Are we in the dark about Titanfall 360 to boost XBox One sales?
Update: Twitter user Aggrokragg also pointed out that yesterday (4/8) Best Buy ran a one-day sale deeply discounting the XBox One and PC versions of Titanfall, but not the 360 version. In fairness, discounting a game on release day would be a little absurd, but this also helps to mask the release of the 360 version for those who might pick it up on PC or buy a XBox One.
I don’t feel like I’m the only person out there who was interested in finding out what Titanfall‘s port to 360 would look like. Considering the install base of the 360 dwarfs the XBone’s users by a gigantic margin, there should rightfully be tons of gamers intrigued by how the game plays on the last-gen giant. But at the time of this article’s press, no sites have released any reviews of the 360 version of Titanfall. Is this indicative of possible issues with the ported version of the futuristic FPS, or did the game just slip under the radar? And if so, why would we forget about a game that was all the talk for months before its original release?
Bluepoint Games, the company responsible for the porting and release of Respawn Entertainment’s smash-hit shooter, recently was caught in the limelight due to concerns about Titanfall 360’s framerate. According to The Escapist, sources confirmed that the game would run “above 30 fps.” This certainly doesn’t mean that it will run at the 60fps that either the XBone version of the game or rival shooter Call of Duty: Ghosts does, but considering the port is supposed to carry over all the content and gameplay available in the XBOne version, one shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a bit of a performance hit. That being said, a video released on Twitch this weekend by user CityFlex showed the game in action, and it looks like it maintains the action well. So if the game holds up and performs well, why wouldn’t the company want people to know that?
At time of press (rougly 11:30 AM CST), I couldn’t find any press-released reviews for the game…almost 12 hours after any possible embargo would have dropped, and nothing? It’s possible that the companies didn’t release advance copies because they attested they wouldn’t make Titanfall‘s 360 servers live until today’s release date, but servers must have been up somewhere considering that this video posted by Elite360Gaming shows matchmaking and a game in progress. Though the texturing for the 360 version doesn’t look as sharp as the One’s, the gameplay seems fluid and relatively similar to the original release. So I have to beg the question: what’s the point in keeping the world in the dark about the quality of the 360 version of Titanfall?
Though I don’t watch a ton of TV, I noticed that the Titanfall commercial I saw during the Final Four matchup of Wisconsin vs. Kentucky only said that the game was available for XBox One, with no mention that the game would release for the 360. Reinforcing this is Metacritic‘s current splash page, which seemingly forgets about the 360 version’s release today:
Prices for the XBox One bundled with Titanfall have tumbled lately; some outlets have sold an XBox One bundled with the game and a year of XBox Live for $450 dollars (standard retail value would be around $620). And let’s not forget the massive amount of marketing that Microsoft poured into Titanfall‘s initial release; they bought the exclusivity rights so that the game would never appear on the PS4. That was probably for the best, because up to this point Titanfall has been the XBox One’s ace-in-the-hole to fight off the wave of support and sales the PS4 received from gamers worldwide up to that point. But let’s face it: some gamers went and bought XBox Ones so they could play Titanfall, and some gamers might have just waited until the game came out for their 360 if they’d known the experience would be similar.
Does this mean that those gamers wouldn’t have bought an XBox One eventually? I wouldn’t go that far; not only does the XBone have multimedia integration with cable boxes, but other exclusive games like Project Spark boost its ecosystem as well. And let’s not forget about the established user base of XBox LIVE fans which was likely just waiting for the price to go down. But here’s where business gets involved: the later that gamers get convinced to buy an XBox One, the less pull Microsoft would have to get developers to make games exclusively for their system. And perhaps those gamers would have decided to simply buy the PS4 instead; it’s $100 cheaper price point is certainly attractive, and Playstation Plus, with its free monthly games and discounts, is a pride-point for Sony folks and forced XBox LIVE to revamp its own structure. Either way, Microsoft would lose out on XBox One market share, putting them in a poor place moving into the current-gen lifespan.
When you stack the numbers and the experiences, I’d have to venture that this is no accident, that tactics were put into play to garner as many XBox One sales as possible before the nearly-identical XBox 360 version of Titanfall would give gamers an out from paying a $500 upgrade fee to play one of 2014’s top shooters. As of press there are three written reviews on Metacritic for Titanfall on 360, and all of them are user-submitted. Here’s the spread:
If you’re curious about the ratings that composed that 7.7 aggregate score, here’s that breakdown as well:
11 positive reviews to 3 negative reviews? Given, it’s still early in the day, and many people haven’t had the opportunity to pick up and play their copies, but so far all signs point to this game being a quality, downscaled port of a next-gen game.
Keep in mind that there are some possible alternatives to this theory.
Theory B: review copies of the game weren’t released because Bluepoint worked on the port up to the wire, and there were simply no copies available. Considering the games had to be copied and shipped to retailers across the country by today, I have to imagine they would have sent express copies to game review outlets to hype up the release if this were something they were interested in.
Theory C: Titanfall’s 360 port is actually bad, and Bluepoint and Respawn wanted to cover their tracks. Based on the videos shown above, this theory doesn’t seem to hold water. In addition, if this were the case, then it would actually play to Microsoft’s advantage to make sure that those reviews got out there, reinforcing the idea that gamers need to go purchase a XBox One to really experience the depth and pleasure of modern shooters. Last-gen devotees still hanging on to their 360s and PS3s would feel the urge to upgrade more quickly, bringing more users in general into the current-gen fray.
Admittedly, there’s also Theory D: review sites dropped the ball and simply didn’t ask for advance Titanfall 360 review copies. GotGame received a review copy of Titanfall for XBox One, though we didn’t explicitly request a 360 copy. With that said, considering the huge number of game journalism outlets in the world, I can’t imagine that every single one simply slept on the job, or was so wow’ed by the XBox One version that they stopped caring about the 360 version. Also, let’s not forget about the PR industry, the people out there whose jobs it is to make sure that games get hyped so copies don’t collect dust on the shelves. Likelyhood says that the PR folks aren’t just sitting around with stacks of Titanfall 360 in their offices, making giant game forts and such.
If we’ve been kept in the dark on purpose about Titanfall on 360, then it’s a shame that the folks at Bluepoint won’t be able to harvest all the sales profits they should have received from doing quality work. But the real loser out here isn’t Bluepoint or us game journalists not being able to get our reviews out early: it’s you, the consumer.
I’m guessing that retailers like Gamestop and the Microsoft Store weren’t promoting giant midnight releases to increase sales and support for the game. I’m also willing to guess is that there are some XBox One owners out there who are going to be a little disappointed when they see they could have held out on their console purchase and still had some quality fun with the year’s first big shooter. I could understand why Microsoft, EA, and other companies would make a play like this: as far as console development is concerned, the more gamers you have on a system, the more money will be spent on that console’s ecosystem, and the more you can convince developers to do to make new products. But consumers should make the choice on upgrade freely, based on realistic portrayals of what’s available, not manipulation by marketing teams. Though a part of me hopes that Theory A: Consumers and media were left in the dark about Titanfall‘s 360 port in part to boost XBox One sales, holds no water at all…but I wouldn’t take all the time to write this up if I didn’t think it did.
We’ll have a full review here at GotGame for Titanfall on 360 as soon as I run out and grab a copy and put a few hours on it.