver on what they promised this could be not only an amazing AC game but an amazing game overall.

Far Cry 5

Beyond all the controversy surrounding it, Far Cry 5 has been getting a lot of attention for the changes that have been made. After Far Cry 4 and Primal’s underwhelming results, showing signs that the franchise seemed to exhaust its formula, Far Cry 5 feels like a real step forward, at least from what we’ve seen.

Instead of lush environments, Montana is the new setting, a change that can bring new gameplay experiences. The demo spotlighted the co-op experience, showing NPC options to assist you in your missions, as well as with other players. Like Assassin’s Creed Origins, the world around the player will react to your actions, assisting or fearing you. If the villain is great, and the new features work well, it can be a comeback.

Need for Speed Payback

The reboot was a good game that unfortunately didn’t really resonate with the fans of the franchise. The FMV cutscenes were criticized by many, personally, I found it strange and funny at times. When it came to gameplay, it was neither horrible nor incredible, the graphics were mesmerizing, on the border of becoming photorealistic. But the world felt lifeless, and the always online feature would punish those who wanted to play offline or that had an unreliable internet connection.

With all that baggage, I didn’t expect much from Payback, however, what we saw was a silly, fun, high-octane game with a heavy Fast and Furious atmosphere. And that can be a smart way to bring the franchise back, when it comes to simulators there are worthy competitors, Forza Horizon 3 was everything an arcade game needs to be. Feeling like a Burnout game with a story, charismatic characters, customization options and great gameplay can be what the franchise needed.

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Last year a trailer revealed an important exclusive for Sony, a Spider-Man game produced by Insomniac, and the hype train started. From that moment on, we heard nothing else about the project.

This year, an extended gameplay showed how the game runs, and in the end, it looks like an Arkham game with color. The combat resembles the Arkham series, but with flashier movements, a more acrobatic style. New York looks stunning, with traversal looking simple and loose. As we can expect from Spider-Man, there was a lot of bantering, jokes, a lighter tone. My only concern is with an excessive use of QTE’s, that if used wisely, only during action sequences can work very well, but if exaggerated can remind Resident Evil 6.

Sea of Thieves

At last, it looks like we finally know what Sea of Thieves is all about, after 2 years of demos that wouldn’t really show much. And despite being a little too long, the gameplay demo shown this year followed a crew on a mission, and it does look different, and fun.

Teamwork seems to be the best way to play it, as things can go bad quickly. Storms can affect the way the ship handles, special treasures can change gameplay, other crews can attack you. This might be the cause why the game won’t succeed, as it relies heavily on multiplayer, as we saw with Evolve, Battleborn. But Sea of Thieves looks like a much richer game than the examples above, with more things to do, a lot of features, and a unique style.

The Crew 2

This one was unexpected to me, when I saw that it was The Crew 2 I thought about checking my email or doing something else, I’m glad I didn’t do it. It appears to be another case of Ubisoft’s great improvement on the second title in a franchise. The first title was very underwhelming, wasting an immense potential. With The Crew 2, it looks like we’ll finally get what we were promised before.

Visually it is a lot superior to the first Crew, with New York looking amazing, the game also uses an effect that reminds Inception to change locations ocasionally. The fact that you can change from a car to a plane to a boat immediately is something we haven’t seen in a racing game, hopefully, it will be better implemented than it was in Steep. From an insipid title, we may get an alive one, much like the Watch Dogs to Watch Dogs 2 transition.

The Last Night

Sometimes a smaller game comes and steals the show, and The Last Night was one of those gems. An example that graphics aren’t everything, it has a special art style, pixel art, something I was tired of, in a futuristic cyberpunk world that looked like nothing else we saw this year. Whether it will be great we’re yet to see but it shows a lot of promise.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Crazier, more beautiful, with an improved story, an even bigger focus on the characters, that’s all that a sequel should have. And Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus looks like exactly that. The New Order was well-received but didn’t seem to explode as it should’ve, in part to some gameplay choices, in part to a very slow start in the campaign.

From what we’ve seen, MachineGames heard the criticisms and greatly improved on them. The story, that was very good in The New Order, appears to be even more interesting, bringing Nazis to America, making you fight them as part of the revolution. The characters are bizarre, the villain scary, if it is anything like the trailer it will be an amazing ride.

Those were my favorite games, did I forget one you liked? Comment.