Sony's riding high, but 2015 is the Xbox One's year to lose

2015 is Xbox One's year to lose
Can Microsoft win the holidays?

We all know the story. We've heard the same boring old schtick. The PlayStation 4 is the best-selling console - and by a long distance, too. Microsoft has lost the war.

Sony's PS4 has had, for the better part of 12 months, the stronger set of exclusives. It's got the better PR profile, having played it safe and given the fans what they wanted after a bloated, unwelcoming six or more years of PS3.

Sony is laughing, and with good reason. The PS4 is one of the most robust bits of gaming kit we've ever seen outside of a tasty, overclocked PC games rig.

But Sony is taking its feet off the gas until February next year, with no major titles slated until a certain Mr. Nathan Drake Esquire returns to make hearts flutter in February.

Suddenly, the way ahead is clear for the Microsoft-branded tortoise which has been flagging behind Sony's energised hare.

There's only a couple of months left to the year, but that could be all Microsoft and Xbox One need to turn things around. Because it has a lot of ground to make up. Sales are one thing - and let's be clear, Xbox 360 led PS3 by a considerable margin for a good portion of the last generation - but by the end of play the consoles had largely evened out in terms of units sold, so Xbox One has a chance of catching up in that regard.

Xbox One

Saving face

The real issue is one of image, and ever since the poorly-handled DRM/anti-trade-in reveal prior to E3 2013 created a whirlwind of flaming excrement, the Xbox One has struggled to recover. Something not helped by continual stumblings on the performance front - it has always felt like a console that was released with half its capabilities still on the drawing board.

Far too many high-profile, multiformat games have failed to hit native 1080p on the Xbox One when they've managed the same feat on PS4.

Of course, most people wouldn't even be able to tell the difference between 900p and 1080p, but for some reason we're meant to care about technical margins now so, "booooo."

So the question is this: can Microsoft, with one of the strongest first-party lineup of exclusive games change the perception of the much-maligned Xbox One? Of course it can - in fact, it's already started.

In pure software terms, the Xbox One is already running at pace - with Forza 6 joining last year's excellent Forza Horizon, Microsoft's home console has the best driving simulators on the market. The newly announced Gran Turismo Sport is years away at best and Driveclub looks great but fails to offer even a fraction of Forza's depth.

Then there's Halo 5: Guardians.

Halo 5

It's simply the best pure first-person shooter on current-gen hardware. With the exception of the upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront, Halo 5 offers the kind of modes and matchmaking structure Call Of Duty can only dream of.

Of course, Halo doesn't quite have the impact it once did, but it's still a licence with weight. It's also not a remaster. Sorry, Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Sorry, Gears Of War: Ultimate Edition. You're great games, both of you, but you had your glory and trying to artificially reanimate that spark on a new platform is not what the industry needs.

Bringing up the rear is timed-exclusive Rise Of The Tomb Raider.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Yes, it'll hit PS4 a year later, but 12 months is a long time for a game to be out in the wild and grab a consumer's attention a second time round. The PS4 version will likely be a glorified GOTY edition and considering how quickly games depreciate not just in value, but in relevance in a market that turns on fresh new experiences, Microsoft has the chance to market Lara Croft's gorgeous-looking new ditty up to the nines on its own platform.

If it's willing to get as aggressive as Sony has been, it could place an Xbox One logo next to every Rise of the Tomb Raider billboard. On every TV advert and magazine treatment.

If Microsoft can make the new Tomb Raider synonymous with Xbox One (and the games reviews well, don't forget that), then it might, just might, be the unit-shifting triple-A title Microsoft needs.

Being Direct

Yet there's a bigger deal here that many gamers don't really realise the significance of, and if Microsoft don't start selling it to average joe gamer then they're already preparing to bang that last nail into the Xbox-branded pine box.

If you're not a PC user, the mention of the word 'Windows' will likely glaze your eyes into a coma territory. But it shouldn't, because Windows 10 is the kick up the proverbial back passage the Xbox One has been in desperate need of.

The update will make the largely obtuse dashboard into something more attuned to the social media tastes and need for instance access to everything we all crave.

DirectX 12

Then there's DirectX 12 - the application processing interface (API) that essentially makes the processors and graphic cards in your Xbox One work more efficiently, unlocking potential that was previously hidden away.

PS4 already has access to the tech and it's given Sony's box the edge in performance.

When DirectX 12 hits the Xbox One of you and I it will make every game that comes after just as technically stable as its equivalent on PS4.

It still wont have quite the same level of sheer gaming performance, but the gap ought to close.

With the playing field more-or-less levelled it's just down to developers to want to stop viewing the Xbox One as the PS3 of this generation, but as a platform as powerful and development-friendly as the PS4. And it's down to Microsoft the sell the right things to the audience that matters: that's you!

The thing is, for all your Halos and Tomb Raiders, exclusive titles don't win console wars.

They just alienate users who simply can't afford a second console within the same generation. They're magnets for negative reactions, nurturing the kind of idiot fanboyism that's somehow made a console choice on par with your political persuasion.

But that's by the by.

Console wars are won on multiplatform titles. Make your console fun and accessible to use while offering the horsepower to play the big games that matter and the gamers will come.