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.