Are We About To Witness The End of Xbox?

It’s speculation time!

Alex Rowe


An Xbox Series S controller lying on a desk mat.
Photo taken by the author.

The Xbox brand is kind of melting down right now. Rumors and reports swirled across the internet in the last several weeks about many of their exclusive console games coming to Nintendo and Sony’s platforms. Prominent Xbox influencers started to bail out, feeling like a huge seismic shift was coming. Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, responded to this mess with a vague “we hear you” statement, promising that a big update about the future of their business strategy is coming up next week.

Having lived through the Sega Dreamcast’s death in the early 2000’s, this feels very similar. Sega bailed on their neat little console when the money and the players just didn’t show up, and put all of their cool games onto other machines — ironically including the original Xbox. It took them a while, but they rebuilt themselves into an iconic publishing and development house that now has several hit franchises and even popular movies in their stable.

Microsoft’s gaming division is in a similar spot to that beleaguered version of Sega two decades ago — though Microsoft the company is a much larger and more robust thing than most other tech companies could ever hope to be. I thought that they would invest the capital to weather whatever storm Xbox went through in their brazen quest to build a hardware and software ecosystem that appealed to gamers through multiple avenues. It seems like, even though they’ve still got tons of money to burn, the messaging and strategies are shifting due to the lack of immediate returns on their live services. Several half-hearted game releases from prominent studios didn’t help matters, either.

Xbox’s current problems really began when they totally blew it with the Xbox One back in 2013. While that console ushered in many cool new things like spatial audio and Game Pass, it started out with one of the biggest thuds of any gaming hardware release. The weird decision to include a Kinect in every box made their underpowered console more expensive than the beefier PS4, and an extreme and too-early focus on digital game sales and original scripted TV content left gamers out in the cold.

Don Mattrick took the fall for these decisions, they took the Kinect out of the box, they slimmed down the hardware, they…