The year of Xbox in 2018 has been almost Jekyll-and-Hyde-ian. Software-wise, the lack of high-quality first-party exclusives continues to be the story. But hardware and services were unrivaled, and Microsoft tripled their first-party studio portfolio.
On 2018’s final episode of Unlocked, our Xbox crew talks about Microsoft’s interesting year. Watch the video above to see them break down the highs and lows of Xbox’s 2018.
Xbox’s Exclusive Games
Xbox had the sublime Forza Horizon 4, an IGN Game of the Year nominee. Somehow, Forza Horizon 4 improved an already brilliant series, bringing changing seasons along for the ride – and doing so successfully. Visually it (again somehow) evolved again, especially if you played it on an Xbox One X. Aside from that, though (and that didn’t release until October), it was an underwhelming year. Sea of Thieves released in a skeletal form in March, offering a genuinely enthralling core concept that, at launch, didn’t have much meat on its bones. It has, to its credit, already received several substantial content updates. Meanwhile, State of Decay 2 dropped in May, evolving the original’s unique brand of role-playing zombie-apocalypse survival, but unfortunately retaining the first game’s reputation of being a shoddy technical experience.
There was no Cuphead this year on the ID@Xbox scene. Though Below did finally release, it wasn’t the indie savior the Xbox’s 2018 could’ve used. The same goes for Ashen, a solid Souls-like that didn’t generate much buzz outside of the Xbox community.
Hardware Crushed It
You can’t find any fault in Xbox’s hardware offerings in 2018. The Xbox One S got even more affordable as the year went on. And remember: it’s got a 4K Blu-ray player built into it! Meanwhile, the Xbox One X really asserted its value, living up to its promise to be the best place to play third-party games, best exemplified by Red Dead Redemption 2 looking and running noticeably better on the X than on any other console. It even made its way down from its $500 launch price to, eventually, a $400 price tag around the holidays. Meanwhile, the Xbox Adaptive Controller made gaming more accessible than ever. Its creators – including Microsoft and AbleGamers – should be proud of the product they created.
Microsoft also shined in the services department. Xbox Game Pass grew and grew and grew in 2018, adding in every single first-party game, day-and-date of their launch. It is already an unbeatable value at $10 per month, and is effectively a must-have service for all Xbox owners already.
Backwards compatibility also got better during the year, with more games added and more Xbox One X enhancements to existing Xbox 360 titles in the library. And while it wasn’t a service, per se, Xbox fans finally got their own version of PSX with X018 in Mexico City, a multi-day party during which Xbox made a number of compelling announcements, including…
Growing the Family
By the time 2018 was done, Microsoft acquired a whopping six new first-party game studios and started a seventh from scratch. Playground Games, Ninja Theory, Obsidian Entertainment, The Initiative, inXile Entertainment, Compulsion Games, and Undead Labs all joined the family alongside 343 Industries, The Coalition, and Turn 10 Studios. It’s not likely to pay dividends for a while, but Microsoft is now well-positioned for the next generation console battle.
That’s just a brief recap of 2018 for Xbox. Of course, be sure to watch the video above for more of our thoughts on the year. And, if you want more Xbox coverage on IGN, be sure to tune into our weekly Xbox show, Unlocked, which airs Tuesdays at 3 p.m. PT.