Games Inbox: Xbox leaving the games industry

The Friday letters page pits Steelrising against Lies Of P, in a battle of the Soulslikes, as one reader suggests Xbox Series S was a bad idea.

To join in with the discussions yourself email [email protected]

A strange week
What an absolutely bizarre week of news this has been. All those reveals about future Xbox hardware and software and that wasn’t even the most amazing stuff. For me the biggest surprises were the Nintendo revelations (not that Microsoft wanted to buy them but the disrespectful way that Phil Spencer talked about it) and, of course, the threat to leave the games industry if Game Pass doesn’t work out.

The thing is, if you look at the graph they were discussing it seems impossible that they could make their targets, especially as they’ve been missing them already for the last several years. Maybe their upcoming games could change their fortunes a bit but while Starfield has done well it hasn’t blown the doors off, and that was the most interesting of the games they’ve unveiled so far.

I think Phil Spencer knew fine well they won’t make those targets, but I don’t think he has any intention of leaving the games industry. Maybe, ultimately, it won’t be up to him but If Microsoft didn’t give up with the Xbox One I don’t see them backing down now, while they at least have some forward momentum.

The fact that it’s even being considered is interesting though. Remember all those calls for Nintendo to go third party? Could it actually happen to Microsoft and they just make their own games to sell on other people’s consoles and services? It seems unlikely, but not impossible.

More to come
There is sooo much going on right now and I know GC does not like letters to the Inbox covering multiple topics in one email, so I’m hoping GC likes spam.

Someone wrote in saying they had hit a wall with Baldur’s Gate 3 after 10 hours and were going to take a break from it, I sympathise. I’m in over my head and making it up as I go, but so far it seems to be working a treat.

I chose Asterion by accident but through sheer blind luck I levelled him the right way, min/max, and he has talked me out of some nasty situations. Some of the fights have been a proper headache though.

The game throws you in at the deep end with a steep learning curve for anyone unfamiliar with Dungeons & Dragons. One of the most difficult things for me to get my head around was to not save scum if a roll or action wasn’t the outcome I wanted. My obsession with getting the best result still kicks me in the head when I lose a roll or make a bad choice that really did seem like a good idea at the time.

I stuck with it because it is without any doubt the most stunningly pretty, hypnotically jaw-dropping game I’ve ever played. I’ve always been one for good looking games but this is on a whole other level. The detail surpasses even Elden Ring, the voice-acting is the best I’ve ever come across; Brendan Gleeson, what’s-his-name from Being Human/Hobbit/Poldark… The voice cast is absolutely stellar, Raphael is especially good. The story sucked me in to the point where blundering around without a clue was worthwhile and made me want to keep playing.

The trick is Withers can re-spec characters for only 100 gold. This makes the harder fights much more manageable. Kethric, for example, is going to batter a melee focused party but a team with ranged options make him a triviality.

The pixie in the lantern and an angry gnome came out with swears that were so unexpected they genuinely made me laugh, top notch insults from both of them.

Also, Larian are obviously Dark Souls fans, they took the concept of fashion souls and ran with it. I’m in my element.

Starfield? Lol.

Provisional score
So I took your advice from the review and had a go of Starfield through Game Pass. My thoughts is that it’s almost what I was expecting. A Bethesda game swamped with quests, loot, dialogue, etc. You said it was disjointed, I agree to an extent. You said it was unambitious, I don’t agree – I think it’s too ambitious. Outdated in some respects, but lacking depth I don’t think so. This game is weighed down with stuff. Almost too much stuff to do as quests are forced upon you.

But i can see how this game divides opinion. It’s an odd game, where sometimes I was playing it jumping from colony to colony and forgetting I was in a supposed outer space epic. It’s like it’s pulling in different directions and isn’t sure what type of game it really wants to be.

The game at times seemed determined to pull the player out of feeling they were in space to just fast travelling around doing endless boring fetch quests. That said, when I actually discovered a new system and touched down on an alien moon, with a gas giant in the distance, it looks and feels incredible. And feeling the gravity from jumping is also fun, as is ship combat.

And there is a suspension of disbelief with games like this, where science is concerned. Could you survive on Venus or other worlds with those suits? Highly unlikely, even though the dangers are stated. And why is there sound in space? But hey, it’s a video game after all. And the clunky interface on Xbox with shipbuilding, for example, can be frustrating also.

This game has potential though and Bethesda has stated their intention to support it. So, who knows what surprises they have in store. But as I have stated, I can understand why people are either hating it or loving it. But right now I’m enjoying it and I have only scratched the surface and so I’m eager to visit more star systems in the future. I would rate it a 7 out of 10 and maybe a 9 after the updates and DLC.

GC: We don’t hate Starfield; we’re not sure we’ve heard from anyone that does. But depth is not the volume of options, it’s whether they have any substance to them. Starfield is a wide as the ocean and as deep as a duck pond.

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

Old subs
Quick question about Game Pass and Xbox Live. Looking on CDKeys there’s a 12 month subscription to Xbox Live, says it’s compatible with Xbox 360 and Xbox One but says nothing about Xbox Series X/S, so would it work on the Xbox Series S? And convert my cheaper Game Pass to Ultimate?

I know they’re supposed to be scrapping Xbox Live and introducing a tier version like PS Plus but I bought a month or two to play Starfield and there was no Live option; I just seem to have basic Game Pass and I’m looking to get humiliated on Mortal Kombat 1 by some 11 year olds, so any help would be greatly appreciated.
big boy bent

GC: A reader will have to help with that question, but it sounds dodgy to us.

Time bomb
One of the more low-key revelations from all these Xbox leaks is the fact the Xbox Series S is outselling the Series X by such a large margin. Not unsurprising given the price difference and the fact the Series S does get all the same games, but I feel this could be something of a brewing disaster for Microsoft.

Firstly, it is a much less powerful machine than either the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5, Series S versions of the games are scaled down to run on its less powerful hardware. You don’t need to get through many Digital Foundry articles to see Xbox Series S games not only run at lower resolutions, they also lack extra performance modes, ray-tracing, have reduced frame rates, and reduced graphical effects.

How much these matter to the average gamer is probably a lot less than people think right now, but as the generation rumbles on I think we are going to see more and more Baldur’s Gates that struggle to offer parity of gameplay features between the systems. Then as Unreal Engine 5 games start to land the graphical differences could get larger and larger, becoming more noticeable.

Secondly, by some estimates not only is PlayStation 5 outselling its Xbox Series X/S rivals by 3 to 1, but Microsoft’s like-for-like equivalent of the PlayStation 5, the Xbox Series X, is actually much, much further behind. Up to 9 to 1 behind PlayStation if the Xbox Series S is outselling it 3 to 1, according to my back of the envelope maths.

In a lot of upcoming titles the average PlayStation owner is going to be getting a much better technical experience to the average Xbox owner, who will likely own the less powerful version of that platform. If you’re a third party publisher looking to generate hype with flashy trailers prioritising PlayStation now is such a no-brainer it’s almost not worth putting your games on Xbox at all, unless you’re getting a big fat pay cheque from Microsoft. In fact, that is probably happening already.

When the consoles first launched I actually though the Xbox Series S was a good idea, a cheaper machine that offered modest cutbacks for people who didn’t pour hundreds of hours a month into their games. One that could lower the entry barrier and open up a whole new market for Xbox. However, it now looks more likely to be an anchor that will drag Microsoft down with it.

Never-ending story
What to say about Star Citizen? Gaming’s biggest Ponzi scheme are words often thrown about on Reddit. Perhaps that isn’t exactly true, as Chris Roberts is at least attempting to make a game. But the utter and gross mismanagement of funds, and the game in general?

For anyone interested in trying it out please read this article first.

That was written four years ago, and things certainly haven’t improved since then.

GC: They have for Chris Roberts, the amount of money raised has increased by $200 million in four years.

Peas in a pod
Playing Lies Of P and I must say I’m enjoying it, obviously not up to Bloodborne’s standard, but from a team that’s never done this sort of game before I think they’ve done an amazing job of trying to emulate one of the best games of recent time.

I know you ended your review saying you still enjoyed playing it, but I was a little surprised you rated it lower than Steelrising. Strange both clones had similar settings, but I felt Lies Of P was a better game to play, myself.

GC: We preferred Steelrising a little more, but you’re right, it is odd how similar they both are.

Rorschach’s review
I’ve been reading GameCentral since the old Teletext days, when the interactive Bamboozle game was around and long for the days of a second afternoon Inbox to return. Love your interviews, reviews, and features, and rarely disagree – certainly not to the extent of which I have found myself doing over your Lies of P review score.

I was eagerly anticipating your score, given your response to an Inboxer on Monday, suggesting they wait for it. I thought to myself that doesn’t sound good but never envisioned a 5/10. I’ve been playing it since Monday, not got too much further than the mad donkey and I’m really rather enjoying it.

Yes, it desperately wants to be Bloodborne, with a twist of Sekiro, but as ambitions go it’s not the worst to have. Keeping unambitious games taking from elsewhere and struggling to build upon things, I think Starfield is the worst offending of the two, more so when consideration is given to the many, many bugs widely reported and that I also encountered in my first seven hours or so – things far more unforgivable than a lack of ambition.

Ultimately, had you not started putting the star rating at the top of your reviews I’d have guessed at a seven when reading through. I kept waiting for the game-breaking bug, save issues, screen tearing or just basic performance issues but there are none.

All the above to say I think you’ve been a little harsh there, though recognise I’m likely not even 10% through the game. Notwithstanding, what I have played has been highly enjoyable. Not praise I could give to Starfield.
PS: I keep reading the title as Life Of Pi
PPS: The loading screen with Pinocchio’s nose growing makes me smile.

GC: We think you may be seeing what you want to see in the review. We criticised the combat, the level design, the story, and the lack of originality. There’s not much left after that.

Inbox also-rans
That trailer for Everywhere was pretty good. It made it very clear what the game was and what it would be like to play… thereby instantly putting me off it for life.

I am a subscriber to the Criterion Channel on YouTube and have just seen a video has been added in the last day with Hideo Kojima (of Metal Gear Solid fame) picking out some of his favourite films from the Criterion cupboard.
Andrew J.

This week’s Hot Topic
The subject for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Goulash, who asks whether video games are getting too long and if you have trouble fitting them into your life?

This year has already seen multiple high quality games that can easily swallow 100+ hours of your time but is that asking too much of people? Should most games be shorter than they are and are open world titles becoming too prevalent?

Have you found yourself playing less games as a result or are you happy with the status quo? In terms of value for money, what’s the minimum length of time you expect a full price game to last and are you ever prepared to put up with less?

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length and content.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time via email or our Submit Stuff page, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

You can also leave your comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

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