Does Microsoft’s line-up have enough to battle in 2009?

The question certainly has come up in conversations of late. “Is Microsoft’s announced exclusive 2009 line up enough to allow the 360 to bolster its current standing compared to its competitors?” Is it really as weak as it appears? Or is it much stronger than we realize?

Halo Wars will kick start the year for MS on the exclusive front launching late February and into March worldwide. While certainly the Halo franchise carries a lot of weight behind it, it’s a niche genre. I am sure it will do well enough in sales to be considered a success but I question how many new gamers this game will bring to the table.

Then we have Star Ocean: The last Hope coming from Square Enix who has yet to deliver a stellar “exclusive” RPG to the 360. I know many are excited for this game, but I remain cautious given Square’s recent track record on the 360. You also should consider this most likely a timed exclusive. Although nothing has been officially stated yet, most anticipate this will come to the PS3 eventually.

There are quit a few pieces of exclusive DLC coming to the 360 early in 2009. Fable 2, GTA IV and Fallout 3 are all putting out content that is “exclusive” to the 360. These are expected to be great add-on pieces of DLC, however nothing in the sales trends of the multiplatform games offering exclusive 360 DLC indicates major consumer swings to the 360. This could change once the content comes out and is reviewed, but so far it’s been less of an impact than MS hoped for.

From there we have Ninja Blade coming out of Japan. It looks and feels very similar to Ninja Gaiden with the exception of all the quick time events. While the game looks fantastic, many have questioned how good the final game will be based on some early hands on time with the game.

Halo 3: ODST is probably the biggest “known” title coming this year, and yet it feels very underwhelming at this point. More needs to be seen and revealed for the masses of Halo fans to get behind this expansion game. Sure it’s more Halo 3, but I am not sure that is enough to elevate this to system selling software.

Next on the agenda for 2009 is Alan Wake. Is this game going to be the game 360 owners have hoped for? So much of this game is wrapped in mystery that it’s actual launching in 2009 is a mystery in itself. Will we actually get Alan Wake? Will people actually want to play it? Will it move systems? Too many questions to say one way or another.

Splinter Cell Conviction was supposed to be a 2008 exclusive originally. Then it was delayed beyond delayed to the point that no one really knows how this game is shaping up anymore. Sam Fisher would be a very welcome sight for the 360 this year and help fill a void of “stealth” games that are missing from the 360’s catalog. That’s if he makes an appearance in 2009.

Xbox Live’s 1 vs 100 and other exclusive Live arcade games will help to soften what feels like a light 2009 line up. Unfortunately nobody other than Microsoft knows what games and when will be launched on to the market place. So it’s hard to get excited for any of it to the average consumer.

Champions Online is a possibility for 2009. It would be the 2nd MMORPG style game to come to the 360 (Yes there is another MMORPG on the 360 named  FFIX). With Sony pushing the idea of MMORPG’s on consoles in a big way this year MS will need more games like this in their library. That of course is assuming they don’t can this one too.

Next to last we have Section 8. Not much is really known about the game. It’s a 16 player multiplayer focused shooter set in a sci-fi setting. Sounds kind of familiar…

Last but not least is what I call the vapor ware section. These are games that promised, promised, promised yet from all we can tell they are nowhere to be seen and likely not coming. Games such as APB (think MMO GTA style cops and robbers game) and Huxley (think MMO ala Unreal 3) were touted as grand exclusives over 2 years ago and not much, if anything has surfaced on the 360 front.

So, there you have Microsoft’s exclusive line up for 2009 (so far). At first it looks rather robust as you go down that list. Then you dive into the list and it starts to fray on the edges quickly. Is this a line up that can hold off the competition on its own? No, I personally don’t think it can. Too many of these games are in limbo for release dates and/or are  just add-on DLC to last years titles. Microsoft will indeed need to have some un-announced exclusive games revealed soon or work to keep the price disparity where it is at in my opinion. Otherwise 2009 could very well be the year Microsoft lost its lead over Sony.

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  • Adam

    What about Mass Effect 2?

    Anyway, I think the question of whether or not it can match the PS3 depends greatly on when PS3 games release. In particular, God of War 3, and Gran Turismo 5. While nothing can compete with the latter, GoW 3 will probably equalize the balance.
    I would expect Microsoft to announce 1 or 2 more titles, especially as Star Ocean and Mass Effect 2 are the only ones on that list that I am going to buy

  • The titles that are announced right now don’t make up a good 2009. However, I think Microsoft has a few surprises up its sleeve that it will announce soon.

  • @Adam, Not sure you can count on Mass Effect 2 being exclusive at this point. Also, not sure its even coming this year. I know many are speculating on it coming but nothing has been announced so far. I absolutely think MS needs at least 2 big title announcements for the end of the year…and they can’t be more DLC deals…they need to be full blown games.

  • As said this is only off of the announced list MSoft reckon they may have some more to reveal. We will see but I do think if this all they are going with then the PS3 lineup looks stronger from the types of games I like to play. Time will tell.

  • Jonathan Maher

    The question is, does Microsoft really need a big lineup of exclusives? PS3 arguably had a better lineup in 2008, and both PS3 and 360 had much better lineups than the Wii, but we all know how 2008 turned out.

    Sony has invested tons of money in their game studios over the past few years. Purchasing new studios, and giving their existing studios tons of time to work on games (Sucker Punch and Guerrilla especially). This is going to pay off for gamers in a huge way next year – I fully expect that the vast majority of my gaming time will be on the PS3. But, will it pay off for Sony?

    Microsoft has shut down studios and generally moved in the opposite direction. They have invested that money in marketing and lowering the price of the console.

    No way around it, the PS3 has a better lineup next year, but Microsoft’s strategy worked in 2008, and it might keep working for them next year. The 360 has good marketing, agressivly configured pricing, a good exisitng library and plenty of third party support. Perhaps they simply don’t think that they need exclusives.

  • Adam

    The recent news of Mass Effect 2 at GDC makes it likely that it is coming this year, and I think Microsoft have an agreement with Bioware having published the first game. Of course it is EA, so there is a good chance of it going MP at some point, but I certainly think it will be a timed exclusive at the least

  • Missing from the list:

    Ninja Blade

    Race Pro


    Ninety Nine Nights 2

    Mass Effect 2 is said to only be coming on 360/PC (replying to the comment above mine )

    The Anchorage DLC for Fallout 3 (exclusive to 360)

    Same with the GTAIV DLC

  • Not a bad article! I was expecting it to be a typical (Why Xbox/PS3/Wii sux/rulz in 2009), and I have to say that it was a rather cogent and coherent attempt a bridging an already toxic discussion into a saner realm.

    I don’t think the 360 line-up is that bad at all. There’s something there for virtually every fan – RPG, FPS, MMO, Racing – that won’t be available on other systems. The chief issue, I think, is whether or not these games draw in PS3/Wii users en masse, or if the simply preach to the choir.

    As for 2008, no game on the PS3 was ever going to compete with Gears of War 2 and Fable 2. Those were long, eagerly awaited sequels to games that had an absolutely huge fan base. The only PS3 game I can think of that had that kind of draw in 2008 was Metal Gear Solid 4, and it came out in the summer. Little Big Planet, Resistance 2, Motorstorm and Valkyria Chronicles are all fantastically excellent games themselves, but don’t have the same kind of grass-roots expectation to propel them ahead of their 360 competitors, at least not in 2008.

    2009 might prove to be a different story. I think MS’s gambit with pay-to-play exclusive DLC might be a little too risky for them and developers/publishers to continue on with. I can only speak from my own experience, but the unwillingness of gamers of any system to pay hand over foot for DLC doesn’t seem to bode well for $20 – $30 mission packs that only offer a secondary experience to the original game. Developers also run the risk of alienating large sections of their fanbase by only releasing DLC for one system, or releasing DLC that is, by all accounts, of poor value.

  • @ Colm – great points. Also, I agree that the article was very interesting and well put together.

    Also, I agree that 2008’s 360 lineup was much stronger from a marketing of mass-appeal standpoint. I was indicating that the PS3’s lineup was arguably better from a quality of games standpoint. However, it is pretty clear that since the focus of the original article was sales and mass appeal, my comment may have been a bit out of place.

  • I was hoping you would go a little more indepth about the other console’s exclusives with this article. Though the question is valid, “Can Microsoft compete in 2009 among the plethera of other cnsole exclusives?”

    Sony has an exclusive library that will be mind blowing this year. Not only in some catchy new games, but in Blockbuster size titles. This is definately going to be an interesting year.

    The Wii will have a couple of the niche games that will do well since Nintendo’s marketng department has become a distinct superiority above the other companies. But they will continue to chokehold the consumers with the old school supply and demand tactic.

    I did like the article however in the truth among some of these exclusive 360 titles. For example Halo Wars…how long will the Halo ride last? Not meaning the game isn’t a good game or can continuefor a while, but wearing the theme too thin will burn out buyers of the original structured game. Some of the other game are going to be hit or miss, but this truly should be the year of the PS3 as far as IP exclusive depth, systems moved, etc.

    Last but not least, I am sure there will be plaenty of name-calling of me being a Sony fanboy or that Sony is dead, blah, blah, blah. But know this I have had 6 360 (technical errors, surprise surprise) have 2 Wii’s, and 2 Ps3’s. So I am a gamer fanboy not a company fanboy. Also finally I applaud an article that has some intelligence to it and not merely trash talk, speculation, and extremely biased opinions.

  • Even if every game you mentioned DOES come out in 2009 it will still be no match for:

    White Knight Chronicles
    Final Fantasy XIII (Exclusive in Japan)
    Heavy Rain
    Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
    God Of War 3
    Gran Turismo 5
    New Ratchet & Clank
    Killzone 2

    If all Microsoft can offer is another JRPG destined to flop and a Halo 3 mini -game that only lasts for 3 hours then there’s not much hope left for them.

    It’s funny, though…..some ignorant fanboys would lead you to believe it was the PS3 that had “No games”.