God of War Ragnarok has done the impossible. It’s arrived and matched the astronomically high scores of God of War 2018, a 94 on Metacritic, rarified air in the video game space, where only a few series have ever reached.
It is the latest in a long, long, long series of absolutely stellar first party exclusive games from PlayStation. The list is just…massive. The Uncharted series. The Last of Us Part 1 and 2. Horizon Zero Dawn and Forbidden West. Spider-Man. Ghost of Tsushima. Bloodborne. And now two God of War games that are some of the best reviewed titles in two generations.
Microsoft’s Xbox, which excelling in the subscription value space with Xbox Game Pass, still has yet to not just match this, but really even start attempting to match this. They went an entire generation without many meaningful exclusive titles, and I’d argue none on the level of Sony’s offerings. The best exclusives for Xbox across two generations now have been Forza titles, and those are heavily reliant on players liking the racing genre in the first place.
Microsoft clearly recognized this was a problem, and starting buying up studios left and right in order to produce hits like Sony. This is not a dunk, Microsoft has literally stated many, many times that they know this is a shortcoming with Xbox, and they are taking steps to correct that.
The problem is that this is…not going very well so far.
Again, Microsoft’s “best” exclusive this generation so far is likely another Forza game, and what was supposed to be a massive flagship exclusive, Halo Infinite, has underwhelmed and underperformed, calling into question to overall future of the franchise as it struggles to fix what ails it a year later, still.
We are now two years into this console generation and where are we? Sony has just put out another Game of the Generation contender, and remastered and released most of their last-gen megahits. But most Xbox exclusives have come and gone without much fanfare, if not outright controversy in Halo Infinite’s case.
In this current scenario, it’s hard to understate just how much pressure there is on Starfield to perform here, Bethesda’s new space RPG that could finally be an Xbox exclusive entry to be in the same league as a half dozen of Sony’s megahits. That does actually seem somewhat likely, if this performs equivalently to past mainline Fallout and Elder Scrolls games. And later, a new Elder Scrolls game itself is coming, with seems like another sure thing.
But you can see the problem here. This process has been exceptionally slow, and we’re likely to get through almost another half generation before Microsoft starts putting points on the board. Meanwhile, Sony has Spider-Man and Wolverine games coming from Insomniac, and whatever studios like Naughty Dog and Sony Santa Monica do next are as ever, surefire hits. I am much less sure about how announced, upcoming big Microsoft projects like Perfect Dark and Fable will perform.
This is not some blistering critique, I’m actually saying what Phil Spencer himself has been saying about this, and he too, like everyone, is waiting for Starfield to come and at least start to maybe change the narrative.
But even then, Microsoft has an astonishing amount of catching up to do.