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Games Inbox: Did Xbox make a big mistake this generation?

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Where did it all go wrong? (Image: Microsoft)

The Thursday Letters page asks what the perfect length for a video game boss fight is because a reader is fascinated by Timemelters.

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I have made a big mistake
So I see us entering another cycle of revelations and denials from console fans as we try to make sense of the confusing state of the industry. As much as I love Nintendo, I agree that they are not a good steward of the industry and have no interest in doing so.

But the same could be said about Microsoft and Sony lately. I definitely agree that Phil Spencer wasn’t up to the task. He feels like a football manager where you know it’s not entirely his fault, but he’s been in charge for too long and hasn’t achieved anything, so it’s time for him to go.

However, I don’t envy whoever would replace him. Game Pass was a big gamble and didn’t pay off, and I think Activision Blizzard will be viewed the same way. Sure, they’re a big, profitable company, but beyond that extra revenue, they don’t seem to do anything else for themselves, and they must be hell to organize and manage, especially given all the previous problems.

The real problem with owning these companies is that Xbox now has to justify to the board and investors that the $69 billion in spending was worth it. Given all the rumors and announcements over the last few months, I suspect the talks didn’t go well.

As others have said, they needed to focus on groundbreaking games, but they haven’t had anything for over a decade. They’re just lucky Sony loses it at the same time, otherwise the PlayStation 5 would have completely displaced the Xbox by now.

Steam powered
It seems that Phil Spencer wants to make Xbox a more open platform by allowing Steam and Epic Games on his consoles; Xbox is essentially becoming a cheaper PC. Add to that the handheld appeal and I can imagine this would appeal to more gamers. I think that would be a very smart move. Not just for Xbox, but also for PC game launchers like Steam.

I’m skeptical about how enthusiastic Gabe Newell will be, as it could potentially impact Steam Deck sales. But if the company sells games through an Xbox console, it could be a win-win situation. This could be a potential game-changer for Xbox.

I have to imagine they would move more hardware. It remains to be seen how this would affect the overall profit. I’m excited about this idea. In fact, if I were an Xbox/PlayStation player, I would also sign up for Steam. It makes sense.

Time Delay
I read a review from Timemelters on Eurogamer recently and it sounds really interesting. Would you be interested in adding it to your year-end missed indie list? It’s apparently a spiritual sequel to Sang-Froid – Tales of Werewolves and has similar gameplay (tower defense and strategy mixed with real-time combat), with a location shift from Canada to Scotland and a new focus on portals and, well, time melting.

I’d volunteer to buy it and do a reader’s feature, but it sounds like the kind of game I’m too stupid to ever finish. Still, I think I’ll definitely pick it up.

GC: On PC it seems to be a month old already, but we’ll try to review the console version when it releases later this year as it seems interesting.

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The perfect length
So here’s a recurring theme for us: What is the right length for a boss fight? It would also depend on the genre and game mechanics. A boss in a Zelda title or platformer would have to be judged by different standards than a turn-based RPG, right? Then there is a time to think about it. You know: first boss, final boss, final boss. And by that I mean the amount of time it takes during the attempt to be victorious – not to mention the time lost due to failed attempts.

Remember the terrifying helicopter boss from Ninja Gaiden on Xbox? It must have taken a dozen tries before the damn thing burst into flames. But even that winning streak felt too long. But bosses in turn-based RPGs like Persona or an old-fashioned Final Fantasy can take half an hour… an hour, more? And usually you don’t feel like they’re dragging on.

At the other end of the spectrum, how many Sonic bosses can feel short-changed? What do you think, GC?

GC: The length of a piece of string Seems about right.

Familiar story
I was wondering if GameCentral or a reader had a chance to play the remake of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons that came out last month? I’ve looked for reviews of it on GameCentral, Eurogamer, and Edge magazine, but none of these sites/magazines have reviewed it yet. Was the game too similar to the original to warrant another full review? Or is the remake a very bad game? (I hope not).

I’m just looking for a trustworthy opinion from GameCentral or a reader who has been a fan of the game since the Xbox 360 version. Happy Easter to Game Central and all its readers. I hope you have fun with your Easter eggs, your chocolate or the ones you find in games!
Andrew J.
PS: The Broken Sword Reforged Kickstarter has just broken the half million pound barrier!

GC: We didn’t play it, but it seemed pretty pointless since there weren’t any major changes and the graphics were so scaled down anyway.

Designed by trolls
I checked regularly The website to see if Super Mario Maker was beaten by the team (according to your article and it is!).

However, there was a technical issue where the level you specified, “Trimming The Herbs,” was removed. This was because it was created using a hardware-based, tool-assisted speedrun program and therefore was never deleted by a human.

So, congratulations to this team!

Similarly, can readers recommend the best Super Mario Maker levels to download before the servers shut down? I’ve seen a few lists of official Nintendo games, but personal favorites from the readership would be most welcome.

Super Mario Maker message

So it was unbeatable… somehow (Image: NatorDom)

Stealth release
Does anyone have any hype for Stellar Blade? I see that there is a demo version, so I guess I’ll download it and try it out. However, Sony makes no effort to promote it, just as they didn’t try to promote Rise Of The Rōnin. I don’t see the point in even publishing these third party games if they don’t push them.

Rise Of The Rōnin got good reviews and Stellar Blade looks decent, so I can’t imagine they’re embarrassed about it or anything. They just don’t seem to care. But that seems to sum up her attitude towards everything at the moment. It is strange.

Past savings
After the Xbox news at GDC, I’m shocked that Microsoft is in this position. Five years ago, I thought Game Pass and low-cost entry-level hardware like the Xbox Series S were a brilliant move to attract new players and increase market share. That the strategy has had the opposite effect and seemingly hollowed out the platform is quite a turnaround, that goes to show what I know. If GTA 6 comes out and the PS5 Pro version is placed alongside the Xbox Series S version (the Series S console is the machine that most Xbox gamers actually own), that could be the final nail in the coffin.

I’m also not sure if there’s been any talk lately that the Switch 2 will “save gaming.” The Switch 2 will likely find itself in a similar situation to the last Switch. A great catalog of Nintendo titles, lots of indies, but very few dedicated third-party games, just lots of “old” ports. The original Switch, with its humble and unique technology and huge sales, was an opportunity for publishers to retreat from the triple-A arms race, cut and bloat increasing budgets… but they didn’t take advantage of it.

It turns out that due to the relatively poor sales of third-party software on Nintendo’s machines, it didn’t make economic sense to realign resources, and if that’s the case with the Switch, where there are over 100 million units, it will be the same thing its on Switch 2. We on the hardcore side of gaming simply don’t understand the real video game market at all. If we could see data about what people with these consoles are actually doing with them, maybe everything that’s happening right now would make more sense.

That being said, I’m actually looking forward to Switch 2. I have a portable console that can play Elden Ring (I’m confident we’ll see a port of that) and other older third-party PlayStation 4 titles, as well as brand new games Mario Kart and Zelda are very tempting… but I don’t think they save the game.

Inbox is also working
If you expect The Elder Scrolls 6 to be different from anything Betheda has done in the last 20 years, you’re wrong. I’m looking forward to talking to people with poor facial animation, one by one from the neck up, in Fallout 5 too.

I just want to say that it’s not the microtransactions or performance that’s turning me away from Dragon’s Dogma 2, it’s the stupid name. Obviously it’s not just that, but what does it even mean? What is a dragon’s dogma?

GC: If you played it you would know. Somehow… the story isn’t the best part.

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The fine print
New inbox updates appear every weekday morning, and there are special topical inboxes on weekends. Letters to the editor are used at our discretion and may be edited for length and content.

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

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

MORE: Gaming Inbox: Will the Switch 2 Save Video Games, the Fallen Cost Fallacy of PS5 Pro and the Sonic 2006 Remake?

MORE: Gaming Inbox: The video game industry in decline, The Elder Scrolls 6 in 2028, and the love for Dragon’s Dogma 2

MORE: Gaming Inbox: GTA 6 delay inevitable, Dragon’s Dogma 2 microtransactions and Divinity: Original Sin 3

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